Alternative Assessments for Students with Disabilities

by PammyMcB

Ahlgrim-Delzell, Lynn; Browder, Diane; Flowers, Claudia; and Spooner, Fred. (2005). Teachers’ Perceptions of Alternative Assessments. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 30.2, 81-92.

The authors state the purpose of the study is to “examine teachers’ perceptions of alternate assessments.” The authors surveyed 983 teachers from 5 states by using two inventories one with a 5-point scale rating and one with a 4-point scale rating to determine what influences the alternative assessment outcome and the impact of alternative assessment. The samples used were representative for each of the five states surveyed. The study shows that teachers often agree that students with disabilities should be included in general education settings and should be held accountable, but they did not agree that the alternative assessments were beneficial and added more paperwork and time to their schedules. Therefore, the researchers suggest that more resources should be offered to alleviate the demands of alternative assessments. The researchers state limitations to the study include confounding factors, and a lack of evidence that suggests their findings would improve the outcomes of students with disabilities. Also, the researchers warn about generalizing the results to states that were not sampled.

Crisp, Cheryl. (2007). The Efficacy of Intelligence Testing in Children with Physical Disabilities, Visual Impairments and/or the Inability to Speak. International journal of Special Education, 22.1, 137-141.

Crisp indicates that the design of intelligence assessments may inhibit an accurate score for students with disabilities. Crisp states that the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 requires all students, even those with disabilities to be held accountable on academic assessments, but it does not acknowledge that some of the students with disabilities may never attain the academic level of their peers. Crisp asserts that each person with a disability is an individual and must always be put before their disability, and each disability is different in that individual. Crisp argues that standardized tests fail to take the nature of the disability into consideration, and many fail to allow accommodations to be made to the test because doing so would hinder the integrity of the test. Crisp provides a list made by Fagan of those who are unable “comply with the requirements of standardized testing: cerebral palsy, all of the muscular dystrophies, dystonia, brain injury, some language disorders, developmental disorders, mental disorders, and cultural differences. Crisp provides several more appropriate options for measuring intelligence.

Dykeman, Buce F. (2006). Alternative Strategies in Assessing Special Education Needs. Education, 127.2, 265-273.

Dykeman states that Response to Intervention relies on standardized, norm-referenced assessment to determine special education needs of students with disabilities. Dykeman argues that functional assessment, authentic assessment, curriculum-based measurement, and play-based assessment should be used within the RTI model, but psychometric issues of reliability, validity, and fairness have become issues when determining the needs of students. Dykeman explains how students with disabilities are assessed and outlines the guidelines of diagnosis according to IDEIA 2004. However, Dykeman argues that IDEIA 2004 does not tell how assessments and evaluations are to be conducted. Dykeman argues, as does Crisp, that standardized, norm-referenced tests cannot always be indicative of the cognitive abilities of students with disabilities. Therefore, Dykeman suggests the use of the alternative assessments he discusses, which the language of IDEIA does encourage. Dykeman suggests more evidence based assessments be used that address the individual needs of students in order to allow fairness while determining special education needs.

Roach, Andrew T. (2006). Influences on Parent Perceptions of an Alternate Assessment for Students with Severe Cognitive Disabilities. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 31.3, 267-274.

Roach states the purpose of his research was to “understand the variables that influence parents’ perceptions of the Wisconsin Alternate Assessment.” The study included special educators in both elementary and secondary systems across the state of Wisconsin. The sample of students included was representative of the gender population and grade levels in which the study was done in Wisconsin. Demographics on parents were not gathered, but parents were given pencil and paper rating scale surveys to ascertain their understanding of the WAA. The findings show that parents were positive about the WAA process, supportive participation of all students, and pleased with the alignment of the WAA to Wisconsin’s academic standards. Roach also found that student age was directly correlated to parent’s perceptions of the WAA. Parents with older students were less likely to be satisfied with the WAA, which mirrors parents’ perceptions of inclusion. Furthermore, Roach found that parents were confident in the WAA results, and those parents who were more involved with their students education were more satisfied with the outcome. Therefore, Roach suggests that resources, support, training, and support materials be provided to facilitate parent understanding of the WAA.

Vacca, John J. (2007). Incorporating Interests and Structure to Improve Participation of a Child with Autism in a Standardized Assessment: A Case Study Analysis. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 22.1, 51-59.

Vacca, an assistant professor of Individual and Family Studies at the University of Delaware, states that research indicates standardized assessments fail to predict concrete suggestions on supporting students with autism and fail to offer insight as to how behaviors of these children will be manifested in multiple environments. Vacca also points out that some attempts to assess children with autism by using standardized testing is unsuccessful, so researchers are looking at alternative assessments, which include interest areas to provide supports and instructional strategies for students with autism. Vacca accommodated the Bayley Scales of Infant Development-Second Edition by using interest areas to assess the developmental level of a child with autism, who was once deemed untestable. Vacca found that the use of the interests particular to the child helped the child complete the BSID II. Therefore, Vacca recommends that assessments for children with autism be accommodated by using the child’s interest area.