Standardized Tests and Testing Accommodations for Diverse Learners (page 2)
A person with disability is someone who has a physical or mental impairment that significantly interferes with his or her life activities. The IDEA specifies thirteen separate categories of disabilities under which students may be eligible for special education and other related services. An English language learner is a student whose native language is not English and who is in the process of learning English. The student may be experiencing difficulty in an English-only classroom due to his or her limited English language skills. Despite some common characteristics shared by students within each of the two populations, it is important to recognize that wide individual differences exist among students with disabilities as well as among ELLs.
Assessment procedures used for determining disability or ELL status of a student must be reliable, valid, fair, and equitable. This process involves teachers, administrators, and other school professionals (e.g., school psychologists, social workers), as well as parents.
All standardized tests and teacher-made classroom tests aim to systematically sample test takers' behaviors. A standard set of procedures is used for test administration, scoring, and interpretation. Standardized tests differ from teacher-made classroom tests in that they are subjected to a strict and extensive process of standardization in test development and norming. Evidence of reliability and validity should be available before a standardized test is released for general use.
Tests may be classified in many ways: by the construct it purports to measure, by the administration procedure involved, by the time limit allowed for test takers to respond, and by the measurement theory that underlies the test, among others.
Taking standardized or teacher-made tests under standard conditions requires certain requisite functional skills. Sometimes there are difficulties for students with disabilities or ELLs to demonstrate their true abilities on such tests. For example, these students may not have the necessary physical, sensory, or language skills to understand or respond to the test stimuli. The norms may not be suitable for use with these students. Because of these reasons, testing accommodations should be provided to students with disabilities or ELLs, in order to produce accurate measures of the students' knowledge and competence.
Testing accommodations are changes made to test format, content, or administration procedures to enable students with disabilities or ELLs to perform on standardized tests. The term accommodations is sometimes used interchangeably with modifications, or adaptations.
Legislations over the past thirty years have provided a legal basis for the use of testing accommodations for students with disabilities or ELLs. Among the federal laws, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act is recognized as marking the beginning of the development of testing accommodations. All of the laws require that test results should accurately reflect the measured attribute of the student, rather than his or her disability or language barrier.
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