Educational, instruction and assessment has been undergoing rigorous evolution since time immemorial. Instruction practices, polices and legislation regarding special education and assessment have sparked intense controversies which have prompted numerous litigations that have rapidly transformed assessments and special education. The concept of special education originated from the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s (Shepard, 1994). An important aspect of education in the 20th century was the segregation of schools on separate but equal basis as well as on special needs basis.
There was also the denial of the right to a free, appropriate and adequate education for both minority and children with disabilities. These issues of placement in special education and assessment have sparked great controversies overtime based on claims of unfairness. This has prompted numerous lawsuits challenging theses practices and which have resulted into land mark decisions that have had a profound impact on the current instructional, assessment and special education legislation and on the practice of various related professionals such as school psychologists.
These litigations have been influencing each other and special education legislation in general. Current practices in special education and assessment have thus drew a lot from the results of these litigations especially the 1972’s Larry P. v. Riles case which set the stage for reforms in special education placement and assessment. The case and the court’s decree Filed in 1971 in the U. S Federal District Court, Larry P. v. Riles case was suit by parents of 5 Black-American children challenging the inappropriate use of the standardized but invalidated IQ tests to place their children in the Educable Medically Retarded (E. M. R. ) special classes as unconstitutional (Zappardino, et al. 1995).
The plaintiffs also claimed that the standardized tests were culturally discriminative against Black-American children and not compliant with U. S education codes. The case, adjudicated by Judge Robert Peckham, featured six elementary Black-American children from the Unified School District of San Francisco as the plaintiffs. The defendants included the State Board of Public Instruction, City Board Of Education and the city and state superintendents. Statistics indicate that black children in the E. M. R classes accounted for about 66% against the 28. 5% in general education (Neill, & Medina, 1990).
However, the defendants failed to prove that this was due chance and not in inappropriate placement. Trial commenced on 11 October 1977 and the judgment made on 16 October 1979. Making the judgment, the court noted that the named plaintiffs were an adequate representation of the black children who would be or who had already been inappropriately placed in and retained in E. M. R classes. According to the decision by the court, the application of IQ test scores for placement in special (E. M. R,) classes was a violation of the Title VI of the 1964’s Civil Rights Act, the Education For All Handicapped Children Act and the state and federal constitutions on equal protection (Losen, 2001). However, the court did not find any violation of the statutory law of California.
In the light of this, the district court enjoined the defendants permanently from using the standardized IQ testing criteria for determining placement eligibility. The defendants were ordered by the court to direct a re-evaluation of E. M. R children without using IQ tests.
They were further ordered to monitor, collect data and keep records so as to keep track of E. M. R placements of minority children as well as justifying the ratios of whites and blacks in E. M. R classes. The court also recommended the use of a multi-faceted approach for evaluating cases of disabilities. Evolution of special education and assessment Special education policy has been greatly transformed by the landmark decision made by the District Court on the Larry, P. v. Riles case. The case’ outcome has been impacting on special education and assessment in varied but very significant ways.
The case results influenced the modification of the definition of mild mental retardation bringing a new perspective in special education and those qualified for it (Association for Childhood Education International, 1991). This is because this concept relates closely to the E. M. R idea. This modification has led to an alteration in the manner in which the impacts of EMR programming changes and identification are approached. This change in context has been constantly influencing the approach to special education and assessment and has also influenced the emergence of other special education policies. Focus on handicapped children
In a different perspective, the change in the EMR children identification following the case ruling brought a new focus to the issues of handicapped children who were not being addressed adequately by E. M. R placement (FairTest, 1991). Regular class students were inappropriately and erroneously placed in E. M. R by the biased standardized intelligence test. Therefore, children in need of special services end up not being identified by the IQ tests. Banning of intelligence tests by the court prompted for the establishment of more reliable means of identifying mentally retarded children (Neill & Medina, 1990).
This has in turn influenced assessment and instruction in special education as more effective instructional programs have been developed to address special needs children. The Larry P. litigation prompts a similar perspective regarding children with low chronic achievement, an area which has received a great concern recently. The focus on dissatisfaction with the then special education, assessment tests, and overrepresentation led to a compromise on instructional concerns regarding special education.
Implementation of the court’s Larry P. case decision has resulted into a shallow range of focus on programs for appropriate or special education as well as eliminating certain remedial programs for inclusion of such students (Zappardino, et al. 1995). This focus has also led into an emphasis for education excellence through testing and instruction that promotes high achievements for high aptitude children while minimal efforts are implemented to uplift the low aptitude students in similar settings.
Despite various efforts to improve special education and instruction, this particular issue has been neglected and which if blown out of proportion can hurt the educational achievement for special needs children. Implementation of the court’s decree and the emergence of new controversies The enforcement of the Larry P. decree later led to great controversy in California since the case affected the education and assessment for black children under the speech-language special education services.
This is because most of the speech-language tests validated to replace achievement and intelligence tests could result in classification of normal linguistic behavior as a disorder due to racial and cultural differences (Nelson, 2000). Over time, there have been major concerns for identification of children with speech language impairment based on IQ tests with most experts arguing against the basics of these tests. It was also argued that this decree was implemented in way that neglected the effect of language and culture on intelligence measurement.