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Oregon youngsters with dyslexia and other learning disabilities will be able to use computerized spell-checks and get other help on statewide tests under a settlement announced Thursday in Portland, Ore. The settlement with a group of Oregon parents who sued the state will affect fewer than 4,000 students, said Wayne Neuburger, Oregon’s associate superintendent for assessment and education. But it could provide guidelines for other states considering additional help for learning-disabled students when they take standardized tests. Many states have made, or are considering, tests as a graduation requirement, and President Bush has made expanded testing a key part of his education plan. “These recommendations have national importance. It’s not just for Oregon,” said Susan Vogel, a Northern Illinois University professor who was on a four-person panel that recommended the settlement. Under the settlement, students with dyslexia — a neurological disorder that affects the ability to read and write — will be able to use computers or word processors with a spell-check feature. Some students may be allowed to use calculators. In some cases, the tests will be read aloud to youngsters by someone. And some youngsters will be allowed to recite their answers into a machine. Currently, learning-disabled youngsters are often given extra time to complete the tests. Parents filed the federal lawsuit against the state Education Board in 1999, claiming Oregon’s standardized tests violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and hurt Oregon children with learning disabilities. “The failure rate on these was very high, and a lot of the kids we represent are really bright,” said Jeffrey Foote, a lawyer for the parents. “In addition, it was causing a tremendous emotional toll.” The lawsuit targeted tests administered to children in grades 3, 5, 8 and 10, covering a wide range of topics, including reading, writing, math and science. Students who fail have trouble enrolling in advanced placement courses or attending Oregon’s public universities. Vogel said 95 percent of the disabled Oregon students who took the most recent round of tests failed. Critics say many students were at a disadvantage because the tests are heavily weighted toward spelling and punctuation, a weak point for those with dyslexia. Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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