While my students have definitely started the countdown to the last day of school, my work is far from over! Spring means preparation for state assessments, standardized testing, PSAT / SAT for high school students, and final exams for junior high and high school kids. While I don’t have control over the standardized assessments other than advocating for accommodations, I can control some aspects of final exams for class content!
It is important to include as many accommodations for testing as possible into students IEPs and 504s so that they are ready when exams come. Depending on the needs of the student, some of the most common accommodations are:
- Extending testing time
- Reading aloud and/or clarifying test items
- Use of the HAT system by the test administrator
- Use of organizers and outlines
- Providing individual or small group test space
I’ve found that with some preparation, most teachers are receptive to simplifying or rewording test questions so that my students with hearing loss can show what they really understand about a concept rather than getting questions wrong because they were confused by the phrasing of a question. Since we have integrated this practice of modifying test items all year long, teachers understand the need for final exam modifications as well.
For example, some students struggle to extract the questions they’re expected to respond to when they’re embedded in lengthy text. In the example below, I read the test item aloud to my student, had him extrapolate the test questions—which I simplified and rewrote—and then he was then able to accurately respond, demonstrating his understanding.
Similarly, while many of our students with hearing loss are capable of using complex syntax to respond to open response items, they may still require word banks in order to use conjunctions and connective language correctly to respond to test items.
Students who are working on including structures such as cause and effect or persuasive language, may require language frames to support their open responses as in the image below.
While some students are perfectly comfortable with the teacher, myself, or another adult writing right on their test, others are more self-conscious and do not want extra attention. To resolve this issue, one high school English teacher gave me access to her Google Drive. This way, I can go in and modify the test for my student online. When the teacher hands out tests, my student gets her modified copy but it doesn’t look any different from anyone else’s at a quick glance so she does not feel uncomfortable. This teacher told me recently that she’s started giving my version of the test to several other students in the class after realizing it was her questioning format that was causing students to lose points, not their lack of understanding! Many students can benefit from modified test questions!
While teachers may not initially want to modify tests due to the extra work, once they understand the purpose, they are generally receptive. Making it clear that we are assessing what a student knows about a topic and NOT whether or not they can answer a question embedded in complex syntax also helps. As we teach students more and more of those language structures, they can become increasingly independent and successful with testing.
How do you work with teachers to modify assessments?