Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Teacher Decision Making in Participation of Students with Disabilities in Large-Scale Assessment

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Teacher Decision Making in Participation of Students with Disabilities in Large-Scale Assessment

Article excerpt

Over the past decade, the standards movement in education has increased pressure on teachers and districts to demonstrate higher levels of student achievement as shown through student test results. During this time, the inclusion of students with disabilities in standards-based curriculum and assessment gained attention incrementally. At the outset, students with disabilities were essentially ignored with regard to the development dissemination of standards and assessments (Ysseldyke, Thurlow, & Shriner, 1992). Gradually, however, federal laws (e.g., Improving America's Schools Act [IASA], Goals 2000: Educate America Act [Goals 2000], Individuals with Disabilities Education Act [IDEA]) helped focus the efforts of standards groups and states to include students with disabilities in their efforts to implement higher standards and more rigorous measures of achievement. To some degree, each law promoted increasingly stronger connections among students' instructional experiences, the content of the general curriculum, and assessments of student performance (Rouse, Shriner, & Danielson, 2000). IDEA is the most prescriptive of the laws in that it strengthens the principle of the least restrictive environment (LRE) by requiring explicit consideration and documentation of the relevance of the general curriculum for each student with an IEP and of the means for including all children in the state's assessment and accountability system (Yell & Shriner, 1997).

While IDEA is straightforward in its intent to promote more meaningful inclusion of students with disabilities in standards and assessment, there are major concerns regarding the decisions that must be made for individual students. Currently, these concerns include (a) the burden placed on students with disabilities based on the high-stakes nature of testing, (b) how test results will influence graduation status, (c) to what extent special education programs will be held accountable for student results, and (d) how valuable test results will be for educational programming decisions if students with disabilities are excluded (Chard, 1999). Also, there exists great variability among state rules as to who participates in assessments and the degree in which these guidelines are implemented. In a survey report by the National Center for Educational Outcomes (Thompson & Thurlow, 1999) on state testing and special education, nearly all states reported that guidelines were in place for student participation. However, wide variability in the implementation of these guidelines at the state and district level contributed to the exclusion from testing of students with disabilities. In addition, the high stakes attached to reported test scores (funding decisions, rewards, and sanctions), exposure to and relevancy of the general education curriculum being tested, and limited monitoring of guidelines ranked high as reasons hindering optimal participation.

States reported that teachers, parents, and students are unsure about the relevance of standards and testing outcomes. This fact, as well as the amount of exposure to the curriculum that students with disabilities receive, demonstrates that there is a need for professional development in these areas. Special educators must ensure that the curriculum is accessible to their students as testing becomes more regulated (McDonnell, McLaughlin, & Morison, 1997). Nearly all states now report that improvement of the match between state standards and tests is an ongoing effort (Thompson & Thurlow, 1999) and that students with disabilities are included in these discussions. To enable this evolving process, teachers must be educated about how this connection can be made in the classroom so students are prepared to participate in state testing. Unfortunately, perhaps as a result of the previously discussed conflicting and loosely enforced and interpreted state policies, local decision making, in some respects, reflects even greater variability. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.