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Standardized Testing And Students With Assistive Tech
In recent years there has been a boom in standardized testing in American schools. Students are being tested in reading, math, science, social studies for state and school district standards used to demonstrate compliance with No Child Left Behind, along with NCLB testing, students are also affected with graduation tests, tests to advance in school progression (ie a student must pass this test before moving on to the next level).
With the increasing number of tests given to students where the results weigh heavily on the performance of schools, school districts, or individual students, where do students with disabilities fit into the mix? Where especially students with assistive technology or augmentative communication? Federal law requires states and school districts to include students with disabilities in large-scale assessments and to publicly report their scores, disaggregated, as a way to determine how schools serve these students. This is a matter of system responsibility. Federal law, however, is silent on whether states or school districts should impose high-stakes consequences on individual students with disabilities who fail large-scale testing. In other words, while federal law mandates participation in large-scale testing and public reporting of disaggregated scores, it is up to states to decide whether large-scale testing will result in high-risk individual consequences and, if so, for which students (Heubert, 2002).
Accommodations can be granted to students with disabilities without losing the standardization of the test. Any change to the standard test format to assess a person’s abilities, rather than their own, is considered an adaptation
Disabilities. Although permitted accommodations vary, they generally fall into one of four categories:
o Presentation (eg, instructions/questions read aloud, large print).
o Response (eg, use of a scribe).
o Environment (individual or small group tests, study lane).
o Schedule/Schedule (extended time, extra breaks; Wahburn-Moses, 2003)
IDEA requires the IEP team to document any accommodations in the student’s Individualized Education Plan. As Washburn-Moses (2003) stated, “The IEP team
must focus on the student’s individual learning strengths, weaknesses, and characteristics, and refrain from basing its decision on the student’s disability.
current level or position. Team members should consider only those accommodations that the student uses during classroom instruction and testing, rather than introducing new accommodations specifically for use on the state test (Thurlow et al .). It is extremely
It is important to document in the IEP the team’s decision about accommodations, as well as the rationale for that decision.”
Dunne (2002), stated in an article in Education World, “In Wisconsin, students with disabilities are allowed to take test accommodations so that more can take the test. Accommodations include more time to take a test , the use of a scribe to write the answers. , and the use of a reader to read instructions and questions aloud. These types of accommodations will allow about 85 percent of students with disabilities to participate in Wisconsin State Assessment System, according to a study written by Eva M. Kubinski at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Education Research.
For those students who couldn’t be tested, even with accommodations, the state developed an alternative performance measure tied to state standards for schools to use to assess the 2 percent of Wisconsin students with disabilities severe or limited English proficiency, Kubinski wrote in his article. “
What does this mean for students with assistive technology or AAC? Based on the research found, having an assistive technology device would allow an IEP team to determine if accommodations were needed on standardized tests. Each student is as unique as their assistive technology device, and therefore it is safe to say that each student will present different circumstances when testing in the school environment. Under IDEA, as stated above, the IEP team must determine what accommodations must be made for the student to succeed on the test. These accommodations must be written into the student’s IEP.
Because students who use AT/AAC vary widely and many have underlying issues as to why they have AAC devices, such as other confounding disabilities. It is important for the IEP to determine if the device the student uses for communication will be part of the standardized test accommodation or if it is not necessary. It will be important to determine this and then prepare the student who may or may not use the device during the test. This is especially important if the device cannot be used during the test, as this is the voice of the students.
IEP teams must work to find the best accommodations for the student to succeed, and there are several ways to do this, including dynamic assessment of tests.
Accommodations (DATA), which helps teachers determine which students will
benefit from which accommodations.
Based on the information provided, it can be concluded that each student’s case will be very different, but in general, each student who qualifies for special education, including those who use assistive technology or augmentative communication devices, may qualify for special accommodations on standardized tests that allow these students to complete the tests with reasonable scores.
Dunne, D. (2000). Do high-stakes tests punish some students? Education Weekly 34(1) 32-35.
Heubert, JP (2002). Disability, race, and high-risk student testing. NCAC. 4(1) 38-45.
Sindelar, T., Hager, R., & Smith, D. (2003). High-level testing standards for students with disabilities. Neighborhood Legal Services, Inc.
Washburn-Moises, L. (2003). What every special educator should know about high-stakes testing. Teaching Exceptional Children 35(4) 12-15.
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