Sheehan

No Child rule sets new low

Staff WriterMay 23, 2008 

At age 9, Patti High has been profoundly affected by cerebral palsy since birth. But make no mistake:

She is still subject to the state's End-of-Grade Tests.

Bound to a wheelchair, Patti cannot really sit up unassisted. She cannot hold a fork and feed herself. She cannot converse in an easily understandable fashion. She cannot read. She cannot write ... .

Let's put it this way: The list of "cannot's" is extensive.

But because she is, by some definition, a third-grader, she is compelled to take the EOGs.

Don't blame the state, though. This particular bit of idiocy is courtesy of the federal government and the No Child Left Behind law.

No Child makes sure every student is terrorized, er, included, when standardized tests are given. It is well-intentioned, making sure schools don't skirt testing requirements by exempting kids who struggle in school.

But it's one thing to struggle. It's another to be profoundly disabled from birth. Hence the grievous glitches.

Case in point:

One of the questions asked of Patti was: What is the area of a rectangle?

I am not making this up.

Patti's parents, who live near Wendell, learned at a meeting last fall that their disabled daughter would be given the EOGs.

The teacher was in tears.

"We just laughed," said Cissy High, Patti's mom.

She was not overly worried about her daughter, who tends to ignore any activities or conversations with which she does not wish to engage.

"I really thought, at most, that Patti would take the test and crumple it up near her ear," said High. "She loves the music from infant toys, and she loves any sort of crinkling sound."

To its credit, the school, Corinth-Holders Elementary in Johnston County, tried to ease the pain. Patti's teacher wrote the multiple choice answers to the EOG questions on individual flash cards. She would read each question aloud, slowly, then present Patti with four or so flash cards with the possible answers.

Whatever card Patti grabbed at was the answer the teacher filled in.

Because Patti only has partial use of her left arm, High suspects most of her daughter's answers tended to be the nearest at hand, on the left.

"She knows maybe 30 to 35 words," High said. "And I use the term 'word' loosely."

Patti has a vocabulary of her own, about the things that matter most to her. Her family, her favorite foods and activities.

Grandma is "ganga"; swing is "ging."

Safe to say the area of a rectangle is neither one of Patti's interests nor within her range of comprehension.

High said this is only the latest lunacy she and her family have encountered in Patti's education. But No Child, in supposedly maintaining standards, did manage to set a new low.

"I told the teacher and assistant principal at Patti's school that whoever made that rule should have to come and administer the test," High said.

High originally planned to go to Patti's classroom and videotape the testing session. But Patti was tested a few weeks earlier than the rest of the school. Given the strict confidentiality employed in the EOGs, taping probably wouldn't have been allowed.

And, in the end, it would have been too hard to watch.

ruth.sheehan@newsobserver.com or (919) 829-4828

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