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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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Sandie Fuller's picture

I am so passionate over this topic!! Will someone please tell me where to start to try and make changes? I don't just want to be upset about this - I want to DO something about it! I don't know where to begin.

Laura Davis's picture

I am so frustrated. I teach 10th-12th grade resource students. They are required to take the 11th grade End-of-Course Literacy tests with their peers, but like several mentioned above, some of these kids read 60 to 80 words per minute with minimal comprehension, at a 5th grade level. They deserve the opportunity to succeed, and they make progress, but clearly they are not at grade level. Since none of my 11th graders scored proficient on last year's test, guess what? I have eomeone coming to my classroom tomorrow to teach ME how to be a better teacher. I feel singled out and hurt. No one has ever looked at where my kids started when they came to me, and the wonderful progress they ARE making. No one has ever come in to see the wonderful things I am accomplishing with my kids in the classroom, nor asked my students how proud they are of themselves when they write poetry, produce portfolios of their work commensurate with their peers, and see themselves reading and writing better day by day. All they are seeing is that these kids have pulled our school's test scores down. Will someone at the federal and state level please grow a brain? And will someone at those levels also consider reducing our paperwork load in this field? My district does not employ a due-process clerk, and we sped teachers lose so much time to paperwork, which effectively denies the neediest students instructional time that they need more than anyone! I used to be the first on campus other than the custodian, worked through lunch, and was last to leave other than the coaches, in order to keep up with it. After some years of that, I now try to accomplish it during a normal work day. My meager salary and the non-existent rewards caused me to put my own health and sanity first. But I know I'm preaching to the choir here.

JB's picture
Intervention Specialist

With the idea of teacher pay being based upon student test scores....where does that place the special education teacher? Any thoughts on the subject?

Cortney Curry's picture

I agree that special education teachers should be accountable for student's learning. My state has alternative state tests to give to the special education students. Here, we as teachers pick and modify the objects to teach the students and it is assumed they will demonstrate mastery by test date. I do not believe that it is fair to test special education students on grade level assessments because there is little success. If I were in a state that did not have alternative testing methods, I would also be frustrated. There has to be a way to have the voice of special education teachers heard on this issue. Become involved in the community and state wide education groups; this way your voice can be heard and changes may occur.

It is interesting how this is an issue with the special education population and yet there is the No Child Left Behind law.... grade level testing for our students is completely unfair!

Shakeya Bond's picture

I think it is not fair because exceptional students learn on different rates as "regular students". To be honest I don't think any student should have to take standardized test. When I was observing an exceptional class, I spoke with the teacher about the children taking a standardized test at the end of the year. She informed me that the students are still promoted after they have completed their time frame. So my question is what's the point of giving them a standardized test when it's not benefiting them?

Amanda Curran's picture

I think that special education students should participate in standardized tests if they are able to participate without having emotional distress or physical outbursts because of frustration. I believe that the data obtained from standardized tests is valuable when needing to compare performance to same aged peers. For some students, it serves as data to help them get the support that they need. However, I believe that students with an IEP should participate in mandated formal assessments each year to measure their specific growth. I believe that the assessment should be appropriate to the child, and if needed, created by the teacher who knows the student the best. I am a big believe in data driven instruction, and ongoing assessment and intervention implementation.

Judy Johnson's picture

Louisiana also requires students to be tested on grade level. However, we have 8th graders reading at 2nd and 3rd grade level and math skills on these levels as well. I do think students should take some form of standardized assessment, but it needs to be individualized, just as the IEP is. I think students should take the test on their functioning level. However, I do agree students who are well below their grade level, such as self-contained should have a more life skills test than academics. At one time students were not pushed by standardized tests.However, parents have advocated for the testing. Parents are the ones who have the biggest voices about special education. I don't think my pay should be based on whether or not my students pass the stanardized tests, but on the growth they make during the year.

Makini Niliwaambieni's picture

I wonder how many special education administrators and policy makers have visited special education classrooms during the standardized test taking period of the school year. It really won't matter if the class is self-contained or inclusion. It really won't matter if the classroom is in a general education school or a school that services only students with special needs. The student responses will be similar: "What is this?" "We don't know how to do this (*)^&*&!!" "We're supposed to know this? How come the teachers don't teach us this?" The comments of frustration and disbelief can probably fill a five-subject, college ruled, notebook!! I guess I don't need to say emphatically, HECK NO - students with special needs should not have to take the same assessment, with or without accommodations, that other students who have been exposed to the material have to take. The fact that there must exist a level of deficiency before a student can be found eligible for special needs services states the ludicrousness of the assessment requirement.

There needs to be an organized, nation-wide, outcry against this criminal act - because it is a crime. Any administrator who has had to "quell the masses" during a test period, has felt their pain and has also felt the lie of "rehabilitation." The question, really is, why do we take this injustice directed toward some of our most academically fragile students, who are in many other arenas, the brightest and most intuitive?? Will the comments posted in this blog go beyond the Edutopia website? We need to present our collective concerns to lawmakers in a way that causes them to listen to students, parents, special educators, and related service providers. Or is the real issue that many of these students represent the impoverished with whom the lawmakers (and many educators for that matter) cannot, will not, and refuse to relate????

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

Here's the rub: one policy will not fit all.
My kids, for example, have crappy handwriting. They have ADHD. They have had IEP's. Yet, when they can type the written portion of the test, they do fine. They do well on other portions of the test, testing at "proficient" and "advanced" in many areas. But clearly, every kid with an IEP doesn't fit into this category. Many are not on grade level, as well as kids in the normal classroom who don't have any diagnosed learning disabilities, which is why we test kids to begin with.
Of course, if a kid is three to four years behind, making him sit through a test they cannot reasonably complete is stupid. However, we need to come up with reasonable alternative assessments to make sure these kids are also making progress and if possible, close the gap. They need to be held to some sort of standards- because when students with learning issues are not held to standards, their progress often drops.
The answer here is to use standardized tests as diagnostic, not punitive for anyone in the system- and then meet kid's needs accordingly. One size does not fit all in education, and as long as we continue to pretend it does, we're all going to be frustrated and unhappy- parents, teachers, administrators, and most importantly of all- STUDENTS.

JB's picture
Intervention Specialist

I've been a member of this community for awhile now- and many people share similiar opinions regarding standardized testing of special needs students. Do you know of any parent group, educational group, legislator, lawyer, anyone with actual power, who actually has demanded the process be revised? I work with middle school students, many who generally function at the 3rd grade level in math and reading, some below this. In Ohio, we MUST reach a 100% passage rate for our students by 2014! Is this true of other states? Anyone who holds the ultimate "cure" in order to get a student with an IQ of 58 to miraculously absorb and understand grade level material please "pay it forward"- by 2014 pretty please? We work and work and make progress but we're not even close yet. Looks like our pay will soon depend on it-along with our jobs: Perhaps that's a different topic.

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