Students With Learning Disabilities Should not be Punished

RECEIVED Wed., June 27, 2012

Dear Editor,
    At last Tuesday’s public education hearing at the state Capitol, Rep. Mark Strama was the sole committee member in support of a rule that would call for high school end-of-course exams to count as 15% of final grades for students ["STAAR Falls on Texas Schools," News, June 22]. The “15% rule” is already wreaking havoc in our district as students are being forced into summer school for weeks of test preparation. Rep. Strama should be pleased. As the owner of several Sylvan Learning franchises here in Austin, he stands to profit from end-of-course exams that could potentially fail half of the student population.
    I have personal experience with Sylvan Learning Centers. When my daughter was first diagnosed with dyslexia, I took her to a Sylvan Center in my neighborhood. I pressed the Sylvan tutor for a specific method of working with dyslexic children, and she finally admitted to knowing very little about learning disabilities. Then she added; “We can help any student improve their test scores.”
    I was shocked. Why would I care about tests scores when my child was struggling with basic phonemic awareness? I was still new to the business of being a Texas parent then, and I didn’t understand that standardized testing is part of a giant industry that feeds on failing students with learning differences. Kids like mine.
    It is estimated that 15%, or one in seven students has some kind of learning disability. For 15% of our students standardized testing isn’t fair or objective, but proponents of standardized testing don’t seem to care.
    So who does care about students with learning disabilities? Teachers, administrators, and counselors. Turns out our schools are filled with well-educated professionals who know a lot about adjusting curriculum and assessment to meet the needs of students with learning disabilities. What a shame the same legislators who saw fit to institute the STAAR test and end-of-course exams also slashed the state budget for education.
    Last Tuesday’s public education hearing made it clear we have a long way to go if we want to make sense of the 15% rule. As we continue our conversation about education and accountability, I would like Mark Strama to remember a different 15%. I want him to remember the forgotten 15% of students with learning disabilities for whom the STAAR test and end-of-course exams constitute a punishment.
Laura Creedle
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