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Educator Claims Bias Against Deaf Children On State Test

Concerns Prompt Review Of Test Questions, Score Adjustments

State education officials say they're adjusting the standardized test scores of students at the Maryland School for the Deaf who were asked to match words containing similar sounds.

The state Department of Education also will ensure that questions in this year's version of the Maryland School Assessment are appropriate for hearing-impaired students, spokesman Bill Reinhard said Monday.

The changes follow complaints by James E. Tucker, superintendent of the Maryland School for the Deaf, that the reading section of the 2004 test asked students in grades 3 and 4 to match pairs of words with similar sounds, such as the vowel sound in "castle" and "manner."

"As a deaf person, I'm not familiar with sounds," Tucker told The Frederick News-Post for a story published Monday. "I have a problem answering these questions myself, and I'm an education man."

Carol Ann Baglin, assistant state superintendent for special education and early intervention services, said the "phonics-based" questions were meant to test whether or not a child could sound out particular portions of a word.

"There are absolutely opportunities to make adjustments" before the 2005 test is given in March, Baglin said.

She said the Maryland School for the Deaf's scores from the 2004 test will be adjusted. "If the student scored incorrectly on a phonetic question, we will reissue the score for the School for the Deaf," Baglin said.

The Maryland School Assessment is a reading and math test given to students in grades 3 through 8. The reading test also is given in grade 10. All public schools, including alternative schools, juvenile institutions, the Maryland School for the Blind and the Maryland School for the Deaf, participate in the test, a requirement of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Tucker said he welcomes the challenge of standardized testing. "We just want the tests to be fair," he said.

Tucker said he expects the adjusted 2004 scores to be better than the original ones, which indicated the school's flagship Frederick campus didn't make adequate yearly progress. In 2003, the Frederick campus made adequate yearly progress, but the Columbia campus did not.

Tucker is also president of the Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf, a national organization. He said he is working with the group on a standardized test that takes all disabilities into account.

© 2005 The Associated Press



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