High Stakes Testing in Special Education

High Stakes Testing in Special Education - 1 High Stakes...

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1 High Stakes Testing Amanda Lassoued EDU 422 High Stakes Testing in Special Education Judith Richardson July 17, 2011
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2 Over the past decade, states have been engaged in a variety of education reform efforts designed to improve the quality of public education. One highly visible reform is high-stakes testing. The purpose of such tests is to improve student achievement. While students with learning disabilities have a lot to gain from increased focus on student achievement, high-stakes standardized testing can also pose serious obstacles and consequences. This article examines the current state of high-stakes testing and its implications for students with learning disabilities. The term high-stakes is used to describe tests that have high stakes for individual students, such as grade promotion or a standard high school diploma. Therefore, high- stakes testing is designed to hold individual students accountable for their own test performance, unlike system accountability, which is aimed at the providers of education, such as states, school districts, and schools. (Bartlett, 2007) The use of high-stakes testing has become an increasingly popular assessment for schools to use in demonstrating individual academic performance of students, and providing accountability for school improvement. Given the potential negative consequences associated with mandatory testing (grade retention, withholding of high school diplomas, labeling failing schools), students, parents, and school districts all bear significant risks based upon student test scores. The historically poor performance of students with disabilities on these assessments has raised concerns over minimum standards, permissible test modifications, and alternate assessments. (Heubert, 2006) For more than 2 decades, there has been an increased emphasis on improving academic outcomes for students across the country. Such emphasis has resulted in state reform efforts and federal legislative initiatives to enhance student academic performance
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3 High Stakes Testing and school accountability. High-stakes testing has overwhelmingly been selected as one means for assessing student outcomes and measuring school improvement. In general, high stakes tests are used to determine a school’s progress in achieving annual yearly performance, or better known as AYP, goals in accordance with the No Child Left Behind of 2001. Based on those results, it will be determined which students will be promoted or retained based on individual performance on minimum competency exams. (Heubert, 2006) Data for students with disabilities are harder to find, but they show a similar pattern. On one hand, there is evidence that many students with disabilities do pass state tests in higher numbers over time. Also according to recent data collected by The Center on Education Policy, 20 states are currently using exit exams as a condition of getting a standard high school diploma. Some states have postponed or are considering postponing the dates by which their graduation test requirement would go into effect. These
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