Why are students with special needs subjected to take state tests which are beyond their capabilities?
I am very concerned about my students with special needs here in Illinois. They are being asked to take state tests on grade level and expected to pass just as all other students. This has been going on the entire seven years I've lived here. My administrators are asking me to teach these children on grade level as well so they can perform well on tests which they cannot even read. I don't understand why nobody understands how ridiculous this is. To me that's like asking us teachers to take the medical exam. I might guess some of the answers but I seriously doubt I could even come close to passing the test. What if my job depended on my passing that test? That's how these poor children must feel. They get sick at their stomachs or have horrible headaches, and they feel bad about themselves because they cannot even read the material. What's so wrong with us developing tests at their functioning levels, establishing a baseline, then moving forward from that? Wouldn't that give us a better idea of their true progress?
This is a very frustrating situation, indeed! As I understand it, the principle and spirit of NCLB in relation to IDEA is quite worthwhile: Provide challenging and engaging educational opportunities for ALL children, including those with special needs. The assessments were designed to reflect this philosophy and hold schools accountable to this standard.
However, I personally believe the implementation of NCLB has missed the mark. Instead of inspiring and energizing students, the standards and assessments have, in may cases, dulled students' enthusiasm because they are receiving a "piecemeal" curriculum taught to a test. In addition, as you have observed, the assessments have become a burden, worrying and stressing students.
Now, you have asked a number of wonderful questions regarding this process. As you may have heard, a student's IEP determines how a child will be assessed. They can be assessed in one of four ways: 1) Regular grade-level state assessment, 2) Regular grade-level assessment with accommodations (e.g., extra time), 3) Alternate assessment aligned with grade-level achievement standards, 4) Alternate assessments based on alternate standards. Perhaps, you should speak with your administrators about the appropriateness of the students' assessment designation. My guess is that your students should be receiving alternate assessments, at the minimum.