Modified Testing Ends For State Standardized Tests - Newschannel 6 Now | Wichita Falls, TX

Modified Testing Ends For State Standardized Tests

 Changes will make its way across Texas schools in 2015. The state will end modified versions of standardized testing, or STAAR M, for students with special needs, or learning disabilities.

The Texas Education Agency announced the changes in 2013. The change in testing came after the US Department of Education released a change to federal regulations that would preclude states from using assessments based on modified testing, according to the TEA.

The change in testing will eliminate the modified category, and instead create a new one. Students with special educational needs, who took those modified versions will now take STAAR A.

STAAR A is essentially the same as the STAAR, but with some accommodations. Students who previously took the STAAR M, took the test with questions written in simplified language, and where one answer was eliminated, according to Lauren Callahan, Information Specialist with the TEA.

Those features will not be available on the new assessment. Questions will be the same as the original STAAR assessment.

The STAAR A is an online test, and will not be administered using traditional paper, and bubble sheets.

“The standardization of the online format will allow TEA to make additional accommodations available to students that may not be appropriate to allow in paper and pencil-based tests,” said Callahan.

The online version of the test will display one question per page. On each page, there will be a number of tools used to help provide help to students who need it.

“They have, what they call, rollovers and popups,” said Cyndy Kohl, Director of Assessment at Wichita Falls Independent School District. They “provide clarification to the students and they also have embedded supplemental aid for the students.”

The Wichita Falls Independent School District officials said they've started preparing for the changes last year.

“We have been working  consistently with our special education and curriculum departments so that the teachers are receiving specialized training through the content areas just like the other teachers do,” said Kohl.

Kohl said the changes will force students and teachers to step up educational standards.    

“So they are accommodating in the classroom for students on grade level, versus the modified test that really was not on grade level,” said Kohl.

“We understand the concerns of teachers and school districts when it comes to providing the testing accommodations needed for some students,” said Callahan. “Despite this federal decision, we remain committed to providing all our students with a strong education.

Much like STAAR M, you still have to qualify for the accommodations in order to take the STAAR A. Wichita Falls I.S.D. officials said there are both negative and positive aspects to the changes.

“There are a lot of accommodations that are available to the student through this interface that they might not be eligible for otherwise,” said Kohl.

But for some students, who struggle, these new changes could be a problem. And because the test is online children could click through the test, or the online test provider could crash, according to Kohl.

“Time will only tell,” said Kohl.

Examples for the new STAAR A testing is available online. The W.F.I.S.D. has set up various links to help parents and students overcome the changes. School officials recommend parents review all information before standardized testing begins.

Brittany Costello, Newschannel 6

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