Standardized test for special needs students eliminated - - No One Gets You Closer

Standardized test for special needs students eliminated

MADILL -- Standardized testing in Oklahoma has made headlines all week. First, technical glitches then an exemption dispute and now, its for the type of test given to special needs students.

For months, Oklahoma students have been preparing for end of instruction exams.

This week, they sat down at computers to take them.

Honor students in Madill say the test is tough enough. "There's tons of pressure," eighth grader Constantine Chambers said.

But Joanna Tuck, test coordinator at Madill Public Schools, says students with learning disabilities are finding this year's exam particularly difficult.

"In the past, we've been able to give our special needs students a modified test. Same content but shorter reading passages, fewer questions," Tuck explained.

However, this year, the Oklahoma Modified Alternate Assessment Program, or OMAAP, was eliminated by the state.

Now special needs students must take the same test as students without special needs.

Laura Holt's daughter has been diagnosed with an intellectual disability and says taking the standardized test hurts her health.

"High anxiety, caused depression, hives, vomiting, asthma attacks, having to be removed from school," Holt said.

Tuck says other students have had similar experiences during the test.

"They're frustrated, they're crying. Taking their test, they're sitting there crying," Tuck said.

The Oklahoma State Department of Education says OMAAP was eliminated because organizations, including the National Center for Learning Disabilities, found it singled out special needs students.

"It turns out that what we're really doing is we're creating a separate track for students with disabilities," Todd Loftin said. Loftin is the Executive Director of Assessment and Instruction for Special Education Services at the State Department of Education.

Loftin also said the special needs students can take the test with accommodations, including splitting some parts of the test into multiple sessions over a number of days. 

"Accommodations are all about figuring out what the student knows and can do and can make that accessible to them," Loftin said. "

Tuck says she and her staff aren't aware of the options for accommodations, and says splitting the test up over more days could add more stress.

In front of students and parents Thursday, Tuck expressed her frustration with the decision to eliminated modified exam, and also for standardized testing overall.

"Stressful, tricky standardized testing is doing more harm than good," Tuck said.

Tuck feels teachers -- not the state -- should be dictating curriculum. She wants to see standardized testing be stopped.

The State Department of Education said there are no plans for that to happen.