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"The Test Score May Not Be Representative of Student's Ability."

Categories: Disability Type, Learning Disabilities, Parenting

Parent and teacher Mary Alice Landis recently wrote us to ask: pic"Is Learning Ally aware of the fact that PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) has a text to speech accommodation which at first I believed leveled the playing field for our bright dyslexics. Unfortunately however, I received notice that his test results will state, 'The score may not be representative of student's ability.' I find this to be very discriminatory. What if a student needed hearing aids, glasses, or ADHD medication? Would this be stated also? The 8th grade passage for example was over 40 paragraphs long." LA-4235_LRTo answer her question, we reached out to two experts in the field -- Jamie Martin and Dr. Kelli Sandman-Hurley -- who have been presenters in our public webinars and online dyslexia conference Spotlight on Dyslexia. Here's what they each had to say:   pic2Jamie Martin:  First of all, I believe that giving standardized tests is a fundamentally inaccurate way to measure students' knowledge and potential, regardless of whether or not those students have learning differences. Having to perform well while taking a high-stakes test is completely different than performing well in real-life situations. I, myself, scored very poorly (twice!) on the SAT when I was in high school. I do not have a learning difference, and my grades in school placed me in the top ten of my graduating class. Yet, my SAT scores prevented me from being accepted into my top two college choices. Today, I consider myself to be very successful in my profession, but a standardized test certainly did not predict that.
For students with learning differences, especially in the age of abundant assistive technology, standardized tests are even more inaccurate in being able to predict academic readiness and potential. The fact that PARCC actually has a LA-1981_LRtext-to-speech accommodation for students with dyslexia is a step in the right direction. However, it is not enough. The only thing that text-to-speech accommodates is a dyslexic student's inability to decode well. It does not address the fact that a dyslexic student's vocabulary may be low because of his or her learning difference. It also does not provide any tools that can help a dyslexic student comprehend a complex reading passage. In authentic situations that involve reading, students with dyslexia can employ several different assistive technologies to get the most out of a piece of writing. They can use text-to-speech for decoding, an electronic dictionary to help with vocabulary, and various electronic annotation tools to help identify and comprehend key ideas. By using a variety of AT outside of high-stakes testing situations, bright dyslexic students can perform just as well as their non-dyslexic classmates of equal intelligence. In terms of how the text-to-speech accommodation is noted on the PARCC assessment report, parents do agree to a notation that text-to-speech was used. I don't have a problem with that, as students who use AT need to be able to communicate their need for technology accommodations, especially if they go to college where their accommodations are not spelled out in an IEP. If, in fact, the PARCC assessment report indicates that the score "may not be representative of student's ability," then I do believe it is including an unfair qualifying statement. Assistive technology gives students with dyslexia the opportunity to showcase their ability; it does not give them a false level of performance. That kind of implication is just uninformed and can be detrimental to the students. Jamie MartinJamie Martin has been an educator for over 20 years, with a passion for working with dyslexic students. He is currently an assistive technology consultant and trainer. For more information about assistive technology, please visit his website: www.atdyslexia.com.     pic2Dr. Kelli Sandman-Hurley:  Mary's main concern appears to be that if her dyslexic child used the text-to-speech accommodation on the PARCC the following disclaimer would accompany her child’s score report, “The score may not be representative of student's ability." My first thought is that this comment should accompany everyone’s score. We all know standardized testing does not truly represent a student’s true academic ability. What if they had a bad day? What if they had a headache? These tests only measure one moment in time. Furthermore, how do we know the questions on this test are actually written well? In fact, Pearson had to remove an entire story from a standardized test recently because it was ‘bizarre’. And truth be told, I did terribly on the SAT, without a learning disability, when I was in high school, and I still turned out okay. LA-2019_LRHaving said all of that, I do know this mom has a valid concern. The test is supposed to be assessing what the student knows and what they comprehend. After a little research on the website, it appears that they are not assessing decoding abilities. I took the third grade practice test and they are measuring the students’ ability to comprehend written material. So, if they are only assessing what a student can understand and what they do with that understanding, which is the purpose of education, then the asterisked statement is for naught and unnecessary. This student may not be able to accurately and/or fluently decode the material, but if he understands it, then no asterisk is needed. Upon further investigation into this matter, the manual on the PARCC website does state that the students’ test scores are not shared outside of the school and that only teachers receive the information, so perhaps the worry is better saved for another situation. Or perhaps, this is a an opportunity to point out to those who create, administer and oversee these standardized assessments that students with dyslexia are just as intellectually capable as their peers and that they need not confuse the ability to read with the ability to understand. Dr. Kelli Sandman-Hurleypic3 is the co-founder of the Dyslexia Training Institute. She received her doctorate in literacy with a specialization in reading and dyslexia from San Diego State University and the University of San Diego. Editors Note: For more information on the exact wording, please see page 36 of the PARCC Accessibility Features Online Manual.  "Reporting Notation to Schools and Parents: A notation will be provided on all confidential score reports to the school and parent (i.e., parent/guardian report, school roster, and district roster) stating that the student was given a reading access accommodation on the PARCC ELA/literacy assessment and therefore, no claims should be inferred regarding the student’s ability to demonstrate foundational reading skills (i.e., decoding and fluency)." ------------------ REVISED-LALogo_Stacked_Tag - CopyDo you have a question for us? Visit Learning Ally's "Ask a Parent" section or set up a one-on-one phone consultation with a member of our parent support team. You can do that by calling 800.635.1403 or by logging onto your membership dashboard. As always, parent consultations are free.