Testing Takes Its Toll on Special Needs Students

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It has been a challenging week for many third- through eighth-grade public school students in New York City, as they have started their days on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday with the federally mandated English Language Arts exams. But as Gotham Schools reported on Wednesday, the week has been especially challenging for some students with special needs.

This year, test-taking time has doubled for all students. For those 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," Jessica Campbell reports for Gotham.

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.

“It’s not water-boarding, but when you’re 13 it’s pretty close to torture,” Whitehouse said of the morning stretch. “My kids would have done great if it was just three days for Book One.”

Neither city nor state school officials were asked to comment on the time issue. Parents, let us know what your children have been saying about the exams; respond in the comments below.

There was good news for a parochial school in Brooklyn, The New York Times reported on Thursday.

The school, Nazareth Regional High School in East Flatbush, which has about 400 students and a nationally ranked girls' basketball team, was supposed to close in June. The school had six weeks to raise $700,000, bring in 81 freshmen and draft a four-year financial plan.

According to The Times: "Sharon Patrick, a former McKinsey & Company consultant whose nephew teaches at Nazareth, donated $500,000, and $200,000 more was raised through school events and a local McDonald’s. Patrick also covered the enrollment fees of 81 incoming freshmen and worked with the school to develop a secure financial plan."

The Lady Kingsmen ended last year with the state Catholic school title, though it lost the citywide championship and the New York state Tournament of Champions. It also lost its coach, Apache Paschall, who died during the season.

With the new infusion of money, the team will be around to defend its championship. And, The Times reports, "Jim Kennelly of the board of trustees said the school was now in position to possibly last another 50 years."

And, again in the category of good news, congratulations to the Baruch College Campus High School for being named one of 18 schools designated finalists in the Intel Schools of Distinction national competition. It won honored for its innovative math program.

Here is what is coming up in education in New York City:

Parents of students who received their Gifted and Talented score reports and applications last week have until Friday to submit their applications online or at borough enrollment offices. Parents, schools are supposed to offer open houses or tours, and have been encouraged to make evening hours available.

Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott will participate in a meeting of the Chancellor's Parent Advisory Committee at the Tweed Courthouse at 11:30 a.m.

At 1 p.m. the City Council's Committee on Education will hold a hearing on the issue of co-locations in the city schools, at 250 Broadway, 16th floor.

And at 4:45 p.m. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg will be out at Intermediate School 318 Eugenia Maria de Hostos to have his photo taken with the championship chess team.