Helping Students With LD Pass High-Stakes Tests
A growing number of students now take tests that determine whether they will advance to the next grade level. If students do not pass these tests, they may be held back one year, which can damage self-esteem, lead to frustration, and increase their chances of eventually dropping out of school. A growing number of high school students now take exit exams that determine whether they will graduate with a standard diploma. Students who do not pass these exams often find themselves with limited options after high school.
High-stakes tests can have serious consequences for all students, but they pose a particular challenge for students with learning disabilities (LD). Due to their one-size-fits-all format, many parents and educators believe that standardized tests tend to reflect a student’s disabilities rather than his or her abilities. With so much at stake, it is critical that students with LD be well prepared and receive the support they need when taking such tests. Parents should not confuse high stakes tests with the tests given by the school to meet the requirements under No Child Left Behind (NCLB). These tests hold states and districts accountable for poor student performance, but do not require states to impose personal accountability on students.
Students with learning disabilities, who have an Individualized Education Program (IEP), are entitled to appropriate accommodations while taking high-stakes tests. Accommodations are changes to testing materials and procedures that can help to “level the playing field.” The purpose of accommodations is not to give students with LD an unfair advantage over other students, but rather to assist them in demonstrating what they actually know.
A student with dyslexia, for example, might know the answers on a multiple choice test, but not have enough time to read all of the questions. A reasonable accommodation for this student would be to receive additional time. Depending upon a student’s disabilities, accommodations can be made with regard to the setting, timing, or scheduling of the test, how the information is presented, what additional materials can be used, and how the student is allowed to respond. An accommodation could be:
- receiving extended time;
- using a computer with spell-check;
- listening to an adult read the instructions and/or test questions; or
- taking the test in a separate room or with a small group.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Center for Learning Disabilities. © 1999-2009 National Center for Learning Disabilities, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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