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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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75 Replies 7211 Views
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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Mytfinn's picture

No, it isn't fair. It's like taking a young, untrained athlete to the Olympic Trials. Ridiculous.

Deven Black's picture
Deven Black
Middle school teacher-librarian in the Bronx, NY

Okay, but what alternatives are there? Shouldn't special ed teachers be accountable for the learning of their students?

Shirley McKinney's picture
Shirley McKinney
Special Education: K-6 Inclusion Resource Teacher from Phoenix, Arizona

Hope you will forgive my lengthy response Deven, and I hope I don't come across too strongly, but this is a topic that I am passionate about.

I'm not sure I understand what you are asking. Hope I don't miss the mark....

Do you mean what kind of alternatives are there for standardized testing, or for accountability of sp ed student progress and learning?

In regard to standardized testing, it is my belief that if we qualify a student as "really" having an impaired (disabled) area of learning, then for reasons that are obvious, it is unrealistic and unethical to have the same type of assessment expectations as that of a typical or non-disabled learner.

In regard to accountability of student progress and learning, I have to question the full understanding of team members (general ed teachers, special ed teachers, parents, etc.) as to the learning capacity of their disabled students. Even though we do not have to maximize student learning (federal law statement), we have a responsibility as educators to do just that. The money may not be there to support us with materials and assistance, but for the time we are engaged as the instructors of these students,it is an absolute MUST for US to maximize OUR understanding of how they learn.

At initials or 3yr evals when the IQ assessment is reviewed and discussed with team members, THAT is the time to sit up an pay attention. Many times the psychologist will ramble on about results and, most often than not, team members never ask the first question about what are the strength and need areas of the student. Seldom are questions asked about how those deficit cognitive areas will impact that student in the classroom and what ways the teacher can shape and 'maximize'student success.

It's so important as a team member to be taking note of how strong or weak the students' verbal comprehension, processing speed, working memory, perceptual understanding and non verbal performance will impact the student's responses, performances and learning. This knowledge is an important aid in the development of instructional strategies and effective accommodations that help students demonstrate a better understanding and more successful performance of what they know.

It's my opinion that special ed teachers should ABSOLUTELY be accountable for students' learning, but that doesn't have to be on a grade level standardized test. There is no reason that it can't begin with the development and consistent measurement of realistic academic, social and behavioral goals. This measurement can be monitored on a consistent basis to identify student progress and modify goals to reflect actual student needs.

With all said, I want to add that accomplishing the above is a monumental task given all the other tasks deemed as "our" responsibility.

Ms. Tevera's picture
Ms. Tevera
Jr. High Para-Ed Self Contained, Washington

It is wrong for us not to be able to account for the individual student's learning style and that is what is happening with standardized tests. For example, we currently have a non-verbal student with very limited vocabulary, even when it comes to reading. Yet we must ask him to put a story in order and it's not a picture story. How is that going to measure his progress when you are setting him up to fail? Another student in our room is having to take part in standardized tests since only 1% of the population can be exempt and in our dist. and that happens to be out medically fragile students. We have to test him three times a year and show progress but he is very hit or miss. He would rather hit the letter B to tell us he wants a balloon than to focus on abstract concepts like graphs, radius, or other such things. When we are forced to show progress that's when inaccurate data rears its ugly head. I'm not saying all should be exempt and we should be able to show progress but we need to focus on the students needs / strengths, not the tests.

LPS's picture
Cross Categorical/self-contained - Teacher

I agree with Shirley's comment. I think that progress should be based on functional levels, and whether a student has made at least 1 years growth within the IEP dates. I don't think standardized testing adequately shows what student's know. The students typically need additional time, and a familiar test adminstrator. (Teachers are not allowed to test at our school). Only unit/chapter type tests.

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