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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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Sally Haines's picture

I think that it is grossly unfair. When you have students reading 2-4 levels below their peers and need assistance just taking AR tests, how fair is it for them ? Just so we can say we are making everything equal. The MAP A in MO is designed for those kids. It is an assessment that takes into account the child's IEP, and measures the child's progress to the goals and benchmarks. The only thing is, they make it hard to qualify students for it.

Alice Powell-Brown's picture
Alice Powell-Brown
Elementary Special Education Teacher, Self-Contained (K-5)

Oh we have an alternative test, that I have to give individually, and I give the district benchmarks to justify why they have to take the alternative state assessment, but get this: parents received a flyer explaining this test, before it became real explaining that their student would have to take this teacher designed (we designed the tasks, and type up ALL the obsevation notes and scored it) but that your child would be counted as an "automatic failure" because he/she did not participate in the standard state assessment. Oh boy, my PPCD parents received it and now their children are in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade and even though I don't have to score it, I still have to document progres in at least 3 different ways, online, in my free time (sarcasm) and do this test, plus give the regular test to my one who is closer to grade level and any other small groups they have. ARGH! Fair, I wish the ones making the decisions would come teach for a day and then get the real picture of true measures of our students progress and successes and then go back to the drawing board. NCLB left some students behind!

Sandy Wojtas's picture

We are required to give the state test at their grade level. My students do well in math and science because it can be read to them but none of the reading sections can be read to the student. If an IEP states books on tape or other accommodations, I think the student should be able to have the test read to them. Some of my students read at a first or second grade level and they just stare at the reading test in 6th grade. This is cruel!

Kalay Mordock's picture
Kalay Mordock
Special Education teacher, Ithaca New York

I agree absolutely with what Deven said originally, and the other comments I have read. I just had this conversation at a conference day. I talked about the absurdity of being trained to differentiate curriculum and to use a variety of modalities to encompass and validate different learning styles, but then after all this work to empower students has been done, we ask them to once again fit into the same square peg!!! If we are adapting and modifying curriculum because the research says that people learn in different ways, both special ed and regular ed, but then not designing assessments to support these principals and practices, is pure insanity (or stupidity...depends on how you want to look at it!)...so, yes it is completely unfair for special education students, but it is also unfair for all those students who are not paper and pencil learners.

Kelly Teague's picture

I was just speaking with a teacher today about this issue. I am a first year Special Education teacher and my dilema is the same as many of you who have previously commented: Hypothetically, let's say I have a 6th grade student who is almost a non-reader, but throughout the year makes gains and, close to the end of the year, is on a 2nd grade reading level. In my view, the student has made successful gains, but it seems neither fair nor ACCURATE to require that he/she is assessed on a state standardized test at a 6th grade level. How can this be a true measure of student learning? If education for this student is individualized, shouldn't testing to measure learning be individualized as well? Again, I am a first year teacher, and I have soooo much to learn. I am looking for insight into this issue and am still feeling my way around. I absolutely love my job and couldn't imagine doing anything else from now on!

KS Special Educator's picture
KS Special Educator
4th/5th grade Full Inclusion

Special ed teachers are accountable. It is called and IEP with goals that are to be monitored and met.

KS Special Educator's picture
KS Special Educator
4th/5th grade Full Inclusion

Special ed students are held accountable. It is called an IEP. It is to be monitored progress proven and goals met. I believe that when we require a special ed student with a reading disabilty to READ a reading test their civil rights are being denied.

Mr. Dodger's picture
Mr. Dodger
SDC Science in Los Angeles

Seems to me that we have consensus about testing.
This will be the second year our kids are taking the California Modified Assessment (CMA). But I still have concerns about testing - especially if the Powers That Be link teacher evaluations (and pay) to performance on these tests. Will modified tests be "graded down"? It's going to be a real battle. I've had students make significant improvements over a year, only to test as FBB yet again.

Harmony's picture
10th grade English inclusion teacher, department chair

I just got my NEA Today magazine in the mail, and there is a picture of a poor little boy trying to take the state test on p. 13, with commentary on why state testing doesn't make sense for a lot of our students. It's enough to make me get choked up and hoppin' mad at the same time. As teachers, I think we all really hate having to give this test to the ELL and Sped students who just aren't prepared to take it. I think that is one thing that is really infuriating about NCLB, but for the time being, that is what we do as public school teachers. We have only a handful of students who "qualify" to take the state alternate assessment, and they are those with severe needs who do not read, write, or speak. One change I would like to see in the "new and improved" NCLB (whatever that means) is some kind of portfolio assessment or other measure for students who have unique needs and just don't "fit" the standardized testing model. (Hopefully when we get through with Healthcare, we'll be able to focus on Education.) I think their English proficiency scores and IEPs should be used to prove they qualify for this kind of alternate testing. I think a school should not be penalized for having a high population of second-language students and other students with special needs, and that these tests should not count as "non-participating" students for the schools AYP score, etc. It just doesn't make sense, but hey, as public school teachers we all have to accept some level of hypocrisy, and/or make an effort to help get the politics of education to change for the kids we serve.

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