Should policymakers force students with cognitive disabilities to take high-stakes tests? This is one of the core controversies of the No Child Left Behind act, and states are wrestling with it, too. In California, for example, critics are crusading against a state law requiring students with disabilities to pass the high school exit exam if they wish to receive a diploma. Opponents claim that those who fail suffer "horrific" psychological damage, so they should be granted a diploma sans testing. Balderdash. California already has a policy of granting "certificates" to students (including those with disabilities) who can't pass the test. That's a reasonable compromise. We have no problem if a child's Individual Education Plan exempts her from the state assessment and opts for the "certificate track" instead. But awarding diplomas to students who have not passed the exit exam will turn this symbol of high school completion into more pollywoppus. That's the last thing our schools need.
"Testing of special-ed students should be re-examined," by George Skelton, Los Angeles Times, September 15, 2008