02 October 2006

So That Explains It

Here's the new thing I learned today: there is no such thing as a learning disability in science. There are no IEP goals allowed as they relate to science...and there will be no alternative assessments for special needs students in the area of science (as there are for math, reading, and writing). Apparently, science concepts are readily and equally understandable by everyone, even Republicans and/or fundamentalists.

This brings up some interesting issues as the reauthorization rolls around and the Science Accountability Act becomes a real possibility. Since there can be no accommodations with science tests (apart from ones applied to all testing situations), what will happen with these students? What will schools do about their scores and lack of AYP when SPED students are held to a higher standard in science than they are in math, reading, and writing?

In some ways, I understand that the "no disability in science" (Is that like "no crying in baseball"?) thing, especially where content is concerned; however, the vast majority of our standards are process and skill-oriented, just as reading and writing and most of math. Our standards have grade-level appropriate benchmarks and spiraling ideas through the grade levels. Why is it reasonable to expect that a child who is allowed to have a 3rd grade proficiency in math and language arts when in 10th grade must have a 10th grade proficiency in science?

I will certainly be paying attention in different ways as science continues to grow in the public education eye. As there is no likelihood that the rules governing SPED will be altered to include science as an area of disability, we'll have to be even more creative about supporting our SPED kiddos.


Anonymous said...

Liz here from I Speak of Dreams.

I am sputtering. As a parent of a kid with an LD who loves science (thank you great teachers).

I'll tell you a story. My daughter, JumperGirl, aced chemistry last year -- until it came to the tests. Well, she did pretty danged well on the multiple-choice sections of tests. But testing that required writing out equations? Oops. She doesn't have a formal diagnosis of dysgraphia (and I don't think she'd qualify anyway). But the problem is a tendency to garble letters and numbers.

If the challenge is to show the correct formula for say, Calcium Nitrate

Ca(NO3)2 (sorry, can't do the subscripts

Her written production is as likely to be Ca(NO2)3 or even Co(NA2)3 -- if she doesn't have time to proofread her work, with a prompt of the atomic table in front of her. I mean, if you ask her what the symbol for calcium is, she'll respond Ca, but just looking at Co won't necessarily set off the OOPS response.

In other words, chemistry abbreviations are kind of like a foreign language for her (and perhaps other dyslexics).

Plus there's the issue of seeing Ca and thinking Calcium, or looking at NO3 and being able to suss out it is nitrate, not some other signifier.

The good news in this story is that her teacher, by midyear, got the picture that there was static between what she knew (had mastered) and what she what she could produce in testing situations. The actually not-bad news was that he couldn't adjust the assessments.

So JG learned chemistry, and learned the deficits she'll have to master if she wants to take Chem in college. The teacher learned a lot about different kinds of learning disabilities. He did say on her end-of-year report that he'd rarely had a student work so diligently for so little grade output -- "She never gave up."

But LDs not having an impact on science? I could go on, and on, and on.

Here's another one: dysgraphia and labratory. for kids with dysgraphia, getting what is mastered in the brain down on paper is like torture. Simulation: write, with your non-dominant hand, in your second (poorly mastered) language. Labratory science notebooks, for dysgraphic kids, are the 11th circule of hell.


and I'm not a lawyer, let alone a SpEd lawyer, but I am pretty sure that "There are no IEP goals allowed as they relate to science." is not permissible under IDEA and 504.

I'll get back to you on this.

The Science Goddess said...

My understanding is that "they" would say that your daughter's disability (the dysgraphia) is in writing, not science. The science content knowledge was okay.

I'll definitely be on the lookout for more information. I was certainly stunned to learn that no one can have a science disability.