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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Should special education students participate in standardized testing?

Should special education students participate in standardized testing?

Related Tags: Special Education
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We differentiate instruction, teach the students at their proximal level of learning, and accept a variety of ways of demonstrating learning in our classrooms, but our students have to take standardized one-way-of-assessing tests. Is this fair? And if not, is it ethical? And if not, what do we do about it?

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Katie Bess's picture

It is absurd to give the same test to special education students. Yes, accommodations can help them, but is there academic progress really the progress we need to see from these students? I certainly do not believe so. Parents don't want to hear their child passed the state exam this year, they want to hear things like your child made their own lunch today! Life skills are what is important! Majority of the population does not use the information that they were taught to pass a state exam in their future.

Kathy Michael's picture
Kathy Michael
Resource/Specialist for Visually Impaired Children

We have alternative testing here in Louisiana, however some of my students with multiple disabilities still cannot access the entire test. When a child's IEP includes "read test aloud" then that should be the accommodation on all sections of the test, however, the "Reading/Response" section cannot be read aloud. I have a student who is totally blind with severe cerebral palsy. He is learning braille but his CP involvement on the right side will keep him from ever reading long passages. He cannot use both hands to scan or produce braille. He will be able to read survival signs. Thus he is an auditory learner. His textbooks are in digital/auditory format and he has a child specific para who reads to him. He is in a self-contained class but he does modified regular ed work for part of the day. he may be about 3 to 1 year below grade level depending on the subject area according to the Brigancefor VI children.

But we could not order a braille test for him because he is not considered a braille reader! I had a regular print test to read to him. I had to draw some charts and graphs and write notes to "test scorers" concerning certain test items that could not be accessed by him nor made accessible. I had to test him using a tactile graphics kit.

For the school counselor, who was as baffled as I, I had to write a letter explaining the invalidity of test items and how I attempted to make the already alternative version of the test accessible to a child with blindness and multiple disabilties.

Jessi C's picture

I think that it is unfair. I have worked with students recently who have become very upset about the state tests. When we were preparing for it he cried almost ever day because he could not read it. Also I have worked with students who just fill in circles with out reading anything. What information does this really give us?

duncwilson's picture
ICT teacher

Should def not be responsible for students in terms of grade levels but sepcial education teachers should be responsible for individual education plansfor each student in their care.

Kathy Michael's picture
Kathy Michael
Resource/Specialist for Visually Impaired Children

No, it is not fair. Besides that, it is not fair to use the test to assess the teacher's success. Testing should be a way of evaluating a child so that we can assess what strategies we need for teaching the child and not for how we assess a teacher. One of the most ridiculous issues I have is with one of my students who is orthopedically impaired from cerebral palsy, blind and speech impaired. He has a mild cognitive delay supposedly due to microcephalopathy but mostly due to lack of exposure. He cannot read braille yet he can memorize how braille characters are produced. This year we have adapted the Mountbatten electronic braille writer for his very weak left hand so to produce braille is a very slow process and to read braille--well that is a very inconsistent deal.
My supervisor ordered one of the old Brigance tests for blind children and he scored between grades 2 and 5 with oral testing. The results were that he is a very strong auditory learner. Well, duh.

But with the state testing, I was very frustrated for him. We could not order a braille test for him because he cannot read braille efficiently to be considered a reader. Of course we could not order a large print test because he cannot see it, but we were asked if he needed it because he IS on the visual impairment department list. His CP is so involved that he may not ever be able to scan with both hands adequately enough to read books but he may be able to read survival signs, or environmental braille.

Anyway, to make a long story short, I have to stay at his school during testing so that I can administer a regular print test to him individually. I read parts of it to him. I bring playdough, wikki-stix, a ballpoint pen and a tactile graphics cushion so that I can try to recreate some drawings and charts for him to feel. Then I write on some parts "This student is totally blind. This test item cannot accessed by this student." Here's the kicker: on the read/ respond section, I cannot read any of that section aloud to him. Reading aloud and accessing books auditorily is an accommodation on his IEP but the reading section of the test cannot be read to him. AGGGHH!!

Jayne Clare's picture

The typical standardized test is a bad test, no one should have to take it. Special Ed students should never have to be subjected to this form of assessment, it is degrading.

Mary-Ellen Quintana's picture

Of course it is ridiculous and unfair. It takes us special ed teachers 10 times or more as long to get the content material understood and then another year to help most of our students "remember" what was taught. It is torture and unnecessary stress that we are administering. However, for the blind student artfully taught by Kathy, kudos for everything he achieved. I had an extremely bright, dyslexic student who in 12th grade could not read his own name. To compensate for the stupid requirement that disallows special ed students from having ELA tests read, I petitioned the state department of education, described the situation and the accommodation needed, and was thus allowed to read the ELA reading section "one time". My student was so smart that he passed all his tests (except math) with high scores.
That being said, those students who are able to pass one or more tests do graduate with a certain confidence and knowledge that they can do it. That being said, it is still torture and tests should be administered on a case by case basis.

Janice Whitney's picture
Janice Whitney
Retired Special Education Teacher and Mother of cured Dyslexic son

Special Education students will perform up to 30% worse on standardized tests than non LD students because of their perceptual difficulties. They have wheel chairs on their eyes. We would not expect a physically disabled,wheel chair bound child to run a standard race to get a phys. ed. credit, so why do we think a LD child should do a standard test of reading and writing. It is like leading lambs to the slaughter to make LD students take standardized tests. I said so on a radio talk show in Toronto in 2003 and was contacted by the Minister of Education about my comments. My proof is that in my vocational - Special Education school where all of the 500 students had LD- IEPS- but normal IQ"S in the first year of the new Ontario, Canadian Standardized Literacy test not one of them who had to write the test passed - ZERO passed - 100% FAILED and that is with special test preparation. What a farce. The vast majority of students were passing their class courses but could not pass a Literacy test set for academic students.

Janice Whitney's picture
Janice Whitney
Retired Special Education Teacher and Mother of cured Dyslexic son

I have cures and treatments for Dyslexia and other Learning disabilities. You can check me and my son out on the web site for Dr. Harold Levinson under the Multi- media section when we appeared on television with him in 1996. I am a retired Special Education Teacher and mother of a dyslexic son. In 1996 my son was in grade 6 and he could not read. In grade 4 he could not recognize the word "the". He was bright and a double A hockey player but he could not read a thing. I saw a television show about Dr. Levinson and read 2 of his 13 books and then went to see him in New York. He dramatically cured my son who was able to read and who has gone on to get 2 college diplomas. I also have other interventions which help LD kids. "Fast Forward" computer program, Prism eye glass lenes, Irelen colored lenses are other interventions which can dramatically help LD kids.

Mr. Carranza's picture
Mr. Carranza
6th-8th grade Special Education Teacher (resource math & inclusion)

I agree with Janice..."We would not expect a physically disabled,wheel chair bound child to run a standard race to get a phys. ed. credit, so why do we think a LD child should do a standard test of reading and writing". It just doesn't make sense! For example, how can you test a child who cannot read AT ALL, cannot count further than the number 10, cannot recognize numbers if given to him randomly? Keep in mind this child is in the 6th grade. It is ridicoulous for the government to allow such an event to take place. And to add some fuel to the fire, educators get evaluated on passing rates of special education students. What they do not understand is that a lot of our students get a passing score just on mere luck. Just by chance alone a few of my low performers have been successful on state exams. I had one case where I had to administer the state exam individually and orally to one of my lowest academic students. I saw him finish the exam in less than 15 minutes by jsut guessing. (He was a non-reader). When the results came back, my student had passed ALL of his exam. This was my first year teaching and thought it was a fluke. But as I continued my career, I saw it was a reoccurance. I'm not saying it happens to all students with exceptionalities, but it does happen more often than you might think.

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