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As the parent of a special ed student I have chosen to allow my child to take the standardized tests that her peers take. She is allowed various accommodations and does not seem to get stressed on test days.
My complaint is that she is not being taught the grade level material that regular ed students are being taught, yet she is tested on that material. If you are going to give her the standardized 4th grade test, then teach her the standardized 4th grade curriculum.
I have been fighting the school system for 3 years to get her an appropriate, grade level education. She was in full inclusion and did well for K and 1st grades, then she was moved to a different school(not because we moved, because the principal changed) where they "didn't do it that way." She became a student isolated in a special ed classroom, with no curriculum and very little progress. They have given her the same 1st grade reading book for the last 3 years. Every year I have to tell the teacher that she has already completed that, did it when she was in the 1st grade inclusion class at the other school. After that, it seems that the teacher does not know what to do with her.
Testing students who have not been presented or exposed to the material in the test is unfair to the students. Who cares about the teachers???? Or the schools??? Isn't education supposed to be about the students???
We need to get back to reality and take a long hard look at the purpose of education - to create individuals who are curious about their world with a lifelong quest for knowledge and the ability to think and solve problems in our world or to create persons who can recite facts and solve problems that exist only on paper.
Schools were created to serve the needs of students and today it seems that all we want are students who sit quietly and regurgitate what we feed them.
I appreciate the compliment. It saddens me that these conversations are not taking place in environments where they will have a far reaching impact. Politicians are worried about PR more than they are concerned with the well being of students. The fact that they have managed to climb the political ladder mandates that they have obligations to people they see on a regular basis as opposed to students they will never meet. I believe we are about to witness the beginnings of a massive shift in education, and I will cite an article shared by this website as an example.
If that's not a sign of decline, I don't know what is. Imagine what would happen if a corporation knew it had a guaranteed market for providing adequate education to a specific group of children. I'll give an example of a worst case scenario:
A corporation with the capability to apply large amounts of time and money to research finds a new and effective method to teach/counsel children with a specific learning disability. They patent it. (Think that can't be done? http://www.news-medical.net/news/American-Civil-Liberties-Union-challeng...) If you are a parent living in an area with charter schools and/or private schools, what are your options? Pay whatever the corporation with the best options for your child decides to charge? Ignore charter schools; even the public school system typically doesn't provide what special needs children require. They simply don't have the funding. How can we maintain FAPE if entire districts are filled with schools that don't need federal support?
This is the epitome of a double edged sword. Accountability is shifting toward rate of pay, and we have all seen how that turns out. Failure to perform did not cause corporations to withhold bonuses. Those bonuses are often mandated by contract agreements. Why would it be any different with teachers? If teachers are suddenly paid based on test scores, they will teach nothing but what is on the test. Why are we ignoring the fact that the two most important factors that contribute to performance are a teachers belief in a students ability and enthusiasm for their material? How can we possibly be enthusiastic about teaching to a lame, redundant, standardized exam? Every course I have ever taken related to teaching skills recommends that instruction should vary in style and teaching method so students can maintain an attention span. Why do we suddenly ignore that when it comes to these all important tests? Do the tests themselves suddenly grant a student the ability to sit quietly for hours at a time and focus on one specific task?
Again, I have to ask; why are we thinking about our needs instead of theirs?
While I respect your input, I take strong objection to your statement "standardized testing is probably the only set of instruments educators have to measure intellectual or academic growth in most special needs students". I teach students with special needs and their academic progress is *continually* monitored. Progress monitoring is conducted weekly, with more thorough assessments on goal progress conducted at least monthly. Their grades and progress in regular education classes are monitored more closely than other students and an academic achievement test is administed annually to gain information for the IEP team. The academic growth of students with special needs is actually monitored very closely so that adjustments to instruction can be made as necessary.
Absolutely the epitome of what I was thinking. Thanks for the succinct comment!
As I read over the responses to the question of standardized testing for special education students, I remembered going through a lot of the same emotions and responses cited above. For over 10 years, I taught special education students, most of whom were moderately to severely emotionally disturbed or severely learning disabled with emotional overtones. As I learned more and more about both education and special needs students, I went through phases where I blamed my inexperience, or I blamed the educational system for these students’ needs, or I blamed the family environment in which a student lived, or I blamed the government for not providing enough early education funding for these children (no one dealt with disabilities in children younger than kindergarten when I first taught special education), or …
Twice each year, in late September/early October and again in late March/early April, my students were tested using a standardized achievement test. The grade level of the test corresponded not to the grade of the student in a normal progression, but at the reading level of the student. Thus, a student who thought of himself as being a seventh-grader might be taking a test standardized for a second-grader. In addition, to make certain that the student didn’t remember the “correct answer” from the previous test, a different form of the test (Form A, Form B, Form C) was given to the student. I should add, however, that a student who was known to be computationally at a higher grade level was given the level-appropriate math sections, with a teacher or teaching assistant reading the word problems to the students. Each test for which the student received reading aid was labeled as such, and the tests were primarily to show that the students had progressed (or regressed, in some cases). This was, of course, long before No Child Left Behind (NCLB).
NCLB is blamed for two major problems: whether teachers keep their jobs, and whether special needs students are making adequate academic progress. Neither of these developments are directly addressed in the language of the mandate.
The NCLB does allow special education students to opt out of taking standardized tests. Not many people seem to be aware of this. However, the total of “abstaining” students should not exceed 5% of the student population; if more than 5% of students receive special education services in the school district and are not taking the standardized test, a lot of paperwork must be generated to explain the anomaly in the student population. Thus, while doing an inclusion workshop on the Navajo Reservation, I was confronted by special education teachers who had become furious with the amount of paperwork they had to do because the population of special needs students far exceeded the 5% “norm.” They had convinced themselves that the purpose of the standardized tests were to determine a student’s intellectual functioning, even when language and/or arithmetic skills were very low. What they would do for test sections that were not specifically testing reading skills (mathematical word problems, social studies skills, science understanding) is—you guessed it—read the test to their special needs students. What they did not do, however, was note that reading help was given.
Within many Native American communities, the use of alcohol and drugs tends to be fairly high per capita. On some reservations, that means that statistically more babies are born with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and other problems that can cause developmental delays than in the rest of the nation. Thus, the proportion of special needs students can far exceed 5%. NCLB, while clearly attempting to keep schools from explaining away low test scores by claiming higher percentages of special needs students, makes it difficult for those areas where incidence of special needs legitimately exceeds the 5% limit.
Tests for NCLB reporting also were not intended to be used as a means to find teachers lacking. As noted by others above, the intent of standardized testing for NCLB should be for school, district, and state systemic and academic evaluation. If a large portion of non-special education students in a school or district are testing far below national and state norms, administrators should be seeing this as a major opportunity to scrutinize their schools to determine what is holding students back—or what is keeping students from making adequate progress. Under no circumstances, however, should there be an automatic assumption that either the teachers or administrators are not performing to normal standards. It’s always easy to blame a single element of a system—the students, the teachers, the parents, the community, the school and/or district administrators, the state and/or national governments, etc. The truth is that all of these segments need to work together to foster academic growth. It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes a much bigger social system to ensure the child’s ultimate adult success.
NCLB is not the problem, and it should not be used to either support or undermine annual testing.
Standardized testing is probably the only set of instruments educators have to measure intellectual or academic growth in most special needs students, whether students take the tests entirely on their own, or they receive help from a teacher or teaching assistant. Under no circumstances should their scores be compared to normalized populations, however. Standardized tests rarely, if ever, include special needs students in their normalizing process, so there is no standardization of scores of special needs students. Thus, comparing the scores of special needs students to anything other than their own individual past scores is meaningless.
Now back to the original question: Should special needs students be tested? Of course they should. However, score comparison should be against each student’s prior scores, and not against even one other student’s scores. Even better is the use of authentic assessment measures. Portfolios are an excellent means of measuring true progress by a students, and allow students to be part of his or her own evaluation process. The standardized tests should be to measure overall achievement for reporting to the powers that be; I would wager that ignoring the standardized tests (except for maybe a short practice session each week to get students acclimated to them) and concentrating on real learning activities will yield higher achievement scores than teaching to the test.
The interesting thing is, if we took only the above-average students and normalized their scores, almost 20 percent would score as below average for that population of students. That’s how statistics works—some students are under the top of the curve, some are under the bottom, and the vast majority of whatever student population you choose ends up in the middle.
NCLB is about teacher accountability rather than student learning. How ignorant are the powers that be to try to force a student with a 78 IQ, or less, to factor polynomials and make inferences about material they are barely able to read. Yet that is expected of special ed students here in NC and I would imagine across the board.
I am so astonished that my level of professional accomplishment rests on a borderline mentally retarded student's ability to apply the quadratic formula to a word problem or analyze a centuries old Hakiu.
Since when was standardized testing intended to aid an individual student? Standardized tests don't instruct, adapt to individual needs, or perform any other function other than to compare one group of students to an established norm. They do nothing for individual students. Children and teenagers figured this out long ago. I remember my classmates spelling out derogatory words in the answer bubbles because they knew the test had no individual impact. They aren't factored into individual grades and they have little to no immediate impact on teaching methods. Education policy has consistently been playing a game of catch up; reacting to new information years or decades after the fact. Students are well aware of the fact that they are being required to perform a mundane task for a group of people they will never meet. How many students to do think sit down to take a test thinking, "I want all those state and national legislators to see how much I have learned so they will know how successful my school is"?
National policy mandates an inclusive classroom. That means special education students must take standardized exams. They must be included. But what is being accomplished by giving a test written for students with an average or "standard" IQ to a student with an IQ of 50? How does that help anyone? This should not be a debate about how testing special education students impacts schools. How does it impact the STUDENTS? What have we done with all of the data we have been collecting for the last several decades? Establish "norms"? Decide who gets money and who doesn't? What purpose has this served? Schools can't flaunt themselves as inclusive and then turn around and complain about the resulting implications. It is now nearly impossible to prove that a student should be exempt from standardized testing. If a student does not have the ability to speak, read, write, or feed themselves, it takes literally hours and mountains of paperwork to establish a case for them to be exempt. How does that help anyone? Instead of focusing on what that student CAN do, educators have to spend time concentrating on what they can't.I don't think anyone would argue that this process helps students in that situation.
There is no standard student. Accountability must be established in a way that better serves our youth. Too many people have forgotten that above all, educators are accountable to the students; not special interest groups, not the government, not administrators.
I agree with Ms. Pond that these tests are for assessment purposes. No Child Left Behind was not designed with students' needs or learning styles in mind. In addition, there are a wide range of abilities within the Special Education population and, as such, each should be assessed on their own level.
While regular ed students are taught the same basic curriculum, which includes information which directly corresponds to the standardized tests (assessments), most Special Education students are not.
Sadly, many schools are penalized because test scores indicate inadequate teaching- many of these inadequate scores are the result of having Special Ed students results incorporated into those of the general school population.
This serves no purpose. Administration is unable to distinguish the true areas in need of improvement in Special Ed or regular ed and teachers are being held accountable for results over which they have no control.
While I firmly believe in the rights of Special Ed students to be mainstreamed whenever possible, I also firmly believe in the rights of the regular education students to be able to be taught at their and to be assessed on that level as well.
If Special Ed students were assessed on their level and general ed assessed on their level, school administrators would be in a better position to view areas of progress, or lack of and areas of improvements as well areas in need of improvement. With a clearer understanding of the school's standing, administration could then work to make viable adjustments in curriculum, as needed.
I am a student in high school who does have some learning issues and I feel that students with special needs do have to take the test to graduate high school, but not the way that typically developed peers are taking it. The typically developed peers take a test in a classroom with a lot of students in it. They get their directions, they're told how long they have to finish and then they take the test quietly without any assistance. I feel it isn't fair for the special-needs kids if they aren't comfortable taking the test that way. They should make a couple changes for those students. They should take a test in a classroom with around 7 other students in the room and add some more time to finish the test if they need it. Also if a student has some trouble answering a question, they can have the teacher read the question to them or modify the question so it makes more sense to them. I feel this would make taking the test a lot easier on students with special needs. It's not the students' fault if they aren't as fast or as smart as the typically developed peers. However I feel they shouldn't have to just turn in their schoolwork to recieve their diploma. It's not fair to the typically developed peers if they have to take a test and the special-needs students don't.
The whole "No Child Left Behide" thing i think is good. I belive this cause i am a 14 years old Freshman at Hunterdon Central Region High School. I have an IEP so i have problems in my learning but its ok cause the the act is good. So even i have the IEP doesnt mean i do nothing and just pass all the classes i still work. I think we should keep the act hoe it is. Thank You!