The next time you hear Gov. Martin O’Malley boast that Maryland has the greatest public schools in the nation — and since he’s all but certain to run for president in 2016, you will no doubt hear it again and again — think twice.
The Washington Post recently brought up the embarrassing fact that Maryland schools exempted an unprecedented number of students with learning disabilities from taking a national reading test — a strategy that earned Maryland a second-place finish among fourth graders, and a sixth-place finish among eighth graders.
The Post figures that if Maryland hadn’t exempted their learning-disabled students, their ranking would have fallen to 11th place among fourth graders and 12th place among eighth graders.
Maryland justifies the exemptions as the product of a discrepancy between state policies and the rules of the test. Since the national test does not allow accommodations — such as having test questions read aloud — that it is Maryland’s policy to provide, students who normally qualify for those accommodations were excused.
But as the Post‘s editorial board is eager to point out, this national test has no consequence for individual students. It’s used only to rank states. The point being, if a student struggles on the test in the absence of hearing the questions aloud — while it may make for an unpleasant test experience — it will have no bearing on his academic record, so why exempt him?
That is, other than for the purposes of inflating your state’s academic ranking?
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