Students with disabilities are increasingly being included in large scale, high-stakes testing programs despite inadequate accommodations. In recent years, the school system has increased pressure on students in regards to testing. In the past, Kentucky has done a poor job of including impaired students in its statewide assessments; mainly in failing to provide the mandated accommodations for disabled students. In order to help these students with their learning skills, test scores, appropriate testing accommodations and the performance of students with disabilities. Results indicate that most Kentucky students have been included in the CATS assessment, but many the scores obtained from disabled students may not be reliable due to inappropriate accommodation.
What are Accommodations?
To allow for accurate assessment of disabled students, “accommodations are intended to provide fairer and more valid estimates of performance by removing disability related barriers to performance that are irrelevant to the construct the assessment is designed to measure” . Sadly, research on the effects of accommodations on impaired students is fairly scant; however, the amount of investigation into the subject is increasing as the importance of test scores rise.
“Tidal and his colleagues, for example, found that special education students perform better when a test was read to them than when they had to read it themselves.” While this observation seems to be something any competent teacher could discern, it is important for accommodations to simply level the playing field,—they are not meant to give impaired examinees an advantage—and as such, specific measurements must be taken. The Kentucky Department of Education collected and analyzed the effects of six types of accommodations: paraphrasing, oral presentation of the assessment (providing a reader), allowing dictation of responses (providing a scribe), cueing (using materials to remind students of strategies used in regular instruction), use of an interpreter and technological aids. However, Kentucky did not collect information on the use of two other common accommodations: separate settings and different testing schedules (e.g., shorter periods and more frequent breaks).
Guidelines for Testing Disabled Students
Guidelines provided by The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) state that accommodations:
• Must be part of the student’s ongoing instructional program.
• May not be introduced for the first time during assessment.
• Must be “based on the individual needs of the students and not on a disability category.”
• Shall not “inappropriately impact the content being measured.”
Table X lists the types of accommodations provided and their appropriate use. The problem is not necessarily a lack available accommodations improper use of them.
Table X. Accommodations allowed in Kentucky’s accountability tests.
Source: Journal of Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis....