In a proposal that the Board of Regents will discuss at its meeting next week, the State Education Department has suggested creating a new safety net for students with disabilities, many of whom could fail to graduate from high school once they must take the more difficult exams.
Under this plan, which would first affect students who entered ninth grade in 2011, students could earn diplomas one of three ways. They could score between a 55-64 on five Regents exams — an option available to them now; they could use a high score on one exam to compensate for a low one on another; or they could swap and take an extra math or science Regents in place of the Global History exam, which is notoriously difficult.
Lots of students with special needs get extra time to take tests, which can be very helpful. But when the tests are particularly long and brutal, like New York State’s newly-implemented marathon of exams, that extra time might not be a benefit after all.
Changes to state tests, which doubled in length this year, are hitting some of the city’s neediest students twice as hard.For students with disabilities who are given more time to complete the tests, testing can stretch as long as three hours on each day of testing. That means the students could spend more than half of the school day — and more than 18 hours total — on state exams this week and next.At I.S. 190 in the Bronx, Maribeth Whitehouse’s self-contained special education class of eighth-graders sat down to their reading exams at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Including the time it took to hand out the test, read directions, and take breaks, her students didn’t close their test books and head to lunch until after 12:30 p.m. — at which point, one student complained, “My legs hurt.”That was just the beginning. The schedule repeated today and will again on Thursday and next week for the state math exam.