Mainstreaming Special needs Students Understanding the Debate

Extended Time

Teaching special education in the inner city, in a public school, the laws for special education dictate that during important tests, we may graciously allow what is called EXTENDED TIME. This means that students who have absolutely no idea how to read above a second grade level may take the fifth-grade level state-mandated test, as long as they are given, yes, you know it’s magic

Extended Time.

Everyone needs it.

I don’t disagree with the special education law which allows special needs students to take the exam with extended time. In fact, I think they should be allowed to have extended time for just about everything. I think kindergarteners should be allowed to nap. (We have thrown this out in favor of half-day kindergarten, or full days with no naps allowed).

But what I don’t agree with is mandatory testing for all students, regardless of their disability. There are many students who teachers are aware of who will not only fail these mandatory tests dismally, but will also retain yet another emotional scar of failure on their already scarred egos.

Today I paced a room of special needs students taking a mandatory state exam for the fifth grade. Out of all of them, there was only one able to read the passages of the reading comprehension, bubble appropriate answers to multiple choice questions, write cohesive written responses to open-ended questions.

The extended time was painful, brutal, cruel. For those students unable to read and comprehend, I was warned, nay, admonished not to offer a single drop of assistance. For these students, extended time was extended pain, extended torture, extended humiliation.

There was no good reason for them to be there at all. My time as a special education resource teacher was not spent in helping them to learn to read, but in watching the clock as they resigned themselves to yet another failure.

Perhaps extended teaching would serve them better.