Logan Assistant Principal Linda Kingston today sent staff the schedule for the STAR testing this year. This year's' schedule, like last year's spans five days, starting on April 24, a Tuesday, and continues for the rest of that week, and finishes, after a break from testing on Monday, on Tuesday, May 1.
While Logan prepares for the testing, the scores of which are important to the school for comparative purposes and because funding is tied to improvements in the scores from year to year, the U.S. Department of Education Thursday announced new regulations for the testing of students with learning disabilities.
The new regulatons allow "states to test certain students with disabilities using an alternate assessment that more appropriately aligns with students' needs and yields more meaningful results for schools and parents. The new regulations provide states and schools with greater flexibility by allowing them to more accurately evaluate these students' academic progress and tailor instruction based on individual needs," according to a statement released by the department.
Under the new regulations released Thursday, states may develop modified academic achievement standards based on grade-level content, and alternate assessments based on those standards, for students with disabilities who are capable of achieving high standards but may not reach grade level in the same timeframe as their peers.
"States may count proficient and advanced test scores on these alternate assessments for up to 2.0 percent of all students assessed when calculating adequate yearly progress (AYP) under NCLB. These regulations build on the flexibility provided for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, which allows states to count up to 1.0 percent of proficient and advanced assessment scores based on alternate achievement standards toward AYP calculation," according to the statement.
Cindy O'Brien, Logan's testing specialist, said "I think it's about time" the rules were changed.
"It's cruel and unusual punishment to ask kids to take a test on information they can't access."
It's stressful for learning disabled students to take the same tests everyone else takes. "They sweat blood," O-Brien said.
Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said, "Through No Child Left Behind, we're continuing to raise the bar and improve the way we educate and assess students with disabilities," Secretary Spellings said. "These students are capable of achieving high academic standards, and now states and schools can be better attuned to their needs. No Child Left Behind has put the needs of students with disabilities front and center, and this regulation helps continue to drive the field forward in developing better tests for students with disabilities."
Spellings also announced that the department will provide $21.1 million in grant funds to help states develop new tests for these students. The department also released written guidance to states on the implementation of the new regulations, offering recommendations on issues such as how students with disabilities can be appropriately identified for this assessment.
California's Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell said, "I appreciate the flexibility offered by the federal government that allows us to hold students with disabilities to high standards, but also measures their knowledge and abilities with an assessment that is appropriate to the students’ unique needs."
He said the new regulations give the state "important flexibility to measure the academic achievement of 20 percent of students with disabilities through the development of modified assessments. These regulations support the ongoing work by the California Department of Education to develop tests to appropriately measure the knowledge and ability of students with disabilities, while keeping absolute faith with California's commitment to world-class standards."
He said, "Students with disabilities, like all students, deserve a rigorous education that prepares them for success in the workforce or in college after graduation,"
"Continued development of the California Modified Assessment will allow us to maintain the benefit of flexibility for hundreds of districts across the state for up to two additional years so that districts and schools are not unnecessarily labeled as failing."