The mother of an 18-year-old man with a learning disability is lobbying New York education officials to make changes to its policies, so her son can receive his high school diploma. Her fight is just one of many, illustrating how parents of those with disabilities often have to advocate their children “get the services they require.” Read more
As an instructor of two university-entrance exams, the SAT and ACT, I was disappointed recently that an official, sample ACT essay included a quite offensive assertion.
On the ACT website, an essay designed to exemplify a top score of 6 out of 6 argued that machines would lead to people being judged only on their ability, so “there is no reason for a person to remain after they have served their function.”
Then came this attack on two large groups of people: “This would warrant genocide against the elderly and the disabled because their burden on society would not be made up for by any production.”
I understand offensive content is not a factor in grading, but ACT Inc. shouldn’t choose its sample best essay to include such an odious argument.
Also, sticking merely to ACT’s grading rubric, the statement is not – and cannot possibly be – supported by evidence. On the contrary, the elderly and people with disabilities can be productive for society.
Consider 90-year-old former president Jimmy Carter, who, even after receiving a diagnosis of cancer, continues his work with the Carter Center, an organization that reduced the number of cases of the debilitating guinea worm disease from 3.5 million in 1986 to 126 last year.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who had polio and used a wheelchair, was elected president for four terms. John Nash, who had paranoid schizophrenia, won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.
Counterexamples of that assertion are not limited to famous people. Countless elderly and disabled people are productive members of society.
There is no support in the essay to indicate otherwise. Therefore, the general statement in the essay should have been attacked in ACT’s analysis because the assertion lacks support.
Instead, the analysis merely states that the essay “uses the concept of genocide, rather than a specific example of it, to refine and support the idea that comparisons between human and machine, even in the name of prosperity, reduce and devalue human qualities and pose a great danger to society.”
At least the essay considers genocide a “great danger to society.”
I contacted public relations at ACT Inc., and spokeswoman Katie Wacker responded promptly.
“Our interpretation of the sentence in question was not the same as yours, but we now see how it could be taken differently. With that in mind, we have decided to replace this essay entirely, as we have no wish to offend anyone. We apologize for our oversight in this case, and we will begin the process of selecting an alternative sample to illustrate this score level.”
On a lighter note, I’ll add that critics have long said the ACT and the SAT haven’t given students enough time to complete the essay. The new 40-minute ACT essay launching next month gives students 10 more minutes than the previous one, while the new SAT essay, launching in March, will double the time limit to 50 minutes. Yet, as I write this blog, a week has passed since ACT Inc. responded to my concerns, and ACT Inc. – the maker of the ACT — hasn’t yet posted a replacement of the essay. Maybe even 40 minutes isn’t enough.
Perhaps ACT Inc. needs help from some elderly or disabled people.
Richard J. Dalton Jr. is an advisory board member of the National Center on Disability and Journalism at Arizona State University and owner of Your Score Booster, which teaches the SAT and ACT.
In this investigative series into one of California’s largest group homes for children with mental disabilities and emotional disorders, ProPublica journalists expose failures at nearly every level to protect its troubled residents. The insitution at the center of the story, FamiliesFirst in Davis, was raided by police in June 2013 after a year of responding to hundreds of calls about drug use, rape, violence and negligence. According to reporter Joaquin Sapien’s explanation of how the story was covered, the investigators obtained data through public records requests and drew from interviews with more than three dozen subjects, including social workers and children who worked and lived in the home.
Read more, and watch the accompanying documentary “Sule’s Story,” at ProPublica.
The American Association of People with Disabilities is now accepting applications for the 2015 NBC Universal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship. Four scholarships are available to undergraduate and graduate students with disabilities who are pursuing degrees in communications or media-relations. Each recipient will receive $5,625 for tuition and fees at their college or university.
The scholarship is named in honor of Tony Coelho, a former United States Representative from California and the primary author and sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Coelho also served as a judge for the second annual Katherine Schneider Journalism Award for Excellence in Reporting on Disability, administered through the NCDJ.
For more information about applying, visit the AAPD website and read below.
Three high school seniors from Phoenix, Arizona, took home first place in their division for C-SPAN’s Student Cam 2015 documentary competition. “An IDEA for Tomorrow,” produced by Severiano Romo, Alexis Rainery and Molly Kerwick of the Metropolitan Arts Institute, showcases the single piece of federal legislation governing the education of children with disabilities– IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
For Peyton Gallovich, a course in American Sign Language at ASU evolved into something more than just an opportunityto learn a new language.
It inspired the student at the Cronkite School to develop a professional news program that connects the deaf and hearing communities
From left: Dyan Sue Kovacs, sports anchor and ASL teacher at ASU; Melissa Yingst Huber lead anchor and co-CEO; Clayton Ide lead anchor and sports reporter and teacher at Phoenix Day School for the Deaf.
Melissa Yingst Huber, lead anchor and co-CEO of the DHN. She is also a counselor at Phoenix Day School for the Deaf.
“I have watched a lot of (television) news since it’s my major, and I would turn on the captions and they lagged or were inaccurate,” she said. “I just felt like maybe there was something I could do that could bridge the gap.”
In spring 2014, Gallovich approached her sign language instructor Dyan Kovacs after class with an idea for the Deaf and Hearing Network, which combines the use of signing, voices and captions into one show.
“Peyton was my student and shares the same passion as I do with ASL,” said Kovacs, who also serves as a DHN sports anchor. “She came (up) with the idea of DHN, which I thought, ‘Yes —that is what we need in our community.’”
The show’s first run included eight episodes and aired on area public television DeafTV.com and DeafVideo.tv. Production takes place at the Cronkite School in a state-of-the-art television studio. Gallovich works behind the scenes serving as a producer, working on all of the pre- and post-production work.
In March 2014, the 12-person crew was hard at work preparing show’s sixth episode. Gallovich was focused, putting the finishing touches on the pre-production of the show, while the news anchors, who are deaf, rehearsed their lines. After taping,Gallovich spent the next two days editing the video and adding the voice-overs to the show.
The finished product was a 15-minute program that included coverage on the crisis in Ukraine, the missing Malaysia Airlinesplane and the NCAA Final Four.
Gallovich said the program also highlights important news to the deaf community. The staff did an in-depth story on a housing dispute between a Tempe, Arizona, residential community for the deaf and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Melissa Huber, a DHN news anchor, said she is proud of the staff, which consists of Cronkite students and members of the deaf community, including ASL teachers and students.
“It is always amazing to see how well everyone comes together and works together to deliver amazing shows,” said Huber, who works as a counselor at the Phoenix Day School for the Deaf. “The shows, when they are posted and delivered to the community — that is also a favorite part of working at DHN —seeing the fruits of our labor, and how we were all able to create something beautiful.”
According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 36 million adults report some form of hearing loss. Additionally, two to three out of every 1,000 children in the U.S. are born deaf or hard-of-hearing. Gallovich said the Deaf and Hearing Network has opened her up to an entire culture.
“Like most hearing people, I had no contact with the deaf community prior to taking a sign language class,” she said. “Soonce I got there and learned about the culture and the people, Ilearned it’s not a disability. You just have to do things a little differently.”
The Deaf and Hearing Network has received tremendous support from both the deaf and hearing communities. The show has racked up thousands of views on its YouTube page, and it has a strong and following on social media.
“We have been receiving a very positive response from the community,” Kovacs said. “Actually — not only the deaf community but the ASL community — ASL interpreters, ASL students, Children of Deaf Adults (International) and many non-ASL users have expressed their awe at the shows.”
Gallovich said the Deaf and Hearing Network plans to begin taping its second season during the fall 2014 semester at ASU.In the meantime, the crew is working to build the show’s following by reaching out to national deaf organizations.Gallovich said she hopes the program continues to grow and make a difference.
“My whole goal was to make an impact, and that’s actually happening,” she said. “… This is my way to get involved and meet people I might not normally see.”
Montel Medley was the valedictorian of the Class of 2014 at Surrattsville High School in Prince George’s County, Maryland. His speech covered the standard topics of growth, support from great teachers and future plans but also addressed something less common in such remarks– his autism. Medley said having a disability does not have to be a disadvantage, in fact it can be an advantage. In his case, Medley graduated with a 4.0 GPA and accepted an offer to attend Towson University in the fall. Read more.