It’s spring, and that means more daylight, spring flowers…and standardized testing. For children with special needs, this often means endless hours of stress. Tasks that are too difficult are presented in a quiet room away from other students, with the help of a teacher or paraprofessional, broken down into smaller time blocks and smaller “chunks” of work—and it doesn’t matter. The children who struggle with reading, writing, attention, fine motor skills, comprehension or language are not well-served by these tests.
As parents of children with special needs, you know how much you worry about your child’s learning and progress. You want to know how your child is doing. You worry about the testing that seems to take more time every year—time when your child could be learning. It wouldn’t be so bad if the test results were helpful, but in many cases parents tell me they don’t get anything useful from the results. That’s because the tests are designed for children who are learning (and hopefully mastering) the material at an average pace. This does not describe most of the children we know and love.
If your child is performing close to average, or slightly below, there is some value in measuring them against their peers. Suggestions to help:
- Make sure your children know that tests results have no impact on whether they get promoted
- Encourage them to use the testing as a learning experience, for them to practice their reading comprehension, their ability to stay focused and check their work, their arithmetic skills
- Talk with them about what the tests were like, and whether they felt successful or overwhelmed
- Help them prepare with some practice at home, on the weekends, in their areas of need. Set the timer for a child who struggles with attention, give them practice worksheets, have them outline or dictate a response to a writing prompt
- Of course, make a list of how they can prepare: sleep, breakfast, protein snacks, a preferred type of pencil, etc.
If your child performs significantly below average, struggles with language or writes very little, if they are in a substantially separate classroom for even part of the day, consider keeping your child out of the testing situation.
- By law, this is your right as a parent. You do not have to allow your child to take these standardized tests.
- If you don’t believe you will learn anything useful, then there isn’t any reason to stress and upset your child for weeks at a time. After all, you are concerned with their mental health, too.
- Let the school know that you do not want your child to participate in the testing. If the school insists, keep your child home.
- Consider an independent evaluation if you want an accurate picture of what your child can do, and at what level.
In my book for parents, No Parent Left Behind: Navigating the Special Education Universe, there is more discussion of standardized testing, and how parents can find out whether their child is making effective progress. This is what you want—and need—to know, in order to help your child.
Please contact me with questions or concerns, and feel free to share this with other parents or professionals who might be interested. Good luck, and happy Spring!