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Law to Help Disabled Kids May Open Up MCAS Appeals

A new law loosening the MCAS appeals process for disabled students might force the state to open the relaxed process to all students, Board of Education Chairman James Peyser said yesterday.

Peyser fears the measure won't pass legal muster because it creates a two-track appeals process, one for regular students and another for special needs pupils.

``If it's not legally supportable, we may have no choice but to make one set of eligibility criteria,'' Peyser said.

The Board of Education is weighing regulations that will implement the law, which was crafted by House and Senate lawmakers and quietly signed by Gov. Mitt Romney the day before Thanksgiving.

State Rep. Marie St. Fleur (D-Dorchester), the House chairwoman of the Education, Arts and Humanities Committee, didn't see how the measure would apply to all students.

``I'm not sure how it's illegal since it's the law. It's been signed by the governor,'' she said.

Senate education committee chairman Robert Antonioni (D-Leominster) also saw no issue.

``What we're saying here is because of the problems these special education students had, there should be some additional flexibility,'' he said.

Department of Education lawyers will review the proposed regulations, with a board vote planned for next month. There are 3,200 students from the class of 2003 who failed the high-stakes exam compared with 1,300 disabled students.

Students can appeal the requirement they pass the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System exam if they can show they are competent enough to meet the MCAS standards but were unable to prove it by taking the exam.

All students under the new law still have to prove their skills are equal to the MCAS passing score of 220. But the new measure stipulates that disabled students no longer are required to score 216 on the test to be eligible to appeal.

Superintendents are also now required to file appeals for all eligible disabled students if requested by their parents.

— Kevin Rothstein
Law to help disabled kids may open up MCAS appeals
Boston Herald


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