In this post, Valerie Strauss recounts the sordid history of Florida’s State Superintendent, Pam Stewart, who tries to force severely disabled children to take standardized state tests.


One of them, Ethan Radiske, was dying as the Florida Department of Education harassed his family to get him to take the test. Poor Ethan cheated the state by dying without taking the test.


Valerie Strauss writes:


“Now, a mother named Paula Drew is fighting the same kind of battle with the Florida Department of Education. Paula’s daughter, 15-year-old Madison Drew, has cerebral palsy and cannot speak. She suffers from a number of conditions related to her condition and takes several medications daily to prevent seizures, which can affect her cognitive abilities, a doctor’s written diagnosis shows.


“Drew said she sought an exemption from state-mandated testing, but Pam Stewart, the Florida education commissioner, denied the request…


“I asked the Florida Department of Education for comment. While not speaking specifically about Madison Drew’s case, Meghan Collins, a department spokeswoman, said in an email: “Florida state law states that participation in statewide standardized assessments is mandatory for students in public schools. However, there are two types of exemptions that can be submitted by a school district to the state: medical complexity and extraordinary exemption due to circumstance or condition (extraordinary exemption). … All requests are considered on an individual basis.”



“That response reflects the reasoning behind why Florida — and other states, as well as the U.S. Department of Education — insist that kids with impaired cognitive ability take standardized tests: It is pure boilerplate.



“They say, nearly every child can learn something and be assessed in some fashion. In a 2014 letter to teachers, Stewart wrote in part: “We cannot and should not return to the days where we tacitly ignore the needs of children with special needs by failing to ensure they are learning and growing as the result of teachers’ excellent work.”