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D.C. Schools Cutting Back On 'Read-Aloud'

More than 2,000 students in D.C. public and public charter schools with reading difficulties have questions and passages in the English Language Arts portion of the annual DC-CAS standardized test read to them. But federal and state officials have ordered D.C. schools to sharply reduce the number of "read-aloud" accommodations, contending they have been overused.

Under an agreement between the U.S. Department of Education and the D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), the District must cut by half the number of read-loud arrangements before next month's DC-CAS exams. By 2010, it can be used "only for students with particularly severe dyslexia or other decoding disabilities," according to a recent letter to parents from Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee.

Rhee said the accommodation "can hide the extent to which your child may be struggling to read. Therefore, changing the use of this accommodation will allow us to see more clearly the kind of help your child may need." Officials said they have reviewed the IEPs (Individualized Education Plans) of students with the accommodation to see who meets the more stringent criteria.

Federal law says that no changes in a student's IEP can be made before parents have a chance to meet with the team of educators that devised the plan. But DCPS is asking parents to waive that requirement.

Dwannal McGahee said his 13-year-old at LaSalle-Backus Educational Center does not have serious learning disabilities, but that DCPS is acting improperly and he plans to contest the decision.

"For DCPS to just remove that accommodation without testing the student to see if he still needs it is a violations of IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). I have a problem with that."

Parents with questions after speaking with the teacher and the special ed coordinator can call 202-442-5400.

Bill Turque

By Bill Turque  |  March 16, 2009; 12:51 PM ET
Categories:  Bill Turque , Education  
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This read-aloud accommodation for the reading part of standardized tests was not merely for students with reading difficulties, but for most SPED students, as per their IEPs and for some English language learners. I work intimately with this and have given the DC BAS and DC CAS with this full read-aloud accommodation. Many ELLs and students with IEPs would have the reading test questions, answer choices and whole reading passages read aloud to them during test time by a teacher. They would not have to read the test to themselves. For some students, it was the only way they could score decently on the DC CAS. Some special ed students in 5th grade, for example, are reading on a 2nd grade level, as well as ELLs who benefit from both hearing and reading along the passage with the teacher. I'm most disappointed that this accommodation has been removed under DOE sanctions by DCPS and think it's unfair for the affected students. But I know we unfortunately have no choice but eliminate the read aloud on the reading test or face more trouble with the feds. Rhee has initiated a hot line for parents to call and I hope teachers will have time to get students prepared for the removal of this support.

Posted by: chelita | March 16, 2009 5:30 PM | Report abuse

Or the reading test should actually measure the extent to which children can READ, not comprehend what is read to them. There is a difference. Far too many children in the District are under-educated and labeled SPED rather than remediated. Assessment is the first part of the instruction process. Find out what they know, then teach them. Research demonstrates that with proper instruction and support, profound reading disabilities exist in about 2-4% of the population. It should be the same here in DC.

Posted by: terpteacher1 | March 16, 2009 9:16 PM | Report abuse

If they are going to eliminate the read-aloud accomodation, it is only fair to give the students(SPED)the test on whatever grade level they are performing. All SPED teachers have approximations of the reading levels on the students. Therefore, for example, a fifth grade student that reads on a third grade level should be given the third grade reading test. These children already have IEP's so we ALREADY KNOW that they cannot perform on grade level and certainly not without these accomodations. I've seen this first hand and the children ultimately get frustrated and just give up.

Posted by: Educator1 | March 16, 2009 11:42 PM | Report abuse

Where I grew up Sp*d was a slur that we'd get in trouble for saying in class. In DC it seems perfectly ok. sigh.

Posted by: bbcrock | March 17, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse

SPED is used at the university for classes in special education, that many of us have masters in. That's where the reference is from.

Posted by: chelita | March 17, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

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