Disabled teen denied exemption from testing

- A mother whose daughter has cerebral palsy says her request for a medical exemption from standardized testing was denied with no explanation.

Maddy Drew is 15-years old and in the 9th grade at Oak Park School. She uses sign language and an iPad to communicate.

When standardized testing came up, her mom, Paula, filed a medical exemption, hoping to opt out of the test.

"I did some research in it and decided that that was something I didn't want her to do," she said. "A month later it came back, just one sentenced paragraph. Denied with no explanation," Drew explained.

She was shocked. She requested a hearing into the matter, but that was denied, too. She said the test isn't fairly tailored to Maddy's schooling.

"It doesn't measure what she knows. It's not anything that she has been taught. It's not her curriculum," she said.

The test results can weigh heavily on Maddy, as well as her teacher and school.

"Oak Park is such a wonderful school that I thought they shouldn't use testing of my daughter that would bring down their rating," said Drew.

Paula said she doesn't understand what benefit there would be in testing Maddy.

"You get those results back. It's a numbers results like a 1, 2,3,4,5 and we will get a result of maybe a 2 back. I already know those things. I don't need to see it in black and white in my face I know what her capabilities are," she said.

Civil rights lawyer Andrea Flynn Mogensen filed paperwork asking the Florida Department of Education to reconsider their ruling.

"Medically, if a medical doctor says this student is not going to accurately test because of her disability, what's their investment in doing a test?" said Flynn Mogensen.

The state said, once they rule on a medical exemption the decision is final.

"We, as parents and community members, should really ask ourselves, has the testing really become more important then the education of our kids?" Flynn Mogensen asked.

Paula Drew believes the parents of special needs children should have the right to opt out of standardized testing.

"I feel we should have a choice to say 'no.' It is inappropriate for our child," she said.

The Sarasota County School District said the state is the only entity that can make a decision on Maddy's testing.

The Florida Department of Education issued a statement, saying: 

"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."

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