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  • Florida School Reforms: How to Increase Inclusion and Achievement

    The recently released 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading results for grades 4 and 8 suggest that the sweeping education reforms implemented in Florida since 1998 have led to gains in achievement. One of the concerns raised by NAEP evaluators at a press conference to announce the test’s results was the varying exclusion rates among states of learning disabled students from NAEP participation.

    Dr. Steven Paine, a member of the National Assessment Governing Board and the president-elect of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) commented on his concern regarding states’ exclusion rates:

    According to the new Reading Report Card, West Virginia tests almost all the students selected for its NAEP reading samples. Our exclusion rate is just 2 percent of the sample in both the fourth and eight grades, compared to 9, 11, and 12 percent in some other jurisdictions. These discrepancies do not seem fair.

    David Gordon, Sacramento Superintendent, responded to the discussion of varying exclusion rates, suggesting that the Common Core State Standards Initiative led by the CCSSO could play a role in leveling the supposedly unfair playing field of state exclusion rates:

    …this whole issue is coming to a head around the common core standards because as you may recall NAEP did a study of mapping the state standards, the current state standards onto the NAEP scale and there was huge variance in the level of performance expected so I think all of this is coming together as a discussion and I really commend the governing board [National Assessment Governing Board] and the committee for moving on this.

    Before implementing additional accountability mandates on already overburdened states and suggesting common standards as a solution to the alleged problem, the NAGB, CCSSO, and the public should look more closely at the exclusion rate data. Only Maryland and the District of Columbia, each with 9 percent exclusion for 4th grade, have rates as high as Paine suggests. The current national average exclusion rate of public school students with disabilities in both 4th and 8th grades is 4 percent and many states have remained at their current levels for over a decade.

    Even those states with high exclusion rates in the past have moved to not only include more disabled children in NAEP testing, but have simultaneously increased student performance. Of the nine states that saw achievement gains in 8th grade reading on the NAEP, Florida decreased it’s exclusion rate from 7 percent in 1992 to just 3 percent in 2009. Including more learning disabled children in the testing population while continuing to achieve performance gains is a testament to the school reforms taking place in the Sunshine State. With no common core to direct curriculum and no governing board to mandate disabled students’ testing participation, Florida has made gains on the nation’s report card.

    Sarah Torre currently is a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/About/Internships-Young-Leaders/The-Heritage-Foundation-Internship-Program

    Posted in Education [slideshow_deploy]

    2 Responses to Florida School Reforms: How to Increase Inclusion and Achievement

    1. Jeanne Stotler,Woodbridge, Va says:

      I don’t know if others agree or not, but I find that these kids today spend time to get ready for test and do not LEARN the basics, they do not know American history and some I have found cannot read. I have a great granddaughter who has a High school diploma, she cannot spell, did not know there were 28 days in Feb. and does not know what Palm Sunday is. She cannot balance her check book and is constantly overdrawing her account. This is more common than any of you think. Let us get back to basic’s, children with learning disabilities need to be mainstreamed when possible. My oldest had problems and we kept him in reg, classes until HS, today he has a good job, married and owns his own home, we should not make them more disabled but try to help them overcome their problems and to compensate.

    2. Drew Page, IL says:

      To Jeanne Stotler, Woodbridge, MA. — I couldn't agree with you more. Way too many of the basics are being glossed over in our primary K-8 schools. Kids are promoted from one grade to the next without having mastered the skills for their current grade levels. They get to high school and can't read or do basic math at a 6th grade level. Why aren't these kids identified early on and put in remedial reading and math classes until thaey have mastered the skills for their grade level before being promoted?

      The latest counseling teachers are receiving from their administrators is "Teach to the test. Tell students what is going to be on the test, go over and over it, and if students fail, let them retake the test until they do pass." Learning the subject matter and basic skills are secondary to passing the standardized tests.

      Administrators are accountable to see that their school's test scores rise, if they want their share of state/federal funds. School administrators are given an impossible job by politicians, who have no idea how to teach, maintain classroom discipline or develop curriculum and pass the buck to administrators, saying "you're accountable; you figure it out".

      Administrators then roll this accountability down to the teachers, telling them they must find a way to motivate and educate all students, regardless of how slow, or uninterested or defiant some may be. If some students can't be motivated and educated, it's the teachers fault. Administrators pass the buck and say "you're accountable; you figure it out".

      Isn't accountability great? When parents ask why Johhny can't read, I suggest they be given the same answer, "you're accountable; you figure it out".

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