ASK - Advocates for Special Kids
"Parents helping parents to understand special education"

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Progress and Accountability
MBUSD Stanford 9 and API Data Reporting

I. Introduction

A common complaint among parents of children with special needs is the lack of reliable tools for measuring their child’s academic progress or lack of same. Routinely dependent upon subjective measures or teacher observation, parents are increasingly pushing for their child’s participation in standardized tests, as flawed as they may be, in order to gain at least some objective measure of where their child stands in relation to district, state and national standards.

Those parents who have determined to have their children participate in standardized tests are often confronted with well-meaning school staff who have routinely advised parents against doing so. The primary reason behind such advice is that such testing will only "stress" a child. Parents understandably worried about needlessly stressing their special needs child have followed teachers and administrators’ advice in this regard, with the result that a lack of objective measures persists.

Parents are also often advised to have their child participate in testing, but with accommodations. Although children with special needs are entitled to, and often benefit from accommodations, frequently district personnel do not understand and/or have failed to explain to parents, that certain accommodations result only in raw scores or non-standardized test results. Again, parents are left without an objective measure of progress or lack thereof.

With the reauthorization of IDEA and its focus on high expectations and high standards for children with exceptional needs, as well as on greater accountability for school districts, parents and school districts alike are now faced with laws which require that all students participate in standardized testing. As well, parents have become aware of three key benefits these tests can provide to their children and their importance for their child’s progress:

1) When children participate in these testing processes, they gain practice and skill in test-taking itself. So much of the stress attributed to the test-taking process is alleviated by the mere act of taking the test. Children not only learn about how tests are structured, they learn their routine, and develop confidence just through participating in the test-taking process with their peers and seeing that they can, in fact, do it.

2) These tests provide parents with the only accurate, consistent and objective measure of a child’s progress or lack of progress, available today. Given that so many IEP goals and objectives historically have not been tied to content standards and have been dependent upon subjective measures such as "teacher observation" or "written test sample," standardized tests, though far from perfect, are often more objective and more routine in their reporting.


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Revised: January 25, 2002

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