Andrea Rediske, whose profoundly disabled son Ethan died earlier this month, pleaded with the State Board of Education this week to "make better policy decisions in the future" so other children like hers aren't forced to take standardized tests they cannot comprehend.
Ethan had significant mental and physical disabilities that meant he had no real control of his body, was fed by a tube in his abdomen and had the cognitive ability of a baby.
Yet under state and federal rules, teachers had to administer a state test to him, reading him stories, showing him pictures and asking him questions about shapes and money, about what a peach tastes like and about what type of shoes the wheel-chair bound boy would wear outside.
His mother said last year the testing requirements were "ridiculous," and fought against them. But she said they became more absurd and cruel this year when Ethan was dying -- and she needed to provide a letter from Hospice explaining why he could not take the Florida Alternate Assessment, the state test given to students who cannot take FCAT.
You can watch Rediske addressing the board here.
Rediske told the State Board that disabled children like Ethan should be exempt "from the rigors of high-stakes standardized testing" and that "any student who experiences pain and suffering" because of such tests should be allowed to opt out.
Many disability rights groups favor testing of kids with disabilities because they say that helps make sure those children aren't ignored by educators. But they say Florida may need a better system for students with the most-profound disabilities. Some other states, for example, don't try to test such children but instead videotape their lessons as proof they are being provided educational services.
Rep. Karen Castor Dentel, D-Maitland, has filed a bill (HB 895)that, if passed, would allow local school districts to decide if tests were appropriate for students like Ethan. If it passed, it would be called the Ethan Rediske Act.
(photo by Joe Burbank of the Sentinel staff)
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