Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Effects of a Bundled Accommodations Package on High-Stakes Testing for Middle School Students with Reading Disabilities

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Effects of a Bundled Accommodations Package on High-Stakes Testing for Middle School Students with Reading Disabilities

Article excerpt

With the advent of the No Child Left Behind Act and its requirements for testing all students as part of the accountability process, students with disabilities have been under increased pressure to pass tests that often determine passage to the next grade and a high school diploma. It is not surprising that there has been increased concern about the fairness of different assessments for students with disabilities, with various proposals for accommodating the disability in a manner that makes the test more appropriate for the disability (Elliot & Thurlow, 2006). These concerns have also been experienced by schools that can be penalized if insufficient numbers of students with disabilities fail to meet criteria on these tests, as well as by parents who anguish with the student over the difficulties of passing the tests or of meeting these requirements. Thus, it is no surprise that states are allowing an increased number of accommodations over time, along with a variety of different options for demonstrating competency, including modified tests, out-of-level assessments, and accommodations to standard tests that presumably make the test more capable of assessing the competency of the student with a disability (Lazarus, Thurlow, Lail, Eisenbraun, & Kato, 2006).

As the number of proposed accommodations has risen, concerns have also increased about the fairness of different accommodations and whether they either modify the construct validity of the test or provide an unfair advantage for the student with a disability. Whether accommodations that modify standard test administrations for students with disabilities result in improved test performance reliably and fairly, remain controversial issues. Over time, three overlapping reviews found mixed evidence that accommodations are effective, and, if effective, remove only construct irrelevant variance from performance (Chiu & Pearson, 1999; Sireci, Scarpati, & Li, 2005; Thompson, Blount, & Thurlow, 2002).

In the most recent review, Sireci et al. (2005) found evidence for the efficacy of three modifications: (a) extended time, (b) oral administration of math tests, and (c) different approaches to providing multiple accommodations. These effects were consistent with the interaction hypothesis, which stipulates that appropriate interventions that remove variance irrelevant to the assessment of a particular construct (e.g., the need to see in order to take a math test) should lead to improvement only in people with disabilities. However, only a weak version of the interaction hypothesis was supported because people with and without disabilities tended to show improved performance; the gains were larger for people with disabilities, representing a differential boost in performance (Fuchs, Fuchs, & Capizzi, 2005; Thompson et al., 2002).

Sireci et al. (2005) also noted that many of the studies associated with improved outcomes for students with disabilities used multiple accommodations. They recommended more experimental research to unpack these bundled accommodations so that the relative effects of various accommodation elements could be discerned. Sireci et al. also observed the importance of identifying the nature of the disability and ensuring the generalization of the accommodations across different student populations and grades. Their synthesis indicated that most accommodation studies were restricted to students in the lower grades, identifying only one experimental study that involved secondary students (Brown & Augustine, 2001). This limitation is serious because passing high-stakes tests is often required for graduation.

Studies of secondary school students have not reported effects favoring the interaction hypothesis. Brown and Augustine (2001) studied modifications of science and social studies tests for students with and without reading disabilities in high school. They developed software that read items from these assessments to the students and compared performance relative to standard administrations. …

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