State and Federal education laws require states to conduct annual statewide assessments. NH’s statewide assessment for English language arts and mathematics is called “Smarter Balanced”. This year, NH 11th graders will take the College Board’s SAT in place of the Smarter Balanced statewide assessment test. The added bonus for students who would be taking the SAT prior to applying to college is that they will not have to pay to take the English language arts and mathematics portions of the SAT.
The statewide assessments are to be given to all children, including children with disabilities. In addition to the results for the overall group of children in each school/grade, results for specific subgroups of children, including children with disabilities, limited English proficient children, students from racial and ethnic minority groups, and children from families with low socio-economic status are disaggregated and reported.
Few children or their parents love testing, though. Children may find taking tests to be less interesting than other, more interactive learning activities. Some parents are concerned about whether the tests take up valuable instruction time, while others worry that these test-taking situations may provoke anxiety in their children. Parents sometimes ask, “Why is it important for my child to participate in the statewide assessment?”
There are several answers to that question. First, the statewide assessment provides schools and school districts with valuable information about how well their students are performing. The results help schools and districts know what they are doing well (proficient), and where they may need to focus additional resources, or use some different approaches to meet the needs of all students. The US Department of Education has set a minimum 95% participation rate; when at least 95% of students participate in the statewide assessment, there can be an assurance that the data is valid and reliable. If a lower percentage of students participate, the school, school district or state may be penalized.
The statewide assessments are the only regularly conducted monitoring activity that lets schools know whether they are meeting the needs of children with disabilities and children in the other subgroups as well as they are meeting the needs of their overall student population. This information is critical in identifying unmet needs, so that schools, school districts, parents and other key stakeholders can work together to address any areas in which students (all students or specific groups of students) are underperforming.
On an individual child basis, each student’s assessment results inform the child’s teachers and parents about the academic areas in which the child is performing at grade level, and the areas where the child may need extra help in order to be successful. For students with disabilities, the child’s performance on the statewide assessment is an additional piece of data that the child’s individualized education program (IEP) team considers to help them understand the child’s needs, and make informed decisions about how to meet those needs.
All NH students, with and without disabilities, are expected to take the statewide assessment. In accordance with their IEPs, in order to ensure that the assessment accurately reflects the student’s knowledge and skills, some students with disabilities may take the assessment with accommodations, while a small number of students with disabilities may take the NH alternate assessment. In extremely rare situations, a student may receive an approved exemption from participating in the statewide assessment. The approved exemptions are for medical emergency, serious illness or emotional distress, death in the family, or if the student enrolled after the assessment of the alternate assessment or participated in another state’s assessment system. These reasons are called “State Approved Special Considerations (SASC)”. Additional information about the SASC may be found on the NH Department of Education’s website at: http://education.nh.gov/instruction/assessment/exemptions.htm.
So, when you are asked the statewide assessment, and whether your child should participate – just say “yes”.
by Bonnie Dunham, Parent Information Center