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Child with 'Life-Threatening' Epilepsy Asked to Take Standardized Test in Hospital

This happened. Really.
 
 
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Photo Credit: SHUTTERSTOCK

 

Fourth-grader Joey Furlong was lying on a hospital bed, hooked up to various monitors for pre-brain surgery screening, when a teacher waltzed through the door holding a New York State standardized test, reports Albany’s CBS6.

“It just floored me that somebody is sending teachers to sick kids and expecting them to take a New York State test,” said Tami Furling, Joey’s mother. “To me that is just outrageous.”

Joey’s parents are considering brain surgery to treat their son’s life-threatening epilepsy, which requires doctors to withhold seizure medication and wait until Joey has an episode, during which they’ll use an EEG to monitor his brain activity. 

“…essentially his head is attached to the wall and he has an IV in his hand and he’s wearing a pulse oximeter in case something happens with his oxygen levels,” said Tami Furling, describing the scene that a state official apparently confused with an appropriate test-taking environment.

New York State attendance laws require hospitals to provide school instruction, including standardized tests, for children confined to a hospital bed for three or more days. But Joey’s parents had already made previous arrangements with Bethlehem School District for their son to take the test after his hospital release. A representative for Bethlehem told CBS6 that the district had no idea that someone would bring the test to the hospital, and denies giving any information about Joey’s absence to the State.

The debacle on Long Island occurred in the midst of a nationwide debate over the efficacy of standardized testing. Critics of standardized testing say it narrows kids’ education, pressuring teachers to “teach the test,” rather than meeting every child’s unique needs. In the winter, teachers at Seattle’s Garland High School boycotted a required district test, and recently announced plans to boycott the next round of tests in the spring. And just last month, Atlanta public schools made headlines over a massive cheating scandal in which teachers juked test scores tied to their salary.

Joey Furlong’s hospital run-in with a state test proctor serves as an absurd reminder of the pressures of high-stakes testing, whereby federal funding for education is tied to states’ test performance.

Fortunately, Joey’s father was by his son’s side when a New York State employee barged in and tried to turn the hospital into a classroom. Mr. Furlong sent the teacher away, but Tami wonders what would’ve happened had her husband not been present.

“I would like to hope she would not have taken his arm that has an IV and oximeter on it and put a number 2 pencil in it, I would like to hope that she would wait to talk to the family."

Steven Hsieh is an editorial assistant at AlterNet and writer based in Brooklyn. Follow him on Twitter @stevenjhsieh.