Should accountability extend to special education?
I do believe that special education students should be help accountable in their educations to ensure that they are making progress and establish realistic expectations. In life we are all held accountable by our families and in our jobs so it would be a disservice to prepare students for the real world without reinforcing the concept of accountability. The type of accountability applied to special education students may not be the same as the types used in general education but there needs to be some.
Special educators enforce measures to ensure accountability for a student's behavior so it is unreasonable to not apply that to their education as well. Without educational accountability a special education teacher is nothing more than a dog trainer that works with humans and makes sure they are taught how to function in society. There needs to be an educational component and that component needs to be measured for progress, held accountable.
Should we include children with disabilities in standardized testing?
I am not convinced that the state nor any other form of government has demonstrated a merit to standardized testing, let alone provide the argument that it should also be applied to special education students. In theory I think that the distinguishing of special education students and general education students should only apply to methodology and not to academic accountability. If a special education students is performing lower than a general education peer then we can accept two things. First they are not performing up to par, and second that they might have extenuating circumstances. Given a standardized test the special education student should still have to test on the same level as their peers to give an accurate comparison to where they fall.
There is a tendency of special educators to feel like they are not to be assessed or measured up to standards and that is simply not true. The only difference is how those results are perceived. The failure on the part of a special ed student will be viewed differently than the failure of a general education student and conversely the success of a special ed student will have more weight and measure than the success of a general ed student.
Standardized testing has no merit, regardless of how adamantly the state or federal government stand behind it; as far as a student's worth and potential the tests are useless. Standardized tests are not designed to benefit students or their education, they are not applied to a student's diploma and will not change a student's standing or IEP. Therefore it is something of a waste of time to take them so seriously, from a student's viewpoint.
The schools and the districts care because standardized tests affect their funding and jobs, here we find the Deepthroat of Testgate, "follow the money." How far are the schools and districts willing to distort a student's education to maintain their funding? That remains to be seen and so far it seems like they are willing to go pretty far for it, distorting the educational environment in the process.
I feel if we are going to include children with disabilities in standardized testing then we should set them up for success not failure. What I mean by this is we cannot give a child who cannot read a test and expect them to read it themselves and to do well. It is not only going to affect the student but also the scores. This happened to me time and time again in my school age years and it made my self esteem go straight down. Every year I would dread standardized testing, till one year I just gave up and stopped trying. Another don’t example is we cannot ask a student who is at a second grade level to take a test that is at a higher level and expect them to do well. By not accommodating the needs of these children we are setting them up to fail and as a result we can be hurting their self esteem and the scores will be inaccurate. Do I think we should do away with testing all together, no because we cannot underestimate what children can do and these children can do it; they just need a little help. For instants we can help by give the test orally, give more time, giving breaks or modify the test to the level of the student. We cannot give a student a test they cannot do and if we are going to give them a test with no accommodations then and only then do I feel we should do away with the testing.
I agree with you Christina. I do not think accountability should be extended to the special education. How can we expect someone who has modified curriculum to meet any standards? I find it very unfair to test these children in any standards since in general they are not required to do all the work. In some cases these kids are left doing nothing in the class, as long as they are quiet they go unnoticed. So how can they be expect to meet any standards?
Furthermore, they have assistance doing class work whether they are in general education or serviced through Special Day Class or Resource Intervention. These children have (in some cases) someone reading the information to them. Or use audio devices and cues to refresh their memory. Unless they have exactly the same aides during the testing and the same modified curriculum then it would be unfair to ask any more than they are normally expected to do and be graded on it. Do the analogy, would you expect an athlete who runs 50meter sprints to run a marathon? No, you would expect them to run what they trained for. So why then would the state set these kids up for failure?
If we are to expect these children to perform we need to set them up from the beginning to perform so they can keep their dignity. Teach them what they are to know for a test and keep it modified to give them success. Also, give them the same tools, extra time, mediated material, devices, and aides during testing as they use in the classroom. Where and how they learn should be simulated for testing…just as the other kids do. In the event they know and prepare for the testing with accommodations, I believe they are capable of doing well on testing.
I personally do not believe in standardized testing for ANY student - much less students with learning disabilities. I feel that accountability can be accurately measured without subjecting students to standardized testing.
I am in my 30th year of teaching. I have taught every grade K-12. I have taught in “regular” public school, private school, home education programs, Cal-Safe program, and correctional elementary education. I have had students with IEPs in all situations except the private school. I taught children with disabilities in private school without an IEP. The curriculum and teaching strategies were modified to meet the students’ needs. I do not associate accountability exclusively with standardized testing. I feel special education students can be held accountable for what they learn in class in several other ways. I have never not been able to hold my students, and myself, accountable in other ways.
There are several ways to hold all students accountable without the use of standardized tests. There are textbook tests and teacher written tests that can show content mastery. Since textbooks are written to state standards, these standards can be measured. Teacher observation and the use of rubrics are also important measuring tools. These allow for more individualized modification for special education students.
I realize that standardized testing is a reality even though I disagree with it. I believe that students with learning disabilities should not be forced to take standardized tests. I have been trained to give the CMA test and have done so. Some students were able to do it while others were frustrated and visibly upset through the testing. I have also helped prepare special education students for the CAHSEE, knowing full well that many, if not all, will not pass both tests. Even though the requirement has been waived for this year, I think requiring the tests for graduation is unfair. How do we justify denying a student a diploma when the student has done all of the work to his/her best ability!
In conclusion, I would like to see standardized testing eliminated for all students. We need to get back to educating our students in all areas-not just those that are tested. There are many ways to show accountability without wasting valuable teaching time testing our students to death.
Should accountability extend to special education? Should we include children with disabilities in standardized testing?
I do believe that accountability should extend to special education; however, we cannot expect students with special needs to compete at the same level as regular students/gifted students in terms of standardized testing. During my classroom observations, I was shocked to see how many times the teacher had to block the door way with his body because his students would run out of the classroom. Special education teachers have to deal with more serious issues than regular education teachers, but I do believe that students and special education teachers need to be accountable for showing progress. I do believe in standardized testing and accountability, but there should be an even playing field because if students cannot read and we give them a reading comprehension test; we are setting them up for failure. Who would want to try during testing if you always fail? If special needs students experienced success and had adequate support to help them pass a standardized test, then by all means let us include them. The reality is that special education teachers have nine months to teach all the standards and most of the students in a class are not reading up to grade level. As a regular education teacher, I am teaching a new math concept a day. It is difficult for my regular students to comprehend a new concept a day. I can only imagine how frustrated special education teachers must feel in preparing them for testing. It is sad that the focus on education is on this one test and not on the nine months of progress developing in all of our students and teachers.
Children with special needs fall into a large category that distinguishes them from regular education due to their atypical cognitive abilities and abnormal social and emotional challenges. I believe it is unfair and in just to extend accountability to children with special needs to pass standardized test when many of these children lack basic functional and critical skills. How can you expect a severely handicapped and even profound children to pass standardized testing when many of them lack basic survival skills. Students with profound disabilities no matter how hard or how extensive the instruction is that you give to them, they will always function cognitively between the ages of zero to 24 months old. Many of them lack the basic skills of feeding themselves and using the bathroom. I believe our job as educators in special education has to be flexible to the needs of the particular child and I believe this should extend to standardized testing being used on special education students. I believe standardized testing should be used on children with mild to moderate cognitive abilities with modifications, but I do not believe it should extent to severely handicapped and profound students. This is a complicated issue because special education covers such a huge number of disabilities and each of these disabilities affects every child in a different way. Some students will never be able to pass standardized test and to me as long as they are given the opportunity to a free public education that meets their needs and gives them the chance to live a somewhat normal life, than we have succeeded. As much as I would like for every child to be normal cognitively, the fact is that many children will not be apart of that norm. I believe for many severely handicapped students the best way to ensure their progress in special education is by assessing their basic functional and critical skills and preparing them for when they leave the program. It is a success in special education if we are able to help severely handicapped children live normal independent lives not by being able to pass a standardized test.
I do think that accountability should extend to special education, but I do not think that it should be done in the form of standardized testing. There is nothing standardized about the education that a special education student receives, so it does not seem to make sense to make accountability standardized. Rather, accountability should also be individualized, according to an IEP, just as the rest of the student’s education has been individualized. To do otherwise, would yield invalid results since the disabilities of students in special education are so variable and distinct with respect to how they affect the student’s academic progress.
The approach right now in the state of California is to use two different standardized tests for the testing of students with disabilities: the California Alternate Performance Assessment (CAPA) and the California Modified Assessment (CMA). According to the Startest.org website, “The CAPA is designed to assess those students with significant cognitive disabilities who cannot participate in the California Standards Tests even with accommodations and modifications. The California Department of Education (CDE) developed the CAPA to comply with the requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).” There is one very basic level of the CAPA (level I) that must be stipulated in the student’s IEP to take. Otherwise, students will take the CAPA by grade level. Unfortunately, I do not see any validity evidence as to what types of students have been administered this test, and which types of disabilities they have. The only criterion is that they have a “significant cognitive disability”.
The CMA was designed for “students in grades three through eleven if they:
· Have an IEP that specifies that they take the CMA for one or more subjects; and
· Scored below basic or far below basic in a previous CST administration; and
· Are not eligible to take the California Alternate Performance Assessment (CAPA).
Again, I do not see any validity evidence indicating who has taken this test or what type of disability they have. The only noticeable differences between the CST and the CMA are that there are slightly fewer items, 3 choices instead of 4 choices for multiple choice, more diagrams or pictures to accompany items, larger font, and more white space on a page. It is not clear to me how this makes for a more improved assessment over the CST. A student who is two or more grade levels behind is not going to benefit from the paltry changes made to the CMA. I see it as an invalid test for a student who has been receiving a modified curriculum.
The Federal law states that, "Children with disabilities are [to be] included in general State and district-wide assessment programs, with appropriate accommodations and modifications...," and it mandates that "the State or LEA develop guidelines...in alternate assessments for those...who cannot participate..." This process is supposed to begin no later than July 1, 2000. The individual states are given a lot of flexibility in the way this provision is interpreted, and people are working together to come up with acceptable guidelines. So according to this federal law accountability does extend to special education. However, Unless parents and students join politicians in this task, the outcome will not be good for students with learning disabilities.
In my opinion, children with disabilities should have the same kinds of accommodations on standardized state tests that he is afforded in school, as dictated on the IEP. Then each student should be tested on their individual level so that we can determine if they are making progress and not being left behind because they are in special education. Over the years, one of the most common "accommodations" for kids with disabilities has been to make things easier for them. When we have done this, we have done these kids a disservice. Part of what's happening in this standards debate is that we've been caught with our bar down, and we're paying the price. The key to good special education is to keep it special (use techniques supported by research) and keep the expectations high. So increasing standards is a good thing. Forcing kids to jump over inappropriate hurdles is not.
I believe that if we are going to hold special education students accountable, and include them in standardized testing, then we as educators should be sure to hold our students to high standards. Like Lakeisha stated, if our only 'accommodations' for testing are to make things easier, we are doing our students a disservice, and might as well forget about holding them accountable for anything. Special education students should be held accountable for their own educations, and should take the same tests as every other student out there.
Students with disabilities should be included in standardized testing, because once they are out of the public school setting, they are going to have to abide by all the same standards, or 'life rules', as everyone else. While accommodations can be made for learning (in the form of adaptations, etc), when it comes to evaluating what a student has learned, those tools have to be removed to see if the teaching has been effective. Otherwise, it is not a true representation of what the student knows. It becomes a test of the process, not the students knowledge.
The purpose of accommodations and adaptations is to become obsolete. Once the accommodations have done their job, they should naturally be removed, or we will never know what the student is actually capable of. It is like putting training wheels on a bike-- you use them when you're starting out, and take them off when you no longer need them. If you test your bike riding ability, and find that you're still not quite ready to ride on your own, you can put them back on. But if you never take them off, you're never going to know if you can ride on your own.
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