End of Year Testing for Children Who Struggle
By Krisa Winn
Standardized Testing—these two words can evoke some anxiety in the hearts of parents who are homeschooling a child with special needs.
Are you concerned about placing your child in a rigid testing situation? Maybe you still have a few years before testing is mandatory, but you’re already feeling stressed about it?
You are not alone. We have some options that may help! Let’s talk about several ways to make the annual evaluation process as stress-free as possible.
Does my student need accommodations or support for testing?
We have some really good news: you as the parent or your student’s test proctor can allow for accommodations or support on standardized tests. However, allowing for accommodations can be tricky business. There are no concrete rules concerning which accommodations are allowable for which disability. If your student has an IEP or has a formal diagnosis, you may have received some recommended accommodations for testing situations. That’s a good place to start.
Keep in mind that the goal of allowing for accommodations is to give the student an opportunity to show what he knows, and to limit the impact of the disability on the student’s answers. To say it another way, you want the test to mean something.
If your child has strong math skills, but cannot physically use a pencil to mark answers in a test booklet, an appropriate accommodation for him might be a computerized format or being assigned a scribe.
Conversely, if a student has difficulty with math and you allow the use of a calculator for the mental math section, you have changed what’s being tested. Instead of testing the student’s mental math capacity, you have tested his ability to use a calculator to solve math problems.
You don’t want to deny appropriate accommodations or allow accommodations that change the integrity of the test.
Most testing centers address this issue of allowing for accommodations quite thoroughly. I encourage you to check with them for questions related to your child’s specific situation.
Would a statement from an evaluator work better than a test for my student?
For some students, a standardized test is not a developmentally appropriate option. For instance, some children are unable to speak or write, or are functioning well below grade level. For these, and other children with specific needs, it is unreasonable to expect them to sit for several hours and fill in answers on a multiple choice paper and pencil test.
Fortunately, many states allow families the option of providing a letter from an evaluator in lieu of standardized test scores. Typically, the evaluator will be required to have a teaching degree or a specified degree level. At the end of the year, the evaluator will review your child’s portfolio or other records, and write up a short summary stating that academic progress has occurred. To see if this is an option in your state click here.
Would my student benefit from a more hands-on test administered by trained professionals?
In states where the evaluator option is not offered, families may need to look for someone who is licensed to administer formal evaluations of achievement such as the Woodcock Johnson (WJ3), the Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement (KTEA II Brief Form), or the Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT). While these tests vary in length and administration, they are great options for students who have significant delays, and who require a testing situation that is primarily administered orally or through hands on activities.
What traditional nationally normed achievement tests are available?
Here are several options with details to help you decide whether one of these tests might be the best fit for your student.
Stanford 10 Online
In addition, the technology aspects of this test were very kid friendly.
For instance, with some online tests, the student sees the test question and then must scroll down to view the multiple-choice answers. Not so with the Stanford 10. Both the question and answers remain within view which makes the test easier for kids to use and provides less opportunity for human error.
Another benefit was the option to pause the test at any time for bathroom breaks, sneezing fits, or other interruptions during the testing session.
We used the timed version of this test a few years ago. I noted the following positives—the price was affordable, you could test at home, there were no requirements for a proctor, scores were returned quickly, and, while the individual tests were timed, you could take as much time as you liked between tests for breaks.
I also noticed a few negative aspects of the timed version—there was limited opportunity for practice, and the items offered were written at a much lower grade level than the actual test. Technology was another area of concern. In my opinion, unless your student is adept at using a mouse or mouse pad, the timed online version of the CAT is not a good option. Because the tests are timed, clumsy use of the mouse will impact the amount of time your student will have to complete the test.
Finally, the test cannot be paused for any reason. Again, for a more mature student, this may not be an issue, but for a child who has difficulty regulating their emotions and behaviors, it could be a problem.
Personalized Achievement Summary System
It can be administered in the comfort of your home and it is untimed. Again, this is a benefit for students who need additional time or who get particularly anxious in a testing situation.
Would developmental testing be a better fit for my student?
Meet the Brigance Diagnostic Inventories! They are not standardized tests, and are not recognized in most states as an alternative to traditional standardized testing. However, depending on your child’s needs, either of these inventories would be an excellent tool for learning more about your child’s functioning level in very specific areas of development. This is helpful in planning, setting goals, and documenting progress.
Educators across the nation use these inventories to develop IEP Goals and monitor student progress.
You can learn more about Brigance tests through test publisher Curriculum Associates’ website and may be able to access testing through a local learning disabilities specialist, testing center, or children’’s hospital.
HSLDA has identified the following three Brigance Diagnostic Inventories most helpful to our members and has made them available for our members to rent here.
These are some of the options available to help you evaluate your child’s progress in a way that brings out the best and not the stress! We hope that you and your student have a positive assessment and evaluation process this year. You can learn more about testing here and documenting here. If you are an HSLDA member, please feel free to contact your special needs consultants here for more information.