OGUNQUIT – I am an education technician who has worked in southern Maine with special needs middle school students for many years.

I feel that I must speak out on behalf of these children in the current standardized testing situation brought about by the No Child Left Behind Act. I understand why some parents are choosing to opt their children out of standardized testing. It’s heartbreaking to watch children being overwhelmed by the testing experience, becoming inconsolable.

It used to be that when students with Individual Education Programs were tested, accommodations specified in their IEPs could be used during standardized testing sessions. Now these accommodations are not allowed.

Our special needs students may be tested in small groups separate from their peers, but the adults monitoring them may not assist them as specified in their IEPs. This is very stressful for these children, who are used to adults helping them with their school work and it results in test scores that don’t always give an accurate picture of the learning level of these students.

This is what happened during testing of one of the students I am assigned to. It may help you understand what these kids are up against when faced with standardized testing.

Recently a fifth-grade group of students in my school was taking the writing section of the New England Common Assessment Program test. Maine tests math, reading and writing skills with this test. The question on this part of the test was to write an essay.

This particular student understands what is being taught but has a difficult time writing down words. The student comes out with scrambled letters or some letters missing. This frustrates the student.

When an assignment calls for a lot of writing, I usually scribe (write) for this 10-year-old. Scribing is not allowed in NECAP testing.

With head down, the student refused to attempt to do any of the essay. Growing more and more agitated as other students wrote their responses to the essay question, the child had to be removed from the room so that no one would be disturbed. When we were in another room, I asked the student to answer to the essay question. The child responded verbally to every one of the points in the writing prompt in a thoughtful way, but because of the student’s disability and the prohibition on scribing, what the child knew could not be recorded in the answer booklet.

The test scores will in no way reflect how much this student has learned or the quality of the child’s thought processes. This student was so upset by the testing that the child was unable to do any homework on days we tested and was difficult at home.

I believe that we must allow IEP accommodations for special needs students during standardized testing. It’s not right to put these students into this situation without the help they need.

If we allow accommodations for physically disabled students, we should also allow them for students with learning disabilities.

The standardized testing has so disrupted the fall schedule in my middle school that teachers have lost valuable teaching time.

Shortly after our school year began, our students had to take the Northwest Evaluation Association test, an assessment taken on computers (this test will be repeated in the spring). Then came the NECAP test. Students practiced taking old released tests before taking this year’s NECAP.

This is a poor way for students this age to adjust to being new students in a middle school. All students, and special needs students in particular, need regular, predictable school schedules to do their best learning.

Standardized testing is causing real anxiety for some children, producing inaccurate results for some students who need accommodations and cutting into time that could be better spent by teachers directly teaching the curriculum.

It’s also preventing consistent schedules that create an ideal learning environment from being established and carried out during the school year. 

– Special to the Press Herald