Alaskan Students With Disabilities Win Exit Exam
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
August 3, 2004
JUNEAU, ALASKA--Students with disabilities in Alaska will be given broad accommodations when taking the state's mandatory graduation exam, under a legal settlement announced Monday.
The settlement is the first of its kind and could affect reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities in the more than 20 other states that currently require students to pass a standardized test in order to graduate from high school with a diploma.
Under the agreement, which still needs to be approved by the court, students would be allowed to take extra breaks during the test, or take the test over several days. Students who fail the test could retake it and request certain accommodations, including clarification of test questions, the use of calculators and computerized spelling and grammar checkers, and to have test questions read out loud.
"This is the most constructive resolution that has ever been reached in a case of this nature," said attorney Sid Wolinsky, who represented the high school students in the class-action lawsuit against the Alaska Board of Education. "It is a win-win for everyone."
Wolinsky's Oakland, California-based firm, Disability Rights Advocates, sued the states of Oregon and California in 2000 and 2001 respectively, over their use of standardized tests as a graduation requirement. The issues brought up in the California case have not yet been resolved.
The suit was filed in March on behalf of five high school students claiming Alaska's new High School Graduation Qualifying Examination -- as it was then being implemented -- discriminated against them by making it more difficult for them to graduate and get a diploma. In April, the state decided to waive the requirement for students with disabilities in the 2004 graduating class while the Board negotiated the settlement.
The estimated 500 to 800 students with disabilities scheduled to graduate in 2005 could be granted a waiver from the test if the state and school districts have not set up the accommodations or modifications by this fall.