School Tests and My Hopes for My Children

Written by Lyn Pollard, Parent Advocacy Manager | 5 years ago

As parents, we are always looking for ways to be more accepting of our kids. We are constantly looking for ways to best meet their needs, too. As mom to two children with learning and attention issues, taking into account my kids’ unique learning needs and making sure I am making the best choices for them in all educational situations is a big part of my job as a parent.

When it comes to high-stakes testing, many parents are experiencing frustration, confusion and the desire to come up with better solutions for all kids. But, like you, I also understand that as a parent I have to make the best decisions for my child when it comes to testing – right now – while solutions are yet on the horizon. These decisions include allowing my kids full access to tests that will put them on track to graduating from high school with a regular diploma; and knowing how they are doing as compared to their peers without disabilities. This is so important because despite their challenges at school, my kids have the right to be on track to attend the university of their dreams, and to pursue the career of their choice. As a parent, I have to do everything I can to make this possible.

But to make the best decisions about tests, parents must be informed and involved in the process of deciding whether their child takes a general or alternate assessment. Parents also need to understand that data from tests help prompt schools to make changes that benefit our kids – like increasing access to general education and new trainings for teachers on learning disabilities.

The other important thing to know, is that by setting a low cap on how many students can take alternate assessments means that more kids with learning and attention issues are on the right track for graduation. A 1% cap on the alternate assessment still allows kids with more severe disabilities who need this specialized test to take it. But at the same time, the lower cap allows greater access to the regular test for kids who need and want to be on their “dream school” college track.

On this note, there are two federal-level bills currently being considered that parents need to know about and consider supporting:

  • The Empowering Parents & Students Through Information Act (S. 528), introduced by Senator Casey (PA) seeks to make sure that parents are informed and involved in the process of deciding whether their child takes the general or alternate assessment.
  • Every Child Counts Act (S. 516), introduced by Senator Murphy (CT), limits the alternate assessment to only 1% of students.

My friend and fellow concerned parent, Rosette Roth from PA, is quoted in this press release written by Sen. Casey’s office. Rosette is a great example of a parent who is using her voice to help spread the word about these important bills. Like Rosette, I am thankful for lawmakers who are writing legislation that helps protect parents and kids in the school setting.

I also urge you to reach out to your Senators and tell them how both of these bills can help your child with learning and attention issues stay on the right track. Your voice is important, and also tells our national leaders that parents do, indeed, want to be part of these decisions and to be informed about next steps and future solutions.

Keep in mind that kids with learning disabilities do have help and support for high-stakes tests. Consider what accommodations might help your child both at school and on testing day. Find out how your state or school district administers an accommodated test or implements accommodations on a regular test. There are lots of accommodation options for your child that can help to make testing days less stressful and more successful. Every state has their own test, so be sure to see your state’s website for the most up-to-date information.

Tests are a current reality – whether we love them or not. And we as parents can do a lot to assure that all kids are given appropriate access to the right test, so that kids can get and stay on the right track. We can also be assured that by allowing our kids with disabilities to take high-stakes tests, that the right data will fuel the conversation about how schools can improve services and supports for our kids.