From PEATC Press, Winter 1997
Testing Accommodations and Equal Access
By Jean Durgin
Testing accommodations will become critically important to Virginia students with disabilities in the year 2004 when, in order to receive a standard or advanced studies diploma, all students must earn prescribed credits and pass a Standards of Learning (SOL) test for each course. This means the child who is now in 6th grade or younger will have to pass a test of high school level competencies in order to get a regular diploma.
The IDEA â€™97 Amendments raise the standards for students by requiring access to the regular education curriculum. State and federal law requires that students with disabilities be given equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from programs granted to all individuals. For some students, taking the SOL tests in a different way will allow them to demonstrate their degree of learning without unfairly enhancing or compromising their performance.
Virginiaâ€™s Standards of Learning Assessments are intended to measure the achievement of students in the areas of English, Mathematics, History/Social Science and Science at grades 3,5,8, and in specific high school courses, and technology at grades 5 and 8.
A decision must be made for each student receiving services or accommodations under the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The IEP or Section 504 team must specify the studentâ€™s participation in the SOL Assessments:
Each studentâ€™s parent should be an active participant in making these decisions. Accommodations used in SOL testing are those the student generally uses during classroom instruction and assessment and must be identified on the studentâ€™s Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Management Tool. Questions to be considered are:
If the answer to each question is YES, the next decision is whether standard or nonstandard accommodations will be provided.
Some accommodation allows a student to take the test in a different way without changing what the test is measuring. Examples are:
Accommodations which are permissible but do not maintain standard conditions are those which significantly change what a test is measuring. Scores resulting from a nonstandard accommodation must be so identified. Examples are:
Exemptions from Testing
Exemption from any SOL assessment should be considered only for students whose instructional program will not include the SOLs on which the test is based. The IDEA â€™97 Amendments envision students with disabilities having greater access to regular education instruction, which could lead to more special education students receiving regular diplomas. If a parent or student requests exemption from SOL assessments, the IEP or 504 team will consider the request and be certain that all parties understand the ramifications of the exemption.
For a complete explanation of guidelines for participation in the SOL assessments, request a copy of Supts. Memo No. 162 date October 17, 1997 from your local school or the VA Department of Education, P.O. Box 2120, Richmond, VA 23218-2120.
Â© PEATC 1997, All right reserved. Please distribute with attribution to PEATC, www.peatc.org.
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