Assessing Students With Disabilities
By Andrea Rosenthal
I applaud President Obama for suggesting that Race to the Top funding be based on student progress, rather than benchmarks, for educationally disadvantaged students. I hope he will consider alternative measures for students with disabilities.
No Child Left Behind requires schools to show that most children with disabilities are at grade level to demonstrate adequate yearly progress (AYP). The intent was admirable — to set the bar high for students with disabilities — but it’s unrealistic and unfair to schools.
Virginia’s students typically are assessed through the Standards of Learning exams. Students with disabilities who qualify can be given an alternative assessment, the Virginia Grade Level Assessment (VGLA), a portfolio of classwork that is designed to measure students with disabilities who are at grade level but who cannot demonstrate their abilities in a multiple-choice format.
However, Virginia schools, in an effort to meet AYP goals, are abusing VGLA by extending it to students performing well below grade level, as evident by other measures, then pressuring teachers to produce passing assessments that are not a true measure of what the children have learned.
Precious educational resources are used on this gaming of the system at the expense of helping children make real, valuable progress.
I urge President Obama to consider better measures for this significant subset of the student population.
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