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Policy confuses special ed families

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

To the editors:

Readers should be aware of a District policy change that dramatically affects students with disabilities.

The Philadelphia Right to Education Task Force has learned that the School District’s Office of Specialized Services, in conjunction with the Office of Assessment, has decided that for the 2006-07 school year, the TerraNova assessment can be taken no more than two grade levels below a student’s “grade level.”

This appears to be a total reversal of the previous policy that allowed teams developing IEPs (Individualized Education Programs) to make a determination that students with disabilities take the assessment at “instructional level” (the grade level they are taught at). Countless IEPs have this accommodation indicated in the document, but this new policy serves to reverse the decisions of the IEP teams.

We are concerned that families were not notified in advance of these changes, and that there appears to be confusion among some educators as well. The result is that some students have now taken the TerraNova on a higher grade level than indicated on their IEPs. When results are reported to families, it will be confusing because it will most likely show a regression from the last assessment and lead some parents to believe that their child is not doing well in school.

Although this information needs further examination, we believe that this action is in violation of the rights of students with disabilities and that it modifies existing IEPs without having a full IEP team convened to review the change for each individual child. In addition, we believe this policy does not provide students with disabilities with their legal right to the accommodations that would ensure them equal access to districtwide assessments.

We are in discussion with both offices to determine the best course of action for next school year and to understand the rationale behind the policy change. However, we urge families to contact us at 215-400-5151 or e-mail to review individual situations. We also encourage parents to check with their child’s teacher to determine exactly how their child was tested.

June Bey
Cathy Roccia-Meier
Bey and Roccia-Meier are legislative chairperson & chairperson of the Philadelphia Right to Education Task Force, respectively

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