Identifying and Addressing Learning Disorders

CONCERN

Standardized testing is needed to identify and address learning disorders.

REALITY

Standardized testing:
  • Is ineffective to identify or address learning disorders
  • May hurt the children that most need help, and
  • Limits the private education choices of 20,000 Oregon homeschoolers

IDENTIFYING AND ADDRESSING LEAING DISORDERS
Nationally normed standardized testing is designed and intended to compare and compartmentalize large groups of students receiving a standardized education.

The Stanford, Metropolitan, and Califoia Achievement Tests (SAT, MAT, and CAT), as well as the Iowa and Comprehensive Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS and CTBS), are designed so that only about half the test-takers will respond correctly to most items. The main objective of these tests is to rank, not to rate; to spread out the scores, not to gauge the quality of a given student or school. (Kohn)

A timed, fill-in-the-bubble test cannot diagnose an underlying learning disorder.

Diagnosis suggests the use of "formative" assessment--assessments that can help a teacher and student know what to do next. Standardized tests administered at the end of the year "summative assessment" cannot possible meet this need. Sound diagnostic practices also include understanding why a student is having difficulty or success and determining appropriate action. As snapshots with limited information, standardized tests provide neither an answer to "why" nor little guidance for successful instruction. (FairTest)

Educators, parents of home-educated children, as well as the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, recognize that a child's educational success requires the development of many skills, and that children develop these skills on individual time-tables. Parents who educate their own children, working with them on a one-to-one basis every day, are in the best position to identify areas of conce, and to seek appropriate diagnosis and treatment. Parents do not home educate in a vacuum. There are many community resources (as well as resources at the public school) that parents draw upon if they have concerns about their children's progress.Standardized testing is often an inappropriate measure of an individualized education, and does not identify or address learning disorders.

HOW STANDARDIZED TESTING HARMS HOMESCHOOLERS AT RISK
Children at risk need strong, supportive families with the freedom to tailor their education to their specific needs. This tailoring may include:

  • Giving the child extra time to develop in some areas
  • Finding different ways for the child to communicate their understanding
  • Finding different ways to present information in a manner that the child can assimilate
  • Developing strong vocational skills for children for whom college is not an appropriate option.

Forcing children with learning or developmental differences to take a high-stakes standardized test forces parents of these children to alter their educational approach, and teach to the test. This can waste valuable learning opportunities and waste months of time for children with learning challenges, as well as negatively affecting the children's self-confidence with testing that is inappropriate to their needs.Rather than an authentic assessment of the child's educational progress by the person most closely involved in the education, the child is tested by someone who has generally has no other interaction with the child, in a foreign environment, covering material that may be inappropriate for the child, under the stress of a time limitation.

By removing the requirement for state-mandated testing, those families that value standardized testing are free to continue to use it, and those who prefer alternative methods to assess their child's progress can use them as part of their educational plans.There are approximately 20,000 home educating students in Oregon today, benefiting from strong parental involvement and the opportunity to have an individualized education addressing their specific needs, without burdening the public education system.ESDs are spending approximately $.5 million each year to oversee a form of private education that is consistently producing well-educated and well-prepared young adults. The public education funds spent on state oversight of home education:

  • does not improve the quality of the education,
  • does not help children at risk, and
  • perpetuates a system that makes it more difficult for parents to help children at risk.

SOURCES

  • Standardized Testing and Its Victims by Alfie Kohn, Education Week, September 27, 2000
  • The Limits of Standardized Tests for Diagnosing and Assisting Student Learning, FairTest: The National Center for Fair & Open Testing, at www.fairtest.org/facts