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Computer Adaptive Assessments for Students with IEPs

This article appeared in Valerie Strauss’ column in the Washinton Post. It is an article including criticisms directed toward Common Core and standardized assessments from parents and educators of children with disabilities. While I can definitely agree that insisting that students with severe disabilities should not be hounded by any private or government institution to take standardized tests, I don’t fully agree that Common Core State Standards and standardized assessments are bad for students with mild or moderate learning disabilities. Perhaps the way we adults are rolling out these measures and the stress laden messages we send them about testing is what is doing the damage.

The smarter Balance standardized assessment designed to assess Common Core Standards is computer-adaptive, which means it adjusts the difficulty level of test questions to match the test taker’s abilities. Not only does this give a more accurate picture of where the student is performing, it allows the student to feel more successful as they are taking the test and this may relieve some of the test anxiety that tends to undermine struggling learners. PARCC on the other hand is what is called a fixed form assessment. It does not adjust to the test takers ability.

If we design all standardized assessments to be computer-adaptive, this could be very beneficial for our students with mild or moderate learning disabilities.


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