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Including Students with Disabilities in Large-Scale Testing:
The ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education
ERIC/OSEP Digest #E564
Author: Mary K. Fitzsimmons
The 1997 Reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Act requires that students
disabilities participate in large-scale assessments and that a statement of individual
modifications in the administration of the assessments be included in the student's
response, most districts and states are in the early stages of developing and
assessment models that include all students. A large number are already using testing
accommodations and a few are developing alternate assessments. But for the majority
state and local district practitioners, this new mandate is raising questions and causing
Research and dissemination efforts sponsored by the U.S. Office of Special
Programs (OSEP) are providing information to address these questions. One
source is the National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO) whose major
focus has been on how to increase participation of students with disabilities in
NCEO maintains a Web site (http://education.umn.edu/NCEO/)
reports on assessment topics including:
- Self-Study Guide for the Development of Statewide Assessments That Include
Students with Disabilities.
- Issues and Considerations in Alternate Assessments.
- Increasing the Participation of Students with Disabilities in State and
- Reporting Educational Results for Students with Disabilities.
Additional OSEP-funded studies address determining appropriate accommodations,
alternate assessments, and reporting results.
Many states allow for special testing conditions and accommodations, but proper
accommodations has become a major concern. Plus, accommodation policies vary
from district to district and state to state making it almost impossible to compare
performance. There is also great variation in the use of accommodations across
groups. Accommodations for students with physical or sensory disabilities are
approved, which is not always the case for students with cognitive or behavioral
difficulties. The following represent a few of the researchers currently working to
standardize accommodations' use and fairness:
- Gerald Tindal, a University of Oregon professor, believes that testing
accommodations should take into account the learner's needs, the task demands, and
purpose of the accommodation. He stresses the need to have in place a sound
decision-making process such as curriculum-based measurement (CBM). He has
been working with practitioners in Oregon to embed CBM in the IEP process and
relate a student's performance as measured by CBM to that attained on large-scale
assessments. A pilot group of teachers has been working to consider standards in
math and reading for their students, identify benchmarks, determine the appropriate
assessments and accommodations, and write these into the IEP. Thus, the IEPs are
written to reflect
the student's level of mastery.
- Stephen Elliott of the University of Wisconsin-Madison developed the
Accommodations Checklist (AAC), which contains 74 accommodations organized
into eight domains (e.g., motivation, scheduling, directions, adaptive technology).
Educators can use the AAC to rate the extent to which they think that a particular
accommodation will help the student.
- Lynn Fuchs, Professor of Special Education at Vanderbilt University in
funding from OSEP to create standardized methods for determining which
accommodations are valid for which students. The aim is to reduce the variability of
accommodations across districts and states. To do this, she is developing,
and codifying the Dynamic Assessment Tool for Accommodations (DATA).
While still in their infancy, alternate assessments offer promise for ensuring that all
are included fully in the accountability process.
Kentucky's Alternative Portfolio Assessment (KAPA), for example, allows
accommodations for students with disabilities that are consistent with the appropriate
delivery of instruction for that individual. Examples of learning outcomes include the
abilities to communicate effectively, use quantitative or numerical concepts in real-life
problems, and effectively use interpersonal skills.
Maryland, a state that has one of the highest participation rates in its statewide
assessment system, has recently piloted its alternate assessment. The Independence
Mastery Assessment Program measures outcomes that are life-skills oriented.
Reporting accurate information on students with disabilities ensures that they are
represented in the accountability system. Although there is great variability in both
and local reporting practices, school districts are seeking ways to report the progress
all students in meaningful ways.
The Long Beach, California, Unified School District offers one example of an
approach to the reporting issue. With consultation from staff at NCEO, Long Beach
educators set out to tie large-scale assessments directly to school effectiveness
They also decided to include all of their 5,000 special education students in the
The district generates two separate assessment reports: one for everyone taking
assessment and a separate one for the approximately 300 students with severe
participate in the district's alternate assessment. Schools are held accountable for
both sets of scores.
Information is also kept regarding accommodations used by students.
The 1997 Reauthorization of IDEA stresses the importance of including students
with disabilities in all
educational reform activities. Special education researchers and practitioners are
pioneering efforts to
prepare these students to take part in and succeed in large-scale assessments, thus
ensuring that the
mandate is implemented in the best interests of the students and their families.
For a fuller look at the research discussed in this digest, the reader is referred to
Spring 1998, published by the ERIC/OSEP Special Project.
Council of Chief State School Officers and North Central Regional Educational
1996 state student assessment programs database. Oak Brook, IL: North Central
Gronna, S. S., Jenkins,A., & Chin-Chance, S. A. (1998). Who are we
participation rates for students with disabilities in a norm referenced statewide testing
Exceptional Children, 64(3), 407-418.
Koretz, D. (July 1997, July). The assessment of students with disabilities in
Kentucky. (CSE Technical
Report 431). Los Angeles, CA: National Center for Research on Evaluation,
Student Testing. http://www.cse.ucla.edu
Neill, Monty. (September 1997). Testing our children: A report card on state
Cambridge, MA: National Center for Fair and Open Testing. http://firstname.lastname@example.org
Olson, J., & Goldstein, A. (July 1997). The inclusion of students with
disabilities and limited English
proficient students in large-scale assessments: A summary of recent progress.
National Center for
Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research
Roach, V., Daily, D., & Goertz, M. (October 1997). Issue brief: State
accountability systems and
students with disabilities. Alexandria, VA: Center for Policy Research on the Impact
and Special Education Reform.
Thurlow, M., Elliott, J., & Ysseldyke, J. (1998). Testing students with
disabilities: Practical strategies for
complying with district and state requirements. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Tindal, G., Heath, B., Hollenbeck, K., Almond, P., & Marniss, M. (in press).
with disabilities on large-scale tests: An empirical study of student response and test
administration demands. Exceptional Children.
This digest was adapted from an article by Warger, Eavy and
ERIC/OSEP Digests are in the public domain and may be freely
reproduced and disseminated, but please acknowledge your source. This publication
was prepared with funding from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, under Contract No. RI93002005. The opinions
expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of OSEP or
the Department of Education.
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