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High Stakes Tests

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I know schools are required to give state-mandated tests. But are children required to take these tests? 

My child is significantly learning disabled. I don't see the point of putting him through the frustration of taking state mandated tests in 4th and 8th grade.

From Wrightslaw

We understand that some parents of children with disabilities do not want their children to be tested. Like you, parents are afraid. They want to protect their children from pain and frustration. Before we answer your question, we'd like to talk about the issues with you and other parents.

Debate About High Stakes Tests

A few years ago, Virginia implemented high stakes testing called the Standards of Learning. Some groups who represent school administrators and educators complained that it was unreasonable to expect schools to teach these skills and lobbied to eliminate or water down these tests. Some teacher groups complained about having to "teach to the test."

As parents listened to these groups, their anxieties grew. Parents were afraid their children would not be able to pass these tests. Some parents banded together to eliminate or water down the Standards of Learning.

Success Story

We live in a rural county of Virginia. The population of our county is less than 10,000 people. The median income and education level is lower than most counties in the state. Teacher pay is low.

There are four schools in our county - two elementary schools, a middle school, and a high school. These schools are small. Teachers know when children are having problems.

The county implemented a summer school program for all children who may have problems passing the tests. Many kids attended summer school. During summer school, kids maintained their skills and added new skills. (Does anyone think it makes sense to send kids away from school for a two or three month break every year?)

How did our schools do on the high stakes tests? One elementary school passed all the Standards of Learning tests. The other elementary school, middle school and high school passed all but one or two tests. Some children with disabilities are exiting special education because they passed the Standards of Learning tests. These children will continue to receive support they need to learn.

Children Need Remediation

We don't know the specifics about your child.

We do know that if children receive intensive remediation in basic reading, writing, and math skills, most kids with disabilities will be able to pass the state tests. This is true for kids with severe disabilities, including autism and Down Syndrome.

You may not know that Pete was diagnosed with severe learning disabilities when he was 7. He had intensive one-on-one Orton-Gillingham remediation from Diana Hanbury King every day after school for two years. For years, he felt / feared that he was defective.

When he was 12, he was evaluated by a child psychologist. From this testing, he learned several important things. He learned that his reasoning abilities were good and that his weaknesses / deficiencies were in areas he could work around (i.e., memory, coordination, ADHD issues). 

Because Pete had remediation, his reading and writing skills improved dramatically. And he can touch type very fast - almost as fast as he thinks.

State & District Assessments 

In August 2000, OSEP published a report on state and district assessments. In this report, they discuss several reasons why parents should allow their kids to be tested: 

  • to improve educational results for children with disabilities; 
  • to create high education expectations for all children
  • to make schools accountable for educating ALL students.
We urge you to download and read the OSEP Report on Assessment from our Law Library. You can get this Report is in two formats: pdf and richtext.

Parents are change agents

It's our belief that if children are tested, parents will know if their kids are being taught the basic skills (which should happen in special ed). If children are not being taught, we believe that parents will pressure schools to provide effective educational remediation - and improve results. 

We understand that parents want to protect their children from painful experiences.

We worry that if parents pull their children out of state and district testing, accountability will go down in smoke.

Children with disabilities will continue to receive educational services that are not effective or research-based, the system won't improve, and we willcontinue to see kids who graduate from high school with diplomas they cannot read. 

This is a hot topic with no easy answers. Stay tuned for more information. 

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Last revised: 08/01/08

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