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By Candace Cortiella, The Advocacy Institute
A: Yes! Parents in several states have mobilized in opposition to poorly implemented high-stakes testing systems, resulting in critical changes that benefit students with LD. Given the enormous impact that these assessments can have on a student's life, parents need to fully understand their state's system and its implications.
Parents can use this checklist of essential elements of a fair and nondiscriminatory assessment system as a way to determine if their state's system needs improvement:
LEAD TIME: Has the assessment system and its "stakes" been phased in over a sufficient period of time so that students with LD (who often have not had full access to the curriculum) will not be negatively impacted? Adequate time is generally considered to be 4-6 years.
VALIDITY: Has the assessment system been developed and validated for use with students with disabilities? Frequently, the sample population that is used by test developers to set the average scores does not include students with disabilities nor take into account the use of accommodations.
ALIGNMENT: Has the assessment system been aligned with the state content standards? Are students actually being taught the material they are being tested on?
ACCOMMODATIONS: Do students with disabilities have access to all accommodations that have been used during instruction and testing and are listed in the student's IEP or Section 504 Plan?
RETEST OPPORTUNITIES: Are there multiple opportunities to retake a test?
PARENT INVOLVEMENT: Are parents fully included in the decision-making about a student's participation and the accommodations that will be allowed? Are parents fully informed about the implications of certain accommodations? Are parents fully informed about the implications of any alternative nonstandard diplomas and certificates that the state has developed?
MULTIPLE MEASURES: Are multiple measures of student performance used in the high-stakes decision-making process? Is student performance on course work and course grades, as well as other relevant information about the student's knowledge and skills, taken into consideration?
APPEALS PROCEDURES: Are there procedural safeguards in place to ensure that students are able to contest decisions about accommodations, scores, and decisions made regarding assessments?
Updated January 2010
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