George Lucas Educational Foundation

Should special education students participate in standardized testing?

Should special education students participate in standardized testing?

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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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Precious Heart's picture
Precious Heart
Special Education Teacher from New Jersey

It isn't fair to have special education students to take a test that is designed for general education students. I feel so sad to see them struggle with the test. As an alternative, our students need to take a test based on their skill or reading level.

Sally's picture

The whole notion of standardised tests is outrageous. They make my skin crawl! Surely as teachers there are othr ways of showing our accountability. And isn't really it all about EQ-what's IQ got to do with wellbeing anyway?

lisa yeoman's picture
lisa yeoman
MA Special education multi-cat/autism

I have been following this group and value your comments! I would also like to ask if anyone would please take this short survey (less than 5 min)concerning special education teachers only (past or present) it is necessary for my master's research. We need this information to move forward! Thank you!

Donna Bomar's picture
Donna Bomar
High School EBD Teacher

Well said. I am sure you voiced what many special education teachers feel. I have 11th graders that read on a 3rd grade level! How can they be expected to be successful on a grade level, state mandated test! I think tests should be modified to meet students individual needs.

Natalie Stulley's picture

I agree with unrealistic expectations. Do I agree that we as special education teachers need to be held accountable for learning growth absolutely, but there are many ways to show growth with our students other than state mandated test given to all. We don't teach the same for all different learning styles ( least we shouldn't be) so why give the same test? Alt. assessment is not always the option,. Plus districts are only allowed a certain percentage for Alt. assessment. The majority of the students that I worked with then, and currently work with are multiple grade levels below their typical grade level peers in mathematics, reading and language arts and or both. The academic gap is extensive, yet when it comes down to it these same students are required to produce grade level work that they are not yet capable of doing. These students are also required to take a state mandated test covering grade level standards/indicators to show they are proficient with these skills and are progressing academically. Our states state's vision on passing percentage of the special education population is unrealistic when these students are not able to read the text given on these test to have the opportunity to show their understanding of the standard being tested. I am required to deal with social and emotional issues, behavioral issues stemming from academic frustration and failure. I must determine what skills these special needs students did not acquire in prior grades, and why they were not able to acquire them. I must then teach these students those skills that they failed to learn in previous years to close the gap. I am required to frontload current grade level standards and indicators so that these students have the opportunity to participate in the regular education classroom and have the opportunity to have some success at grade level and I am also required to re-teach any grade level content that they may be struggling with all along pulling them out of the regular education classroom the least amount of time possible, scheduling small groups pull out around the core content of the regular education classroom. I can show growth, but will they pass their current grade level test? The odds are against me. How do we require special needs students to show more than a years growth, when we expect typical kids to grow a year? There is a reason these kids have qualified for special education......

Karina Barley's picture
Karina Barley
Educator & Autism Specialist

I'm not going to ramble on as many others have already made the same comments that i would make but standardized testing for students with different abilities, however I have one word only...standardized testing for children with a disability is INSANITY! It's like asking a blind person to take an eye exam or a deaf person to take a speaking and listening test?
I'm sorry to sound so blunt, but when will this madness end?

Steven Day's picture

I have taught Resource/LD for 26 years. I remember before we had all the standardized testing. When Washington State was exploring standardized tests, I served on a committee of Special Education teachers which provided input to the state. Our suggestion was that students take the general education grade level test at the level they are being provided instruction. If a 7th grade student is working at 4th grade for math and reads at the third grade level, then that student would take the grade 4 math and 3rd grade reading.
We alredy use federal and state tests and guidelines to determine academic levels for qualifying students for SDI. Why shouldn't we use that information to select an appropriate level test for the student?

DLCJR's picture
Special Ed teacher

I am currently in the middle of our school's standardized testing. I am with a 2nd grade student who cannot read or decode. I cannot read the lengthy passages to him, and he is crying and says he will not take a best guess. It is horribly cruel to have him look at this full page of text and expect him to read it, answer questions and not feel like a failure. This is the same as if I had to take a test in Italian! There has to be a better way....

MEW1969's picture

Thank you for this post. My youngest son took the ITBS and, of course, scored below average, due to his language delays. I asked our AP if there was a standardized test for special needs students and if our county ever considered another test. She couldn't answer so she forwarded it to our county testing director, who couldn't answer. I respect our AP so much and she's been an advocate for my son. She actually said if I found anything in my research to let her know. I homeschool my oldest and gave him the PASS test. It's untimed, less stress, has various levels to choose from, and gives a summary of subjects that need improvement. Why can't public, private, and other schools offer a different test for special needs students? Or specifically, visuals, allowed manipulatives, etc.? I appreciate all these posts....thank you all.

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