The State Department of Education has said no matter what their ability, severely disabled children must be assessed by the state. That state law has several people upset.
Andrea Rediske says the testing puts physical strain on her son.
“One of the things we do is called a percussive vest therapy, and this vibrates and shakes all the fluids out of his lungs,” explained Rediske.
Between breathing treatments, which Ethan does three times a day, physical therapy and long-term hospitalizations, school has never been an option.
“He suffered a brain injury at birth. And so he has cerebral palsy, epilepsy. He’s cortically blind. He has respiratory compromise. He has a condition where he has some internal bleeding that we can’t find the cause of. His bones are extremely fragile.”
A teacher will come and visit Ethan a couple times a week for an hour at a time.
Rediske believes he’s made remarkable progress, but when she found out the district would force him to be assessed three years ago, she was shocked.
“Each question can take up to 10 to 15 minutes just to do one question. So he’s spending hours in his wheelchair and he has severely compromised lungs.”
Ethan took the state and federal mandated Florida alternate assessment for the past two-years.
His mother says he’s not testable by the state’s standards
“They’re asking him questions about the way a peach tastes, and he’s fed through a tube in his stomach, and he will never taste a peach. They ask him about shoes and staplers and alarm clocks and school buses. Ethan doesn’t interact with any of those things,” she said.
Rediske doesn’t believe Ethan needs to be assessed at all by the state, or if he is, she’d like to have his teacher tailor the test specifically to him.
The State Department of Education says the purpose of assessing these students is to measure how they are doing.
“The concern is our obligation and the federal obligation to make sure these students have access to services, assessing a child is not a punishment for the child, its actually gaining data so we can provide better services,” said Mary Jane Tappen, with the Florida Department of Education.
The department of education will score a child based on participation.
Ethan’s teacher also visits Michael, a 9-year-old blind and severely disabled child who must also take a standardized assessment test.
She says neither student can pass the testing.
Orange County School Board member Rick Roach said he’s heard from community members who say Michael’s story and are outraged .
“I don’t think we think about the children who really are severely handicapped, who are getting some type of standardized testing one way or the other," said Roach. "It’s almost like we have to do this and the state insists. No one escapes a high stakes test. I think that’s what has the public outraged. Its like are you kidding me.”
Roach is still working with State Representative Linda Stewart to make it so students like Michael and Ethan would never have to be tested.
That is something Rediske would like to see happen before Ethan has to go through testing again.
“I honestly don’t know what they’re trying to measure with this test and at the end of the day it’s damaging his health,” she added.
The department of education says when No child Left Behind expires in 2014, the state will look at making changes to the testing methods.