Wednesday, November 14, 2012

High Stakes Testing and Students with Disabilities

Brimijoin, Kay. (2005). Differentiation and High-Stakes Testing: An Oxymoron?. Theory Into Practice, 44.3, 254-261.

Brimijoin addresses the bringing of differentiation and high-stakes testing together in order to benefit all learners. Brimijoin points out that “our nation dramatizes the importance of ensuring that all students have access to appropriate curriculum, engaging instruction, and supportive resources.” Brimijoin found that teachers often feel they can either differentiate instruction or focus only on material covered on standardized tests, which many of them claim compromises best practice. Brimijoin suggests teachers learn to clarify learning goals, engage in ongoing assessment, teach to students’ learning styles, understand the diversity and individual students enrich learning experiences, utilize research-based instructional strategies, be flexible in teaching and learning arrangements, and create a community of learners within the classroom. Brimijoin uses a case study as evidence to suggest educators should “develop the knowledge, understanding, and skills of differentiation in order to become responsive expert teachers.

Johnson, David R.; and Thurlow, Martha L. (2000). High-Stakes Testing of Students with Disabilities. Journal of Teacher Education, 51.4, 305-314.

Johnson and Thurlow state that students with disabilities are now required to be assessed by high-stakes tests that were not intended for students receiving special education services. Johnson and Thurlow state, however, the use of high-stakes testing of students with disabilities is due to the recent exclusion of these students in the education setting. Johnson and Thurlow state the purpose for high-stakes testing includes the lack of accountability of schools for teaching students with disabilities, but Johnson and Thurlow also suggest high-stakes testing may interfere with learning and the student’s ability to develop at their full potential. Johnson and Thurlow address the controversy that surrounds both accommodations and alternative assessments for students with disabilities. Johnson and Thurlow warn that high-stakes testing will have lifelong consequences on students with disabilities. Johnson and Thurlow address numerable consequences that may arise when students with disabilities participate in high-stakes testing. Therefore, Johnson and Thurlow assert that the need to balance challenges without being unfair and damaging to students should be addressed by districts and educators.

Jones, Julie; Katsiyannis, Antonis; Ryan, Joseph B.; and Zhang, Dalun. (2007). High-Stakes Testing and Students with Disabilities. Journal of Disability Policy Studies, 18.3, 160-167.

Katsiyannis, Zhang, and Ryan are professors of special education, and Jones is a grad student whose emphasis of study is in students with disabilities. The authors state that high-stakes testing is currently the means for assessing most students and is the method for measuring school performance. The authors address the controversy of including students with disabilities in high stakes testing. The authors argue that many schools that have not reached Adequate Yearly Progress would have reached AYP if students with disabilities were not included in high-stakes testing. The authors further argue that testing students with disabilities, especially those in sub-groups (race, and socio-economic), may cause negative life-long consequences such as dropping out of school, financial dependence, and crime related consequences. Therefore, the authors feel the negative consequences outweigh the positive consequences of students with disabilities, which is also a concern in the Johnson and Thurlow article. The authors conclude their article by giving recommendations from Johnson and Thurlow (2003) in order to keep high-stakes testing fair and controversy surrounding such testing out of the courtrooms.

Perkins-Gough, Deborah. (2005). The Perils of High School Exit Exams. Educational Leadership, 63.3, 90-91.

Perkins-Gough is the Senior Editor of Educational Leadership. Perkins-Gough’s article argues that high school exit exams are harmful to the students and to the school districts. Though Perkins-Gough claims to not take a stance on the issue, it is clear that she has. Perkins-Gough argues that high school exit exams can “reduce graduation rates, narrow the curriculum, and lead schools to neglect higher-order thinking skills.” These negative consequences are also concerns for Katsiyannis, Zhang, Ryan, and Jones, as well as Johnson and Thurlow. Therefore, Perkins-Gough suggests the use of multiple measures of performance to determine graduation. Perkins-Gough argues that multiple measures encourage development of higher-thinking skills, recognizes various ways of demonstrating learning, provides guidelines for who gets to graduate, allows instruction to be improved, encourages student participation and increases likelihood of graduation, and “rewards student investment in school attendance and course performance.” Another concern Perkins-Gough touches on is the financial demands of high-stakes testing.

Washburn-Moses, Leah. (2003). What Every Special Educator Should Know about High-Stakes Testing. TEACHING Exceptional Children, 35.4, 12-15.

Washburn-Moses’ article was written to explain to special educators how high-stakes testing affects them. Washburn-Moses explains what accommodations are suitable for students with disabilities, such as presentation, response, setting, and timing/scheduling. Washburn-Moses further explains that the accommodations for high-stakes testing must be aligned to the students’ IEPs. In order to prepare for high-stakes testing, Washburn-Moses suggests special educators teach test approach skills, test-taking skills, and test preparedness, as well as collaborate with general education teachers. Another suggestion Washburn-Moses makes is integrating end of unit assessments “that encourage students to use essential higher-order thinking skills,” and providing opportunities for student feedback (13). Washburn-Moses suggests special educators should be properly trained in test administration and inquire about suitable alternative assessments. Washburn-Moses agrees with Katsiyannis, Zhang, Ryan, and Jones; Johnson and Thurlow; and Perkins-Gough about the potential negative consequences of high-stakes testing that can impact the lives of students with disabilities, as well as the legal issues and controversy surrounding the testing of students with disabilities.

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