In my position, I provide inclusion support to special education students. This involves a lot of co-teaching, modifying assessments on the go, and sometimes it feels like I’m constantly juggling. Many of my students struggle with showing what they know during a test, and I juggle with the balance between helping them show what they know and providing them too much help that it is not a proper assessment. Here are some of the things that I do when my students are taking tests.
Many of my students benefit from taking their tests and quizzes in a separate setting, more specifically in my classroom with me instead of the general education classroom with the rest of their peers. This helps in many ways. First, it allows them to have a setting with fewer distractions. There are fewer students in the room so they are not distracted by a larger number of students who may be getting up and moving around the classroom. Also, in a separate setting, the students are more likely to ask me questions. When I ask them about this, they tell me that they are afraid to ask too many questions in front of their friends. They are afraid because they are afraid people will think they are stupid (their words not mine). Although, they often ask me questions that I can not answer, at least they are taking the initiative to try and get help.
I tell my students that as long as they are doing well, whether or not they come to my room is their choice. My students are in eighth grade, which means they are thirteen or fourteen years old. At this age, I want them to start to take some responsibility for their learning and decide what helps them perform the best.
In math, my students often benefit from seeing a sample problem. If they are coming to my room, I put a sample problem on the board. In the sample, I list the steps or formulas and I solve the problem. This helps jog their memory for the students who struggle to remember steps. If my students are taking the assessment in the general education classroom, I usually attach a sample problem to their paper. So that they still are getting the same support. When I do things for students in the general education classroom, I try to be as subtle as possible.
In math, I always provide students with reference sheets. I start with the generic reference sheet that they are allowed to use for the state testing. These reference sheets give them information that they could use that is not what we are assessing them on. If you have a student that is struggling with their integer operations, they are never going to be able to successfully solve multi-step equations independently. We need to keep in mind what we are assessing. Do you want to assess whether or not they can remember and apply the rules for solving equations? Or you do you want to assess whether or not they can solve multi-step equations while remembering how to solve computation problems across all four operations with positive and negative numbers. Either answer is fine, but it is important to note what your goal is, and provide them support for the areas that you are not assessing.
On writing assignments or reading assignments, I provide them with the appropriate checklists. These are the checklists that I use. It is necessary to remind them what you are looking for. Giving them a checklist to remind them what they are looking for with editing, or what is necessary for an adequate open response, is giving them the aid that they need to help them be as successful as their general education peers.
This is one that I often have to debate with my general education teachers. But it is something that I feel strongly about. If you are giving a test that is going to be high in vocabulary, no matter what content area, it is going to be difficult for students to populate their list of words. For many of my students, the nature of their disability makes it difficult for them to memorize things. When it is time to take the test, they may understand the meaning of all of the words, but they may struggle with remembering what all of the words were off of the top of their head. By giving them a word bank, you are not making it easier, you are making it possible for them to be successful.
Modifying their math assessments
When I modify math assessments, I do it depending on the students’ needs. It seems like a lot of work, and it can be, but I often have 3-4 versions of the same test. For students who have difficulty with their pacing, but are academically strong, I take off questions of varying abilities so that it is shorter but not necessarily easier. For students who are lower, I will take off problems that have fractions and decimals, when we are not assessing fractions and decimals, because I want to see if they have mastered the topic. If they are doing great with solving equations but still struggle with fractions, I want to focus on solving equations if that is what is being assessed. For some students the curriculum is modified so I take off questions that are extention problems and do not focus on the core topic.
We need to remember that each student is different, and what works for one student is not necessarily going to work for another. Instead of trying to get our students to work to fit the mold that we have for them, we need to remember that there is no mold.
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