Assessment… it’s everyone’s favorite winter sport. Or not. Either way, it’s testing time!
Schools typically give district assessments 3 times per year. Fall. Winter. Spring. The winter session typically starts right after break.
District assessments are those that are given to students throughout the district. They are often computer-based so that responses can be quickly scored. They give teachers invaluable information about what students have learned and what they still need to learn. In other words, teachers use the information to plan lessons that are based on students’ needs.
Students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) or 504 Plans are often entitled to testing accommodations. IEP or 504 teams include accommodations into a student’s plan when there is evidence to suggest that a student needs the accommodations in order to really show what she knows. They are not meant to give an unfair advantage. Rather, they are necessary for that child. Common accommodations include extra time, frequent breaks, small group for testing, assistive technology, questions read aloud, or a scribe for responses.
Why Does This Matter?
Educators are hardworking, diligent professionals. They take care to plan for students’ testing accommodations. But they are human, and they make errors. Schools often have dozens of students with testing accommodations. Yet, there is no foolproof way to ensure students are getting the accommodations to which they are entitled. For example, the process of providing students their accommodations might go something like this:
- Student has IEP meeting and decision is made that he requires testing accommodations
- Special ed teacher checks boxes on the IEP document to show student should have accommodations
- The IEP is scanned into an online system that houses IEPs
- Special Ed teacher go into the system, looks at each IEP, and manually creates an excel spreadsheet of their students’ accommodations
- Testing coordinator asks special ed teachers for their excel spreadsheets
- Excel spreadsheets from each special ed teacher are merged into one spreadsheet
- Each student’s name on that spreadsheet is grouped with students who have the same accommodations
- A list of groups is giving to testing proctors
- Students are tested with accommodations according to the list that was manually created from several other manually created lists.
My point? There is room for error. Be proactive. Call, email, prepare a letter, send smoke signals, etc. Remind your child’s teacher that she has testing accommodations in her IEP or 504 Plan. Play it safe and call for a double check. There’s no shame in that game.
3 Genius Testing Strategies
We all know students need a good night of sleep and a healthy breakfast before taking a test. Here are 3 of my genius, lesser-known strategies for taking the test:
- Use the bathroom. If it is allowed, use the bathroom mid-test. Getting up, walking, and changing scenery can do wonders for focus and fatigue.
- Finish last. Many of these tests are not timed, yet students rush to be the first to finish. Even worse? They hear someone else finish, so they click through aimlessly because they think they’re slow. Rather than get self-conscious, challenge your child to set a goal to be the last to finish. When it comes to tests, winners just might finish last.
- Kill trees. Okay, I like trees. But I really like it when students use scratch paper. Lots of it. Students who slow down and write out their thought processes are more likely to catch errors. Kids like using scratch paper about as much as they like brushing their teeth, but it is every bit as important. Tell them to do it anyway.