Individuals with Disabilities Educational Act

I ran across a reference to an article on accommodations allowed under IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities Educational Act).  I’m used to it as part of the working conditions of teaching – whether college or elementary.  The article, titled Accommodations, Certifications and Standards is well written, makes sense, and yet doesn’t completely convince me. 

The author wrote:

“In order to make students with disabilities more likely to have the same outcome, they are granted accommodations. These accommodations can vary. It can mean that they are granted extra time, or are allowed to test in a private room with no one watching them, or that they are even give multiple choice tests with one or more of the wrong choices eliminated. Furthermore, the law goes on to say that there can be no mention of the accommodations on the student’s transcript, diploma, or other certifications. Don’t want them having the stigma of people thinking they had it easier than other students, you see.”

He continued:

“As a result, not every student is being evaluated by the same standard. This means that a diploma is no longer a certification, as there is no guarantee that two students who have received that diploma were measured against the same yardstick. Remember that next time you are having your hair cut or being treated by a healthcare professional.

There was a student in my nursing class who received the accommodation of testing in a private room, and was also allowed to have her cell phone in the room with her. She graduated with a 94% test average, the highest in the class. I wonder why. No one on staff could challenge her on it, or she would scream about IDEA and racial discrimination.”

In some ways he’s correct.  On the other hand, I’ve done well on tests most of my life – excepting the grade school years when I needed glasses, and the undergraduate year when we discovered my glasses needed to be corrected for astigmatism.  These were my times as a slow reader . . . at least by my standards.

With cataract surgery completed, my distance vision is great – but I’m wearing 2.50 correction reading glasses for close-up work.  That translates to 2 ½ power magnification for each eye – and my reading speed has dropped to about 600 words per minute.  It’s OK – I’m retired and don’t need to read fast . . . but my reading speeds were always above 1,200 words per minute.  I am pretty sure that my corrected vision gave me an advantage in the academy . . . I think the average person reads at 300 words per minute. 

I may actually be smarter than folks who scored lower on the standardized tests – but I have a hunch that my higher scores occurred because fast reading gave me more time to select the answer and more time to check my work.  I think that accommodations for slower readers might just have taken my fast reading privilege away from me.  I can’t say reading 4 times faster than average was the whole advantage – but I know it was helpful.

I worked for a dyslexic dean – definitely brighter than I, but his weakness was slow reading.  It kept him from checking his source documents as much as I do.  If someone gave him bad information, he was kind of stuck with it.  On the other hand, I am a ‘let’s look it up’ guy.  When my dyslexic dean was right, he was faster than I – and he was right a lot of the time.  He had better recall than I.

So the message is doubled – I want kids to be able to read fast with good recall and understanding of the information.  But accommodations to make up for less than perfect vision and processing isn’t a bad thing.  It doesn’t guarantee equal outcomes, but it does help us keep students from dropping through the cracks.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s