Thanks to conversations with Dr. Gary Thompson, a noted Utah child psychologist who has spoken out against the Common Core, we have learned that new federal regulations go into effect on September 21, 2015, barring states from using alternative assessments for special education students, with the exception of a very restricted number of students they label “severely cognitively impaired.”
Dr. Thompson has shared his concerns about this change, which he says is based on “fraudulent and unethical use of psychology research.” He has written a powerful, detailed critique of the U.S. Department of Education’s rationale for this rule change, the “new research” that supposedly supports the idea that students with disabilities can perform at the same grade level as traditional students, and can be tested fairly on the same test used by traditional students, especially if his or her teacher is doing a good job and the tests used are from the “next generation” of tests (i.e. PARCC and SBACC). USDE states:
Nearly all States have developed and are administering new high-quality general assessments that are valid and reliable and measure students with disabilities’ knowledge and skills against college- and career-ready standards….we believe that alternate assessments based on modified academic achievement standards are no longer needed and, with high-quality instruction and appropriate accommodations, students with disabilities who took an alternate assessment based on modified academic achievement standards will be able to demonstrate their knowledge and skills by participating in the new general assessments.
Carefully fact-checking USDE’s citations, Dr. Thompson discovered that every finding was compromised. Some studies were directly paid for by the USDE and its partners, some were not peer reviewed, and others tested one age or ability grouping of children but applied the findings to a different age or ability grouping. Some claims were not supported by any research study whatsoever.
Dr. Thompson’s conclusion is that “The US Department of Education’s interpretation of cited ‘studies’ used to justify policy changes have been dangerously manipulated and are utilized to achieve political goals at the expense of millions of public school children.”
So, for reasons for which USDE has no legitimate basis, millions of our most vulnerable children are about to be subjected to tests which PAA believes are already harming the general population of students emotionally and academically, .
What can we do? Opting students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) out of standardized tests is one good response. Dr. Thompson also suggests we call for congressional hearings on the faulty “research” behind this latest top-down testing mandate.