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Ask the Attorney with John Brower, J.D.   [Back to Ask the Attorney]

Question: Is my disabled child subject to high stakes testing?

Answer:  First, each state establishes what tests they will use to determine educational progress Therefore, anyone who questions whether their child is required to take a particular test, and if required, what accommodations will be made needs to contact their state department of education. For children under IDEA, their Individualized Education Plan (IEP) will govern this area, as will a student’s plan for accommodations under §504. In general, the IEP or §504 Team has four alternatives available:

1. The student takes the test with his or her classmates in the exact same manner as other students.

2. The student takes the test with approved modifications (oral administration, added time, etc.). The list of available modifications should be available from the state department of education.

3. The student takes an alternative assessment based on the same achievement standards as the regular assessment, but the assessment tool is (designed (re-designed) to address student’s unique needs. While some states may not have an alternative assessment and other may only have one form, an argument can be made that the assessment tool needs to be individualized to the each student.

4. The student takes an alternate assessment that is based on different achievement standards that what is applicable under the first three alternatives. For example, a student with a significant difficulty in cognitive skills may be assessed based on their achievement of their skills of daily living and not academic skills.

You will note that ALL students, including those with disabilities, can be included in one of these four categories. On the other hand, if a student has severe anxiety or some other disability that would be negatively impacted by the assessment process itself, the parents or school staff may wish to consider that the child should be totally exempted from assessment. This would be a rare occurrence as accommodations can be implemented to relieve the stress. At the same time, the school staff may attempt to excuse the student from assessment claiming it will harm their “self-esteem”. In reality, this may well be an attempt remove the student’s score to improve the school building’s score for No Child Left Behind purposes. In my opinion, as a decision to forgo assessment testing can significantly impact other rights (graduation, etc.) and make it difficult to track progress, it is something that needs to be carefully reviewed and decided on a case-by-case basis.

John Brower, JD
Education Law Center, PLLC
Education Law Center, PLLC · 810-227-9850 · 

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