Special Education

Out-of-Level Testing Revived?

By Christina A. Samuels — January 29, 2008 1 min read
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The reauthorization of No Child Left Behind may have stalled, but that’s not stopping education groups from trying to mold the law in their favor.

One of the latest suggestions for an amendment, backed by the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, would start a pilot program to allow “out-of-level testing” for students with disabilities. The chief sponsor of H.R. 4100 is Rep. Lynn Woolsey, a Democrat from California. The bill is sitting in committee.

Under the pilot program, a 6th grade student reading at a 3rd grade level could take a 3rd grade reading test. This wouldn’t count for adequate yearly progress, the bill states--the results would just be studied to see how fast the students in the pilot move toward grade-level proficiency.

Nancy Reder, the governmental relations head for NASDSE, was straightforward in saying that her organization wasn’t trying to drum up support among disability advocacy groups. (She already knows they won’t like it. Teachers won’t push toward grade-level standards if the tests aren’t there to hold them responsible, these groups believe.)

The U.S. Department of Education also has come down against out-of-grade-level testing. Even the “2 percent tests” that states are allowed to administer to slower learners must measure grade-level standards, although with simpler language and less complex problems than the regular grade-level tests.

“We support high expectations for students with disabilities, but there needs to be an element of realism in how kids are assessed,” Reder said. And giving a grade-level assessment to students who are clearly behind is meaningless, she said.

“We’re more interested in teaching kids where they are,” she said.

A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.