A recent case from Illinois reminds us that accommodations for students with disabilities are designed to level the playing field—not to give any student an advantage over others. The case involved K.P., an 8th grader in Chicago whose IEP called for her to use a calculator in her math class. The IEP also permitted any “allowable” modifications in standardized testing.
Chicago requires 8th graders to take a MAP test (Measure of Academic Progress) as part of the application process to the city’s more selective high schools. The math portion of the MAP test is taken on a computer, and on some of the questions, a calculator pops up on the screen. Thus on those questions, all students are allowed to use the on-screen calculator. On other questions, there is no calculator provided and students are expected to do their own calculations without a device.
When K.P.’s mother was informed that her daughter would not be allowed to bring her own calculator to the test, she sued the Chicago Public Schools, alleging that this violated IDEA and the ADA.
The court ruled for the school district. The critical factor was that the math portion of the MAP is designed to assess the student’s ability in math—including the ability to do mathematical calculations without assistance. An accommodation is not “reasonable” if it would cause the test results to be invalidated. Referring to the use of a calculator to work out math problems, the court said:
That is not a reasonable accommodation but a substitution of artificial intelligence for the very skill the Test seeks to measure.
The case is K.P. v. City of Chicago Public School District #299, decided by the federal district court for the Northern District of Illinois on February 25, 2015. We found it at 65 IDELR 42.
DAWG BONE: TESTING ACCOMMODATIONS ARE TO MAKE THINGS FAIR, NOT TO PROVIDE AN ADVANTAGE.