What Are State Assessments Assessing?

Yesterday, while at Emma’s school, her teacher showed me a sample of the state assessments that Emma is required to take, though there were record numbers of parents this year who protested them by opting out.  These assessments are done twice a year and take an enormous amount of time and energy from all involved.  The page the teacher showed me was about Ronald Reagan.  It was a series of facts that are read and then the student is supposed to choose the correct answer from two choices related to the facts just read.  I decided to use the page as an example of why I so vehemently object to these state required assessments as they are currently laid out.

I read the facts to Emma and then asked her to give me the answers by saying the correct answer out loud.  This is how the test is typically done.  Emma chose the last choice to each question every single time.  I then said, “Okay.  Now let’s do this using your letter board.  I asked the same questions, only this time, offered her the letter board and without any hesitation she got 100% correct.  I then asked her to circle the correct choice and she was able to do that too, which was interesting to see.

We did not go over more of the assessment, but for all those students who are like Emma, these assessments are useless.  They are not telling anyone anything helpful.  In fact they are giving inaccurate data.  If Emma had not been given the opportunity to learn to communicate using a letter board, she would have no way of proving she knows the correct answer.  How many children are just like Emma?  I do not believe for a second she is the only one who cannot say what she knows, but if given appropriate accommodations would be able to.

It is incredibly frustrating to have the state require her to take such assessments, which, as they are currently written, do not accurately assess what she is capable of.  This is my biggest objection with so much that is done when it comes to autism.  Far too often the current conversation is by people who are looking at things, similar to these assessments, and basing their beliefs on the information they are getting from them.  Incorrect information that tells us nothing of what a child is actually capable of.  Assessments, that in fact are assessing nothing.  What is being learned?  What a massive waste of time and money.  We should be doing better.  Our children deserve better than this!

*We are hoping to have the video of Emma’s presentation at CoNGO up on the blog tomorrow!

April 9, 2014

April 9, 2014

15 responses to “What Are State Assessments Assessing?

  1. Hmmm…let me think…they’re assessing their own unquestioning acceptance of completely unfounded assumptions?

  2. A point tangential to the one you succinctly make around concern with Emma’s competence and well-being.
    From the 1960’s on American IQ testing was challenged because its questions were ethnically and culturally specific. Non-white, non-AngloSaxon, non-protestant groupings were being disadvantaged on their IQ scoring, because of a WASP bias in the questions. The challenge was that ‘intelligence’ was being incorrectly measured across such bias.
    Except, measuring intelligence may have been a token flagging of what was actually going on; namely the measuring of people as to their compliance with WASP hegemony. You got deemed intelligent, and moved within and moved up across the systems of that hegemony, as per your IQ scoring.
    Emma may not be being measured as to how intelligent she is, but rather as to how she will comply with a prevailing hegemonic system. The data yielded may there be useful and accurate across its real purpose.
    How the questions were asked in this assessment, is likely to have reflected the standard operating mode of the current system. Emma is there being tested as to how well she will function in and for that hegemonic system. Our current hegemonic (the only one in town) system is not primarily concerned with accommodation; rather the operational needs of the system come way first. The data yielded by this testing orientates to and serves these needs.
    What you articulate perspective on, becomes a locus across which to challenge that system and its hegemony; as well as serving to support and nurture and protect Emma, regards demonstration of competence.
    Please excuse the long ramble. The posts of Emma and yourself are thought-provoking.

  3. lilytigerheart

    This aggravates me to no end! These children are bound to choose incorrectly, if they choose at all, when they are only allowed to respond in one manner. Emma proved that by always choosing the last choice when she had to answer out loud, but choosing the correct answer when using her letter board. The assessments show nothing at all about the students if they do not allow them (the students) to answer in their own manner that actually show their true level of intelligence. Without that allowance, the assessments only show that the teachers can read, period.

  4. Haha pretty close to what I was about to start a post on. Everyone gets so caught up in test and assessment scores. Parents of autistic kids are often devastated by their results (my aspie excelled at them until writing got involved). I think the underlying problem is they are assumed to be traveling more slowly down the standard developmental path…well duh their brains are wired differently. My contention is that theyre where they are supposed to be ON A TOTALLY DIFFERENT PATH so measuring against people on the standard path is completely pointless, bc they’re not going that particular direction! The two intersect and merge at different points, but are not the same. It’s our choice whether to keep ourselves and kids miserably pushing down the wrong path or embrace hopping over to the right one and cheering them on wherever it may lead. Well now that I’ve written half of it out i think ill just copy and paste lol.

  5. Yeah…..I taught school and was always hated those tests. When I was teaching EC (3-5 year olds special ed) I was told that only 3 of my students (I got to pick) could take the “alternate test”. Something about statistically only so many people needed the alternate test so therefore that is how it must be in my class. So I had to sit and ask a non verbal child to verbally tell me the beginning, middle, and end of a story. Completely ridiculous. My other beef with these standardized tests, other than that is that there is almost NO leeway in how our kids can answer, is that our kids are not standard learners. So why should they have to take a standardized test.

  6. How is it even the case that they’re not required to put in place whatever accommodation she needs?! I’m sadly not surprised, but…that’s scary.

  7. I have similar concerns. My son, with his executive function issues, finds it very difficult to sit down and focus on standardized tests. Once he walked out leaving the test unfinished. When you look at the chart of his test scores, it looks like a mountain range – sharply up and down. Yet he can demonstrate his knowledge and understanding in different circumstances. Standardize testing certainly does not reflect his skills or what he has learned.

  8. boxed assessments are BS

  9. M does the same thing with multiple choice questions…I got so I was asking questions and holding out each hand to indicate a possible answer, and he could point to the hand, but I don’t know what they do with him at school during the testing. Never even knew there was an opt-out until a year or so ago.
    Frankly, I’d opt-out both my kids. I wish our school system would have the guts to say NO – the teachers feel that way, just based on my conversations with them – and it does rob massive time from any possibility of teaching things like non-cognitive skills, amongst other things we’ve lost in the last few decades….

  10. For children like Emma these assessments are worse than useless, they are harmful because they give a false result. If the goal is only to measure comprehension then there is no valid reason not to provide whatever accommodations might be required. As it stands the format implicitly tests for a certain level of ability with spoken language which is irrelevant to knowledge and understanding, invalidating any results of the assessment. Maybe the writers of these tests need their comprehension testing by somebody like Emma?

  11. My kids are currently taking these too. The other day Jesse told me he needed to write an essay on “something that could very well happen in the future, but hasn’t happened yet.” I suggested aliens visiting planet Earth. Good one, right?

    Jesse *freaked* out, said no way, he would get in trouble, the teachers would yell at him, etc. I thought it was perfectly reasonable. But hey, what do you expect from a planet that doesn’t believe in global warming? *Sighs and scratches head*.

  12. I think it depends upon the state and/or the school. I know of quite a few students who are allowed to answer via letterboard or written choice.

  13. I feel like these tests only help line the pockets of the companies selling them and the politicians that get funding from these companies and that is it! They do not help any student show their knowledge and the do not help schools and teachers provide a better education by knowing the results of these tests. UGH!! I HATE STATE ASSESSMENTS!!!

  14. I have to revisit this post just for a rant lol Its almost comical, and why I am very wary of putting my son into the school system…Got his latest cognitive assessment today. His FSIQ is a 51 which is extremely low. So apparently my 4yo who knows numbers, letters, shapes, colors (and has for at least a yr and a half now), can spell some words, highly suspected to be able to read others, do 20 pc jigsaw puzzles…ok I don’t really need to go on here do i?…apparently hes severely intellectually handicapped lol. And the thing that bugs me the most is a LOT of parents actually take these assessments as gospel! I don’t personally at all because I know they are not accurate representations, but I worry that things like this will be used in the future to determine his capacity to learn in school and his placement. argh!

  15. usethebrainsgodgiveyou

    Sweet Jesus…It’s not the test, but your discovery of Miss Emma’s communication quirks that blows me away…When Ben was young and echolalic, any question you asked him, the answer was always a repetition of the last thing you said.(“Do you want to go to the park?” (me) “Go to the park?” (Ben) I thought meant yes, but it could have been an inescapable reply, almost like…an impulse.) You and Emma are blowing my mind…

    I had a student I gave an assessment to, which I read to her, who slapped the card that contained the right answer, out of a choice of 3. (The assessment in Carolina did offer a variety of accommodations, but I came up with this one by accident.) She had no language, or ability to write. If total accommodations (which are hard to figure out) are not given, what they may be assessing is the teachers ignorance. Ya know what I’m saying??

    What an amazing time to be alive. Thank you for giving so much for our kids…

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