The Importance Of Standardized Tests For College

Standardized tests taken by college students nationally are heavily weighed as part of a complete application. There is obviously trepidation and stress over the actual test taking process. Before the tests are taken and once they are over, it’s important to keep in mind the affect that these tests have on acceptance to a school. Many people have spoken out against standardized tests, claiming they are a poor representation of a student’s intelligence or academic potential. The fact remains, standardized test are very important to colleges when it comes to admissions.

The reason some students and administrators have been in opposition is because standardized tests are given and scored in a uniform or standard way. While accommodations are made for students with disabilities, but most other students who may have emotional problems or are simply not good test takers are all painted with the same brush. One or several test days can literally mean the difference between acceptance and denied admission to a school.

Knowing the importance standardized test have for colleges, it is therefore important to be prepared before taking a test. Some students opt to take test prep courses or even hire private tutors to prepare for this major test. The fee that students pay these professionals to help them with standardized tests are often deemed worthwhile when test scores are received or if a second or third attempt reaps greater scores.

Recently, in response to opposition to administering of the most popular standardized test, the SAT, changes have been made to improve the test itself. In lieu of the 1600 point grading scale that was in place, 2400 points scale has replaced that. Also, a writing section has been added in addition to the math and English sections. Some other subtle changes to questions have been made in the past few years. It remains to be seen whether students are reaping the benefits of these changes.

The ACT is also a common college admissions test, yet many students opt out of taking it. Not all schools require this test be taken-which measure proficiency in science, social studies and other specific subjects. This test is scored on a 1-36 point scale. Students can opt to take additional writing ACTs if they deem that a necessary part of applying to college.

Both of these more common tests have national testing dates that are have registration on certain days. Preparing for these tests well in advance and using sample materials to study can make a huge difference in performance come test day. Stress isn’t an inevitable part of standardized testing. Being prepared and knowing what questions will be asked can greatly reduce anxiety and demystify the whole process for student test takers.

It is an unavoidable fact that students wanting to gain access to public and private four year colleges will need to take standardized test as a show of their academic status. It’s important for students to remember that while important, these tests aren’t the only way colleges judge college worthiness. Colleges realize that achievement and success over time is more likely an indication of future success than one day of tests.

Standardized Testing And Students With Assistive Tech

In recent years there has been a boom of standardized testing within American schools. Students are being tested in reading, math, science, social studies for state and school district standards that are used to show compliance with No Child Left Behind, along with NCLB testing students are also being hit with graduation tests, testing to move forward in the school progression ( i.e. a student must pass this test before moving onto the next grade level).

With the increasing number of tests given to students where the results weigh heavily on the school, school districts, or individual students performance, where do students with disabilities fall into this mix? Where especially students with Assistive Technology or Augmentative Communication? Federal law requires states and school districts to include students with disabilities in large-scale assessments, and to report their scores publicly, in disaggregated form, as a way of determining how well schools are serving these students. This is a matter of system accountability. Federal law is silent, however, on whether states or schools districts should impose high-stakes consequences on individual students with disabilities who fail large-scale tests. In other words, while federal law mandates participation in large-scale tests and public reporting of disaggregated scores, it is for states to decide whether large-scale tests will result in individual high-stakes consequences and, if so, for which students (Heubert, 2002).

Accommodations are able to be granted to students with disabilities without losing the standardization of the test. An accommodation is considered, any change to the standard test format to assess an individual’s abilities, rather than his or her

disabilities. Although allowable accommodations vary, they general fall in one of four categories:

o Presentation (e.g., directions/questions read aloud, large print).

o Response (e.g., use of a scribe).

o Setting (small group or individual testing, study carrel).

o Timing/Scheduling (extended time, additional breaks; Wahburn-Moses, 2003)

IDEA requires that the IEP team documents any accommodations in the students Individualized Education Plan. As Washburn-Moses (2003) stated, “The IEP team

should focus on the student’s strengths, weaknesses, and individual learning characteristics, and refrain from basing their decision on the student’s disability

level or current placement. Team members should consider only those accommodations that the student uses during classroom instruction and testing, as opposed to introducing new accommodations specifically for use on the state test (Thurlow et al.). It is extremely

important to document on the IEP the team’s decision regarding accommodations, as well as the justification for that decision.”

Dunne (2002), stated in an Education World article, “In Wisconsin, students with disabilities are being allowed testing accommodations so that more can take the test. The accommodations include increased time to take a test, use of a scribe to write down answers, and use of a reader to read instructions and questions aloud. Those types of accommodations will allow about 85 percent of students with disabilities to participate in the Wisconsin State Assessment System, according to a study authored by Eva M. Kubinski at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Education Research.

For those students unable to be tested, even with accommodations, the state developed an alternate performance indicator tied to the state’s standards for use by schools to assess the 2 percent of Wisconsin students with severe disabilities or limited English proficiency, Kubinski wrote in her paper.”

What does this mean for students with Assistive Technology or AAC? Based on the research found, having an Assistive Technology device would allow a IEP team to determine if accommodations on standardized tests were needed. Each student is as unique as their assistive technology device and therefore it can be said that each student is going to pose different circumstances when it comes to testing in the school setting. According to IDEA, as stated earlier, the IEP team must determine what accommodations must be made for the student to be successful on the test. These accommodations must be written in the students IEP.

Since the students using AT/AAC vary greatly and many have underlying issues as to why they have AAC devices, such as other confounding disabilities. It is important that the IEP determines whether the device the student uses for communication is going to be part of the accommodation for the Standardized test or if it is not needed. It will be important to determine that and then prepare the student that they will or will not be able to use the device during the test. This is especially important if the device can not be used during the test, since this is the students voice.

IEP teams must work to find the best accommodations for the student to be successful, there are various ways to do that, including the Dynamic Assessment of Testing

Accommodations (DATA), which helps teachers determine which students will

benefit from which accommodations.

Based on the information provided it can be concluded that each students case is going to be very different, but overall each student that qualifies for special education, including those who use assistive technology or augmentative communication devices can qualify for special accommodations of standardized testing which will allow those students to complete the tests with reasonable scores.

References

Dunne, D. (2000). Are high stakes tests punishing some students? Education Weekly 34(1) 32-35.

Heubert, J.P. (2002). Disability, race, and high-stakes testing of students. NCAC. 4(1) 38-45.

Sindelar, T., Hager, R., & Smith, D. (2003). High stakes testing standards for students with disabilities. Neighborhood Legal Services, Inc.

Washburn-Moses, L. (2003). What every special educator should know about high stakes testing. Teaching Exceptional Children 35(4) 12-15.