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The National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) just released a report called “Inclusive, Innovative Assessments” which looks at the importance of measuring learning through standardized tests for students with disabilities, especially in the wake of profound learning loss during COVID-19.
Assessment is an important tool to support the learning of students with disabilities and to assess the effectiveness of our schools. The disability and civil rights communities have won important victories regarding assessments that include all students and monitor student performance. What this paper argues is that states should be clear and transparent in building coherent systems of assessment that provide appropriate information to parents, students, educators, and advocates.
As part of their research, NCLD surveyed and conducted focus groups with educators, caregivers, and students to “understand their perceptions toward statewide summative assessments.”
Here are the results of those focus groups:
- Caregivers see more value than educators in statewide summative assessments as a measure of school quality and as data for educators and families to support student learning. 73% of caregivers “agree” or “somewhat agree” that these assessments provide important information to compare their child’s performance in school .Only 52% of educators believe the same.
- The responses on a similar question were more divergent. Among caregivers, 66% reported that these assessments are “extremely important” or “mostly important” to measure student success, while only 27% of educators considered the same . A greater percentage of caregivers as compared to educators also reported that assessments provide supportive data for families, educators, and school districts.
- Caregivers believe statewide summative assessments should be administered at least annually (as required by current law), but educators have mixed opinions. 78% of caregivers reported believing that the federal government should request that states administer assessments at least once per year, compared to 48% of educators.
- Caregivers, more than educators, believe that disability status has an impact on a student’s attitude toward taking assessments. 58% of caregivers reported that disability status “strongly” or “mostly” influences their children’s attitude toward assessment while only 29% of educators reported that disability status “strongly” or “mostly” influences their students’ attitude toward assessments.
- Caregivers and educators agree that accommodations are essential for children to show their potential on assessments. 79% of caregivers and 77% of educators reported they “agree” or “somewhat agree” that accommodations on assessments provide necessary support for children to fully access assessments.
The report concludes with a set of policy recommendations. The US Education Department, NCLB says, should continue to require annual assessments “to allow families, educators, and policymakers to compare both individual students and subgroups of students to grade-level performance targets” and should fund innovative testing solutions. States should “allocate sufficient funding to drive innovative assessment systems,” bring together “stakeholders to refine assessment systems and make them more accessible and inclusive,” and do a better job of communicating results to parents and caregivers.