New Testing Requirements for Children with Disabilities a Plus for Virginia Schools

Written by Patricia Hawke for

Previously, the Virginia schools were required to test, under the No Child Left Behind Act, many of its children with disabilities in reading, math and science, regardless of their ability to do so. Unless they were severely disabled, the children had to take state-required tests for their grade level — whether or not they had the skills and understanding. Thus, many of these special students failed the tests. Testing grades were third, eighth and 11th on an annual basis.
This caused several problems that were frustrating for both the Virginia schools educators and the children:
  • Their test scores were pulling down the school state rankings. Virginia schools are required to meet annual student achievement goals based upon these test scores. If they do not meet the goals, Virginia schools experience many possible sanctions, such as losing students to better scoring schools, reorganizing or closing.
  • It made the students feel like failures, since they do not have the capacity to participate fully in the testing process at their grade level.
  • Virginia schools educators had no accurate indicator as to how well these students were progressing or failing. Since the testing was created for the non-disabled child at grade level, there was no accurate benchmark or test to show how these disabled children were progressing and what might be needed to do a better job for them.
In April 2007, the U.S. Education Department modified its rules governing the testing of special education children. For those Virginia schools students who are not apt to reach grade level achievement within the same timeframe as their peers without disabilities, they will be able to take a modified test.
Special tests will be written for individual students on their grade level content but at their level of understanding and ability.  Otherwise, a Virginia schools fifth grade, disabled child with a third grade understanding will take a test at a third grade level of comprehension on the fifth grade content. To ensure the new regulations are not abused, schools can test up to an additional two percent of students, who meet the eligibility requirements, under the modified testing rules.
The federal government will give states more than $21 million to cover the cost of creating the new tests and guidelines for their use. The new tests are slated to be put into service by the 2008-2009 school year.
With the new changes, state rankings of the Virginia schools will more accurately reflect the true achievements (or lack thereof) of each school. Additionally, Virginia schools teachers will be able to use the test scores to target problem areas for each of these children.  The students can more fully participate in the testing process, showing teachers and parents what they have learned and how they are progressing.
The new modifications for Virginia schools testing are a welcomed change by students, educators and parents alike, making the Virginia schools testing a more useful tool — not just a hit or miss measurement.
This information on Virginia schools is brought to you by