Sarasota special needs student required to take FSAA test despite mom’s disapproval

Her mother is fighting to stop it

Maddy Drew is a special needs student.

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) 15-year-old Maddy Drew has cerebral palsy, and her mother Paula says the state is requiring her take a standardized test. But there’s a problem, Maddy can’t speak and has limited cognitive ability.

When Paula Drew asked for an exemption from the Florida Standards Alternate Assessment test, she was denied. Now she’s fighting to stop the state from doing this.

Maddy can only use very basic signs or answer yes or no questions. “She has made up signs, sometimes it takes us a while to understand what they are, but she does get her point across,” said her mother Paula Drew.

Maddy Drew is a special needs student.
Maddy Drew is a special needs student.

Maddy goes to Oak Park School, which caters to special needs children. Drew says her daughter learns basic life skills like cooking or arts and crafts.

But, the Department of Education is requiring Maddy to take a standardized test. Paula Drew spoke with Maddy’s doctor and they both agreed, she doesn’t have the cognitive ability to do a test, so Drew filed the proper paperwork and asked for an exemption. She was denied“There was no explanation, it was just one sentence that said ‘Denied,’” said Drew.

She then asked for a hearing, she was denied that too. She says the state explained that since Maddy has taken tests in the past, she should be able to take a test now.
“I’m not okay with one person having the final say, having not met my daughter,” said Drew.

Drew knows her daughter’s limited cognitive ability would result in a poor test score. She is concerned that her daughter’s results would hurt her school’s rating, and it could impact her teacher’s pay, since student performance is factored into that.

“[Taking that test would be ] humiliating and disrespectful to both the teacher and the student,” said Drew.

Drew’s attorney, Andrea Mogensen, is asking the department of education for a hearing. If that’s denied, then they’ll file a lawsuit. Mogensen said, “It seems that this case really raises a red flag about the question… has testing come before education?”

A spokesperson for the Department of Education released this statement:

“While we can’t discuss individual students, we want to make it clear that the assessment exemption request process is fact based. Commissioner Stewart, along with a team of education experts, reviews each exemption request submitted by a school district to the Department. Every student deserves access to a high-quality education, and the Department’s key consideration is always whether the student has demonstrated progress year over year. Every student has the ability to learn and when a student shows progress, there is no reason for the department to interfere.”

Drew is concerned about what kind of message this is sending out. “Why are we subjecting special needs children to this test at any and all costs?” she asked.

Paula Drew hopes to set a precedent. Since they were denied a hearing, they want an opportunity to state their case and fight for it. And they hope no other special needs parents will have to go through this.

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