Testing Accommodations to Encourage Participation by Students with Disabilities in the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA)
Following is the text of the above named document as prepared by the Eastern Instructional Support Center (now PaTTAN) and published in December 1996. As regulations now require inclusion of virtually every student in this testing, despite the fact that it was not designed for students with disabilities, this information becomes even more important as you make decisions regarding acceptable accommodations.
According to the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) Coordinators Handbook, "ALL Students enrolled in public schools... are to be included in the assessment process." The purpose of this booklet is to help Pennsylvania educators to obtain the participation of ALL students in the PSSA tests, specifically students with disabilities. Accommodations that will allow students with disabilities to participate in the testing are listed and, where necessary, briefly described.
Why include all students?
The State Board of Education in its Curriculum regulations established as State policy "The Board's high expectations for all schools and all students..." 22 Pa. Code §5.2(1). The Board also stated that "Some students will achieve more quickly than others, although all are capable of high levels of achievement." 22 Pa. Code §5.2(4).
Chapter 14 special education regulations and the Chapter 15 regulations pertaining to protected handicapped students also support this perspective. Chapter 14 addresses the issue of student participation through the student's Individualized Education Program, the IEP. The Chapter 14 regulations state that the IEP of a student is to contain "A description of the extent to which the eligible student will participate in programs and activities with noneligible students and of the adaptations, if any, to activities which are necessary to ensure the student's meaningful participation." 22 Pa. Code §14.31(f)(6).
Chapter 15 students have their needs addressed in service agreements developed by the student's parents and an appropriate school administrator. Chapter 15 states "the law and its regulations require public educational agencies to ensure that these students have equal opportunity to participate in the school program and extracurricular activities to the maximum extent appropriate to the ability of the protected handicapped student in question. School districts are required to provide these students with the aids, services, and accommodations that are designed to meet the educational needs of the protected handicapped students as adequately as the needs of nonhandicapped students are met." 22 Pa. Code §15.1(b).
During the IEP team meeting or the Service Planning meeting, the participants must address the student's instructional and assessment needs. Therefore, accommodations that need to be made to ensure a student's meaningful participation in the PSSA should be addressed at this time.
What are accommodations?
The words "accommodation", "adaptation", and "modification" are often used synonymously. For the purpose of this booklet, an accommodation is defined as anything that is changed so as to become suitable or anything that meets a need. Ideally, the testing situation would simply be an extension of the instructional setting. Those accommodations used in the instructional process should be used, if appropriate, when assessing a student. The intent of providing an accommodation is to ensure that the student with a disability is not put at a disadvantage in the testing situation.
Below is a list of some accommodations (this is not an exhaustive list) which may be used to assist a student with disabilities to participate in the statewide assessment.
(In all cases, answers must be transferred into the regular answer booklet).
(Any assistive technology currently being used to access the curriculum.)
Can a student be excluded?
If you feel one of these reasons is appropriate for one of your students, you should contact your school/district test coordinator.
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