School is about more than teaching kids to be smart – it’s about enabling kids to feel smart, too. No child truly feels smart if something is easy to figure out; they feel smart if it’s hard but they do it anyway. And every single child deserves a chance to do their best on a difficult test and feel the warm glow of smartness.
This is especially true for children with any kind of impediment to learning. These children have been recognized as needing some kind of accommodation to fully understand what is being asked and responding. It’s a teacher’s job to ensure they get their fair chance to share their knowledge.
This is super important for test preparation. Let’s take them one at a time.
An Individual Education Plan contains the information you need when it comes to testing accommodations. You must read every single Special Education student’s IEP, and the earlier in the year the better. And I mean get the physical form and read it; don’t ever just assume that a child who has an IEP in math has a certain set of needs based on your past experience.
Individual attention is needed here because certain testing accommodations will be written into the IEP and you must know them.
Example of testing accommodations based on IEP’s include:
- Having the test read aloud
- Having a scribe for testing
- Having a separate setting for testing
- Using text to speech
If you don’t know these things, think of how much difficulty these kids will have on the year-end test when their IEP is not being met.
And no, this is not the sole responsibility of Special Education! My position on IEP’s has always been that since the kids are with me the majority of the day, I’m primarily responsible for fulfilling their IEP. This attitude carries over into testing.
It’s not an easy thing to arrange some of these accommodations. Coordinating for enough readers to help every student who needs one, for example, can be challenging. Thus the need to know this information well in advance of the testing window. When building-wide coordination is beginning, you need to be partnering with your Special Education teacher to start getting answers about IEP accommodations.
Don’t forget to practice the accommodations during the year. Both you and your Special Education students should be familiar with how an accommodation looks and sounds well before the year-end test occurs.
504 plans are developed to ensure that a child who has a disability identified under the law receives accommodations that will ensure their academic success and access to the learning environment. That’s the official definition, and it pretty well sums up what you need to do. You must provide access:
- To the content of the test questions, and
- To the ability to answer those questions
You and/or an aide will have been providing these accommodations all year long, so you’ll know what is needed for the testing environment. But, again, coordination can be brutal, especially if it’s not arranged until the last minute. Plan ahead for the benefit of these special children.
English Language Learners
Students who are part of an ELL/ELD program also have access to some accommodations such as test instructions in their home language (if available).
Work with your ELD teachers to know which of your students qualify for accommodations and how to provide them during testing.
You may have to designate accommodations in the testing software before a student begins testing. Read the Directions for Administration and consult your testing administrator with any questions. Failing to do this could penalize a student’s scores and keep them from passing.