Guidebook to Including Students with Disabilities and English Learners in Assessments

Lesson 6. Work with stakeholders to develop guidance for the field on making important testing decisions

Local educators make many decisions about testing for their students. They need clear guidance from the state about decisions for both assessment participation and needed accessibility features. Federally-funded projects and states have developed a wealth of materials that are useful for the purpose of working with stakeholders. In addition, if the student has a disability, parents must be involved in the decisions that are made for their children. Their participation as stakeholders is also beneficial. Similarly, involvement of parents of English learners is beneficial. There is a significant gap in the knowledge about these assessment topics in institutions of higher education, which in turn leaves a gap in the knowledge of educators entering schools. Thus, higher education is a stakeholder too.

Stakeholders include not only educators (including school administrators), but also families, parent training organizations, advocates, businesses, and other community members. Educators and parents are the main focus here, but states would do well to include other stakeholders as they think about their assessment.

Educators who make decisions about the participation of students in assessments and the accessibility supports (and accommodations) needed by students, as well as parents who are involved in the decision-making process, generally rely on guidance from the state. Although the content of the guidance is directed to some extent by federal requirements, there is much more needed on best practices to meet the needs of decision makers in states. Stakeholders can be helpful partners in developing guidance for the field.

An area of great need for educators is how to make decisions about which test a student should take or which approaches to accessibility might be needed. Training materials have been developed by federally funded projects (e.g., Improving the Validity of Assessment Results for English Language Learners with Disabilities [IVARED] project, Alabama Multi-State General Supervision Enhancement Grant [GSEG], Data Informed Accessibility – Making Optimal Needs-based Decisions [DIAMOND] project). In addition, groups of states working together on their state assessment have also developed training materials and approaches that may automate some of the accessibility decision-making process.

The theme of collaboration and collaborative decision making, which involves shared thinking and problem-solving as part of the school culture (Kohm & Nance, 2009), permeates most of the resources that are available. Collaboration and collaborative decision making are often difficult in many agencies and schools because it calls for resources, whether financial or policy, to support breaking down silos. This is an important goal in itself given the need for disability and English-learner expertise in all aspects of assessment development, even for example, when the assessment is focused on a particular subgroup such as ELP and alternate assessments. The short-term and long-term gains from collaboration to include a variety of stakeholders through various phases of the assessment process are invaluable.

Lesson 6 Resources

Center for Parent Information and Resources. Find Your Parent Center.

Da Fonte, M. A., & Barton-Arwood, S. M. (2017). Collaboration of General and Special Education Teachers: Perspectives and Strategies

Dearman, C. C., & Alber, S. R. (2005). The Changing Face of Education: Teachers Cope with Challenges Through Collaboration and Reflective Study.

Friend, M., & Cook, L. (1992). Interactions: Collaboration Skills for School Professionals.

Gomez-Najarro, J. (2019). An Empty Seat at the Table: Examining General and Special Education Teacher Collaboration in Response to Intervention

Kangas, S. E. N. (2018). Why Working Apart Doesn’t Work At All: Special Education and English Learner Teacher Collaborations.

McLeskey, J., Barringer, M-D., Billingsley, B., Brownell, M., Jackson, D., Kennedy, M., Lewis, T., Maheady, L., Rodriguez, J., Scheeler, M. C., Winn, J., & Ziegler, D. (2017, January). High-Leverage Practices in Special Education PDF

McNulty, B., & Besser, L. (2011). Leaders Make It Happen! An Administrator’s Guide to Data Teams. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Muijs, D., Ainscow, M., Chapman, C., & West, M. (2011). Collaboration and Networking in Education. London: Springer.

NCEO (n.d.). Training modules.