Modified tests for Pennsylvania special ed students

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette reported on April 18 that the state of Pennsylvania is offering modified state tests in math for all special education students, and it is field-testing simplified-format tests in reading and science for this same group. The modified tests, called PSSA-M (Pennsylvania System of School Assessment-Modified), are offered in an effort to raise state proficiency scores.

Is a special test necessary for special education students? In our report Special education: A better perspective, we take a look at special education and the special education student. While a majority of special education students do not require special services, our study found that, regardless, there is an achievement gap between special education students and their peers. This is particularly important because many schools and districts, not just in Pennsylvania but around the nation, are missing AYP targets under NCLB¬†based soley on the performance of special ed students. Of course, there are other reasons schools miss AYP, but the special ed population is one of the main reasons. Although the gap has narrowed recently, more research is needed to find out what’s working.

Our report found that the “vast majority of students who are identified with disabilities might have been classified as simply “low achieving” just a few years ago.” This raises the question: Are modified tests really a good measure of how well this population is learning? Of course, the jury is out on this one since there is no research to answer the question. We do know, however, that “when school districts target resources and support, the acheivement of students with disabilities does increase.” Learn more about the special education student and what schools and school boards can do by reading the Center’s full report. ~ Pamela Karwasinski

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