18-year-old's Calculator Changes State Test Rules

Math-disabled Students Win Right To Use Machines

October 20, 1991|By Samuel Goldreich | Samuel Goldreich,Staff writer

Running the numbers through his head, Adam Kornick figures he needs to sell 130 advertisements to meet his goal for the Harford TechnicalHigh School yearbook before he graduates in June.

Actually, the number he's groping for is $130 worth of ads, as his empty sales book reminds him.

"That's perfect," Kornick says with a big grin. "I love school now."

He might have a little trouble keeping sales quotas straight in his head, but he'll never forget the eighth, ninth or 10th time he took the Maryland Functional Mathematics Test all high school students must pass to get a diploma.

The three exams marked his worst frustration, first glimpse of success and ultimate triumph over his multiple learning disabilities.

When he finally passed -- with the aidof a calculator -- Kornick opened the way for a precedent that couldhelp special education students statewide.

Yielding to the appeals of Adam's mother, Victoria Kornick, state school Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick last month approved the use of calculators for some students who might not otherwise pass the math exam.

"Mrs. Kornick'ssituation was not the only impetus for the use of calculators," saysMichael Malever, a state special eduction program evaluator. "But her interest and work on her son's behalf certainly rekindled interest in giving that a try."

Although Kornick, 18, struggles along with fourth-grade math abilities, his special resources classes helped himmaster the eighth-grade skills needed to pass the state test.

Butthe state Department of Education would not allow him to use the calculator that was approved as part of his classroom routine under his Individualized Instructional Program.

"Sometimes I came close to passing it but I never had a shot," Kornick says while stretched out last week on the couch in his Joppa living room.

Starting in the ninth grade, he failed the test every time, despite passing the other functional tests in reading, writing and citizenship.

Every time Kornick took the test, his mother appealed to the state school superintendent to change the rules to reflect how special students learn and work.

"If you have the ability to do it mentally, great, use that ability," says Kornick, president of the county Council of Parent Teacher Associations. "But if you don't have that ability but can use a calculator, then use it. Does that mean you can't have a high school diploma?"

That's what it means, state school officials said.

"There is a list of competencies students are expected to maintain," Malever says. "These competencies on the test are only assessable when you don't have a mechanical aid."

But Victoria Kornick persevered,insisting that students who function in class using calculators should be able to do so when tested.

The state finally relented and made an exception for her son in April.

"When I got the approval forthe calculator he didn't want to use it because he didn't think it was fair to the other IEP kids," his mother says.

Kornick took the test with his calculator and failed.

"There were a couple of tricky questions on there," he says.

His mother speculates that the pressure of using the calculator might have upset his preparation.

Kornick had special tutoring last summer before he took the test again in August.

"I'll never forget when they called to say I passed. Itwas approximately 3:30 Aug. 12" he says. "I was saying, 'No, no, no,no. You must have the wrong person.' "

But Kornick was the right person, and the call was followed with a Sept. 23 memo from Grasmick announcing a pilot program to allow qualified Individualized Instructional Program students to use calculators on the test.

Just how many students might quality -- testing began Monday -- is a question that the study should answer, Malever says.

"We don't anticipate a landslide of people. But we have no way of knowing," he says.

The only measurement the state has is the 88,000 learning-disabled students through age 20 reported in December by school systems, corrections officials and juvenile services. But to use calculators for the test,students must have used them in Individualized Instructional Programclasses for a year prior to the exam and be recommended by local andstate school officials. Those standards might apply to only a handful in each school district, Malever says.

Kornick's success has inspired him to designate accounting as his career goal, although his mother cautions that a professional degree is a bigger challenge than the computer data entry skills he has mastered in his retail management classes. But it's been a good year for him. He got his driver's license and plans to attend Dundalk Community College after he graduates.

"My birthday is May 25," Kornick says. "I'll walk across that stage at 19 and say, 'See ya, I'm out of here.' "

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.