Types of Tests Used in Special Education (page 3)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

Behavior Rating Scales  

Inappropriate behavior is a reason why many children are referred to special education. To determine and document the extent of behavioral difficulties, evaluators will often use behavior rating scales. These scales present a list of various challenging behaviors, sometimes clustered into subcategories, and the rater uses a rating scale (such as a 1-to-5-point scale) to indicate how frequent or intense the behavior is.

Like adaptive behavior scales, a parent or a teacher may complete the scale or an evaluator can obtain the relevant information from someone else who knows the child. After rating different behaviors, the evaluator can then calculate summary scores; and because the scales are norm-referenced, the scores for the child can be used to determine his or her behavioral status compared to others.

Rating scales that are frequently used in schools are the Devereux Behavior Rating Scale—School Form (Naglieri, LeBuffe, & Pfeiffer, 1993) and the Social Skills Rating System (Gresham & Elliot, 1990).

Curriculum-Based Assessment  

A school psychologist or teacher can use the norm-referenced tests we have discussed thus far for documenting a student's status at a particular time, but these tests have drawbacks. They are commercially produced and therefore costly, they sample a student's ability across an array of skills but do not hone in on more specific skills, and they report the student's status in comparison to others when often it is more important to know how a student's skills are developing in a relatively brief period of time. For these reasons, teachers often use curriculum-based assessments.

Curriculum-based assessments are often made by the teacher to determine the student's skill level in specific curriculum areas at a certain point in time. For example, if a student has an IEP goal to learn to read on the fifth-grade level, the teacher is not likely to regularly administer a standardized reading test to see if the goal is being achieved. Instead, the teacher might ask the student to read aloud two or three times a week from a fifth-grade reader and answer comprehension questions abut the material. At each session, the teacher would record and chart the number of words read correctly, the number misread, and the number of comprehension questions answered. By using this form of curriculum-based assessment, the teacher could determine if the student was making progress toward the goal.

Curriculum-based assessment provides a viable approach for evaluating how well a student responds to intervention (Fuchs et al., 2003). For this reason, teachers are likely to use it very often when evaluating students who are participating in early intervening activities. By using the curriculum-based assessment, teachers and other professionals will be able to determine if a particular intervention is succeeding.

End-of-Grade, End-of-Course, and Alternate Assessments  

The purpose of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was to close the achievement gap between students with high and low levels of performance. Schools are required to demonstrate adequate yearly progress for all students or make significant changes in the way schools are run. In order to show if schools are making adequate progress, students are tested at the end of each grade. Currently, this testing applies to children between the third and eighth grades.

Besides NCLB, many states also have educational accountability laws that operate in a similar way. In North Carolina, for example, the ABCs of Public Education is designed to provide for school accountability, emphasizing development of skills in the basic subject areas and allowing as much local decision making as possible (Public Schools of North Carolina State Board of Education, 2004).

Students in special education are not exempt from these tests; in fact, IDEA 2004 requires their participation. If students with special needs are unable to participate in the general education mandated assessment, there are two possibilities. First, they may take the test with accommodations that allow them to participate. Second, they may participate through an alternate assessment procedure. Most students with academic special needs and with sensory or physical impairments are provided with accommodations, whereas students with more severe intellectual special needs are evaluated using an alternate assessment. In either case, the student's IEP must indicate how the end-of-grade or end-of-course test is to be given (Browder & Spooner, 2003).

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