Validating high stakes testing programs
A number of legislative provisions are designed to protect students and ensure the fair, nondiscriminatory use of tests.These provisions stipulate that decisions about children must be based on more than a single test, that tests must be validated for the purpose for which they are used, that students must be assessed in all areas related to a suspected disability, and that evaluations must be made by a multidisciplinary team.Rather, it has centered on the individualized education program, an essentially private document that lays out the educational goals and curriculum of an individual student.Each IEP is designed to reflect one child's capabilities and to specify the services necessary for the child to benefit from that curriculum.This means that not all students with disabilities are eligible to receive services under the IDEA. Even those who do not qualify for special education, however, are protected by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and by the ADA (1990), which entitle them to reasonable accommodations in school activities to permit them to overcome impairments in one or more major life activities.The number of students in this category is not known.
Because about 50 percent of students with disabilities have been excluded from state- and district-wide assessments in the past, there has been a shortage of key indicators of success for many of these children, including performance on assessments, dropout rates, graduation rates, and regular reports to the public on progress toward meeting goals for their educational improvement.Stakeholder views are a critical part of the evaluation of the policy assumptions implicit in any testing program.The point is made that much of the current practice in the validation of high stakes testing programs, including high school graduation tests, is seriously flawed because only a part of the interpretive argument is evaluated.IEPs thus vary considerably from student to student and have varying degrees of relationship with the general curriculum.
For example, one IEP may call for a sign-language interpreter to enable a deaf student to participate fully in the general education curriculum; another may establish a set of instructional objectives that focus on the goal of independent living—telling time, personal hygiene, and basic safety skills.
The Committee on Goals 2000 and the Inclusion of Students with Disabilities examined in detail the implications of standards-based reforms for students with disabilities.