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College Student With Disability Battles To Become Teacher

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(credit: CBS) Liz Collin
At 15 years old, Liz Collin made her broadcast debut covering...
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BEMIDJI (WCCO) — A successful college student blames a testing company for keeping him from his dream of becoming a teacher.

Alex White goes to school at Bemidji State. For years, he’s used special technology in the classroom to overcome a disability, but he has been told he can’t use it for his most important test yet.

The gym has served as a classroom for White. He’s a junior in college and studying to be a Physical Education teacher.

White has good grades in school, but trouble with one particular test: The writing portion of the Pearson Minnesota Teacher Licensure Examination.

“Once I passed the math, passed the reading, it motivated me, but the writing I was still falling short,” said White.

In class and on tests, White is allowed to use a voice-assisted software program, which the school signed off on. White has aphasia, which is a learning disability that affects language and writing in certain situations.

“There’s good days where I’m fluent and it comes flowing (and) bad days where everything comes out choppy,” White said.

He didn’t use the computer to pass the first two parts, but has tried three times to pass the last.

Even after his professors wrote letters praising his potential and appealing to Pearson repeatedly, the company still says he can’t test with the technology.

“It’s a pen for him,” said White’s mother. “It’s a speller for him, but that’s part of his disability.”

White’s mother and father are both teachers and say they know the exceptions the education system calls for.

White says he’ll keep pushing, speak up for other kids with disabilities and do whatever it takes to be able to one day call himself a teacher.

Pearson, the company that oversees the exam for Minnesota teachers, has not responded to calls for comment.

In the past, Pearson has said using the technology quote “fundamentally alters the measurement of the skills the examination is intended to test.”

White has filed a claim with the U.S. Department of Justice for discrimination. It will investigate to decide if Pearson has done anything wrong.

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