If you haven’t had a test by now in a general education class, we kinda wish we were you honestly. Tests happen. They are a fact of school. Whether they’re called ‘assessments’, ‘quizzes’, or something else to decrease stress, it’s still a test. One is literally tested every day if you think about it. There’s the test of getting up to do the job every morning (Will you, won’t you, or do you have an extraordinarily good reason –sick, need to visit health professional…) There is the test of “do the right thing”, could you have smiled at someone who needed a smile that day, did you walk away before you said something unkind, or did you try your best and you still created a mess?
But in academics, a test is pretty much a summary of everything that is reflected upon. For students with disabilities, this is quite a challenge because of the range of students and their abilities. Let’s look at a few things. Today we’d like to specifically look at unit testing and not district mandated tests nor state mandated testing.
- Officially: paraeducators/paraprofessionals should not be making a test. This will probably cause you to pause and wonder why we are posting this topic at all. There are some wonderful reasons why. A paraeducator, unlike a case manager or some special education teachers, are probably in a classroom day in and day out and see the attempts a student may be making in a specific area of learning. They know what the student has seen and has not seen, have access to notes, and experiences of the student. Having argued this point, a paraeducator should not be making a test in a vacuum. Partnering with the GenEd teacher and/or the student’s case manager for every test is important. Giving both a chance to check the test too for material content is important for feedback.
- The test should be primarily about the academic material. However, if a student has a goal to write their name without additional prompts on their paper, this is also technically part of the test. It should not be graded on the test, but can be noted for IEP goal reporting.
- The modified test should mirror types of questions that students would experience if they took the general test for the class. If there is an essay question, the student should at least write or complete a sentence. Multiple choice? Select from two or three answers, even if they are given as picture based answers.
- Look for something the student can do independently. Many students may have an accommodation to have the test read aloud to them. This means the student is directly one on one with a staff member. Giving them the time to process and try things before they ask is important.
- If a student is taking an unmodified test, try to cut back on the number of problems answered. Typically, this is easiest in math class if there are twelve problems, perhaps the student only does six. Additionally in English, one good essay question answer is better than three essays answered with a sentence each. This does vary from student to student and from teacher to teacher, but these are really good rules of thumb to have in your back pocket for a student who may just be a slower test taker.
- Use the general education test if at all possible to base your questions you are creating. This keeps your focus on the topic at hand.
- Don’t under estimate the power of a visual. Charts, tables, or maps, as appropriate to the testing material can help a student show what they know or how they can reason through questions. The test may be longer than their peers physically, but the visuals may be cues from other parts of the unit which is useful.
- For some students, value their notes. Keeping track of papers is a task for students who need help with their executive functioning. Valuing the student’s notes by allowing them to use their notes on the test gives them an incentive to keep doing the activity and learn how to follow through and find the use in notes.
- Demonstrate and show study methods prior to the test. How to use flash cards or apps like Quizlett is important for a student to gain study skills. With some students, the process of looking things up for a note card is also beneficial.
- Visually, as you create the test, keep in mind font size (go larger), provide lines for students to write on, and avoid cramming too much on the test. Realize the white space around a question is useful to a student to have the least amount of distractions. Some things may just need to be highlighted or bold to draw the attention of a student. This is an opportunity for the student to demonstrate to the teacher their connection to the material.
Tests are a part of the deal in school. They are not meant to be busy work, nor should they require herculean effort. Constant conversations with the general education teacher and perusal of the test material should be helpful to create a test for a student with a disability. And do you need help getting a student to take a test? Check out this post from 2014!
Did you know?
Renay is literally on her way right now to Santa Barbara. We’ll post pictures from the trip soon! Hope to meet some amazing new folks.
Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to be a guest blogger? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online here, here, here, here, and on our website. Paraeducate is a company interested in providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.