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Accommodations December 19, 2005

Posted by Michael McVey in Assessment, Students.
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Spellings   With so much of educational technology wrapped up in issues related to testing and academic achievement, I found news from Washington encouraging. 

It was a while in coming, but finally the Department of Education is going to allow more flexibility in the way students with significant learning disabilities are tested. Ever since Congress enacted into law No Child Left Behind, I have been writing about how frustrating the new rules were when they pertained to Special Education students. 

A few years ago, I was able to pose a question about accommodations online to the Secretary of Education Rod Paige during a live chat. The response on the part of the Department was that they were going to stand firm on their requirements. The administration scoffed at people who asked for modifications to the rules. They saw giving in, at the time, as a sign of weakness. Sigh. 

After years of explaining just how frustrating it can be for a student with learning disabilities to take the pencil and paper tests that pass for assessments these days, there is finally a little movement. Now, instead of testing students on 100 items, the test might contain only 75 items. It is a beginning. 

The real problem is with the expectations NCLB has for students with learning difficulties. The case for tough standards seems embedded in the illusion that these students are simply slacking and insufficiently challenged. My students worked hard every day with the help of teachers and parents to improve their skills. To watch them take tests at the tenth grade level when they were gallantly struggling with reading at the fifth grade level was a heart breaking experience. 

We never asked for dispensation from taking the tests; all we wanted was a common sense approach to testing.

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