AIMS unfair to learning-disabled |
Arizona Daily Star
Mar. 18, 2005
Arizona high-school students recently finished taking the
reading and writing portion of the AIMS test. The high-stakes standardized test
is theoretically going to measure how well, or at least how much, a student has
learned. It will be a requirement to graduate for the class of 2006, whose
members are now high school juniors.
It seems as if most legislators assume students who will fail the
test will be those who wouldn't graduate anyway.
Thank goodness I finished high school five years ago, because I'm
not so sure I would have passed it.
But there are a lot of students just like me. I have a learning
disability. I was in special-education classes starting in first or second grade
until my junior year of high school.
My junior and senior years, I was in all "mainstream" classes but
still worked closely with the special education department at Sabino High
Today, I am just a few months away from graduating from the
University of Arizona with a degree in journalism.
Often people say, "I didn't know you had a learning disability."
That is because learning-disabled students don't have any look. They just have
to work harder to pass classes. My rule of thumb is that I have to study as hard
to get a C as the average student has to study to get an A.
The oh-so-brilliant idea of AIMS testing will just hurt those
hardworking students. In February, however, state Attorney General Terry Goddard
made the right decision when he wrote an opinion saying local school boards
could decide whether special-education students must pass the AIMS test to
graduate. Fewer than one in 20 special-education students passed the reading,
writing and math sections of the test last year, according to newspaper reports.
It's not that special-education students should be exempt from
any requirements to graduate, it's that the test itself is flawed when
considering the needs of all students. If the average student has to put many
hours of time and effort into passing AIMS, what is the special-education
student to do?
In high school and in college classes, all students, including
special education students, benefit from the fact that one test is not the
entire grade. When it comes to AIMS, the state has forced students to put all
their eggs in one basket. If those eggs are tests, special-education students
can be in trouble.
If special-education students are to be an important part of our
community, we should teach them how to live with their disability, just as we
would with some with a physical disability. We have to make reasonable
accommodations to help them meet their goals.