Saturday, September 12, 2009

Alternate Assessment

What type of testing are you required to do with your students yearly?  In Ohio, my students have to do the Ohio Alternate Assessment for Students with Disabilities (AASWD).  Although AASWD paperwork is not due until around February/March, I've already started getting emails about timelines for the year, and looking at signing up for a training to find out changes for the assessment this year.  Our Alternate Assessment consists of the following:

  • Students are to be assessed on academics in four categories, relating to the state standards for their grade level
  • 6th grade: Reading: Literary Text, Reading: Acquisition of Vocabulary, Math: Number and Number Sense, and Math: Patterns, Functions, Algebra.
  • 7th grade: Reading: Informational Text, Writing: Writing Applications, Math: Data Analysis and Probability, and Math: Measurment
  • 8th grade: Reading: Reading Process, Math: Geometry and Spatial Sense, Science: Earth and Space Sciences, and Social Studies: History.
  • Each category requires 2-3 pieces of evidence that the student can successfully meet that standard, and these can consist of captioned photos, work samples, data taken, observations written by teachers/related service providers, peer observations, interviews with parents, teachers.  There are a few other options, but these are the main ones that I use.
  • Each piece of evidence must be paired with an entry sheet that contains all the information about that student, the standard, the tasks they will complete and how they relate to the standard, least restrictive environment, setting, peer interactions, and how they did on the task.  
  • There is also an entry sheet for each standard category that you have to fill out, to state which tasks you chose to meet that standard.  
As anyone who works in this field knows, Alternate Assessments are A  LOT of paperwork, and cause a lot of complaining by teachers and staff (sometimes even students).  Just an email stating we need to start looking at the AASWD timeline can lead to groans and complaints, dreading all the work that is ahead.

I've always tried to have a different perspective and more positive view of Alternate Assessment.  Yes, it is a whole lot of work on the teachers part, and no I do not get compensated any extra for all the extra time and work that goes into these.  And I agree, it is a TON of paperwork and I tend to have a lot less patience around that time of the year.  However, I think it is still important that the state is holding these students to a standard, and expecting accountability from teachers.  If we weren't expected to do this, I don't know that all Special Ed. teachers I work with would make nearly the effort to align with state standards and get their students interacting in the regular classroom on these goals.  I try to look at it as even more opportunities for my students to interact with their peers and community members, more ways to get them involved with the typical curriculum, and a chance for them to show off what they can do!  I can't tell you how many times I've head a staff member from the office, or a person in the community say something like "wow, I wondered what kind of schoolwork these guys do, that's pretty cool" or "that's neat how John can use a switch to have a conversation with me".  It's another way to get these students out in their buildings, out in the community, and expose others to what these guys are working on.

With Alternate Assessment, you also choose which tasks are appropriate for your student.  I think the tasks suggested often give me new ideas of activities I can do with my students.  One document, that has always been a lifesaver for me in coming up with new ideas, is Linking students with the Most Significant Disabilities to Meaningful Standards-Based Tasks.  Even if you don't work in Ohio, I recommend checking this out.  It was written by Kathy Staugler, whose name you might recognize as she has played a big part in developing the Unique curriculum created by News-2-You.

The point I wanted to make in this post is to not let these assessments get you down; try to keep a positive attitude, and start as early as you can!  It definitely helps avoid that panic when you are scrambling to get data sheets filled out at the last minute.

1 comment:

  1. Kristie,

    My name is Andrew Hinkle. I work at the ODE in the office of assessment. I am the assessment lead for the alternate assessment (AASWD).

    I would like to congratulate you on this blog. Your honesty (the TONS of paper work) and your insight about the good of the process (everything else you wrote) is truly commendable. I wish you the best of luck this year with teaching and assessing.