June 2013 Issue
May 24, 2013

'The sickest testing story of all time'

Author: Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT United
Caption: Joey Furlong in his hospital bed. Photo provided.

Fourth-grader Joey Furlong was in a children's hospital on Long Island hundreds of miles away from his Bethlehem home in April when a most unexpected visitor stopped by: A teacher came to his bedside to administer Part 1 of the New York state math test.

In what she dubbed "the sickest testing story of all time," national education blogger Diane Ravitch wrote, "No child escapes testing. Even while they are waiting for brain surgery." The story made national headlines and blog entries, after MSNBC picked up a local television story.

Joey's mom, Tami, a special education teacher in Guilderland, called the situation "absolutely outrageous." Her son was in the hospital for special testing to determine whether brain surgery might help his epileptic seizures.

"Here he is hours away from home, off medications he has been on for 10 years and hooked up to an IV and video EEB testing," Tami Furlong said. "His head is basically hooked to the wall ... And the priority of New York state is for my son to take his math test." Fortunately, Joey's dad was at his bedside and made it clear it wasn't a good time for Joey to take several hours of standardized testing. Besides, the Bethlehem school district had already made arrangements to give him a makeup exam at a later time.

"The teacher was sent by the State Education Department," a Bethlehem spokesman told reporters. "We had no knowledge the Furlongs were going to be bothered in such a fashion." A hospital spokesman said the hospital employs five New York City school teachers who are required under state law to offer instruction to children who have been in the hospital for more than three days.

"If any child is unable to take an exam or receive any time of instruction because of their condition, there is a process where a physician signs a clearance form and that's the end of it," the spokesman told the Huffington Post. "Nobody was insisting the child had to take the test."

"The fact there are kids being tested while sick in the hospital is outrageous," Tami Furlong said. "It still floors me that testing sick kids in a hospital setting is even considered."