Education Week reports in “Common-Core Group Details Test Accommodations” that one of the two state consortia that are creating the Common Core State Standards tests has decided to allow its reading assessments to be read aloud to students with learning disabilities.
EdWeek says The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, will allow a read-aloud accommodation for students with learning disabilities who take its reading assessment. Per EdWeek, this “will be a major shift in testing policy for most states in the PARCC consortium.”
And, this isn’t a good shift.
The read-aloud accommodation has been permitted on Kentucky’s reading tests for two decades, and the adverse impacts of this testing policy are no secret in the Bluegrass State. Commenting on an attempt that started in late 2011 to change this policy, David Karem, Chair of the Kentucky Board of Education, said in his 2012 “KENTUCKY BOARD OF EDUCATION FEBRUARY BOARD NOTES” that:
“Currently, high numbers of special education students in Kentucky are allowed readers on the reading test. This accommodation stays with the student throughout his or her school years. Since there is great pressure on schools to produce results on the state accountability test, there is a negative incentive to keep a student with a reader accommodation to increase test scores. The goal of special education is to make students independent readers and not keep them dependent on having an adult reader throughout their schooling. By eliminating the reader, there is an incentive to make students independent readers.”
Karem additionally mentioned:
“…the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) does not allow a reader on its reading test. Kentucky students who are allowed a reader on the Kentucky tests must be excluded from the NAEP test. The mismatch between Kentucky’s current reader rule and the NAEP rule means significant numbers of students are excluded from NAEP. Kentucky’s results on the NAEP test are not comparable, and Kentucky is under federal pressure to bring our accommodations in alignment with the national requirements. Forty-one other states do not allow readers on the reading test.”
Ultimately, thanks to the same sorts of special interest pressures that led to the recent PARCC decision on read-aloud, the attempt to change Kentucky’s read-aloud policy failed.
Thus, Kentucky continues to collect absolutely no information about whether the impacted students with learning disabilities are receiving any reading instruction at all. Meanwhile, these students continue through their entire school experience having every state reading test read to them. This bad policy creates inflated scores for individual students who receive read-aloud as well as inflating the entire state’s reading picture on both Kentucky’s own assessments as well as the NAEP.
In the end, if Kentucky finally adopts the PARCC program (that decision has not been made at this time), thanks to restrictive provisions in a Memorandum of Agreement (MOU) signed by Governor Beshear and other state leaders with the PARCC group in June of 2010, the Bluegrass State could forfeit its constitutionally granted ability to change that bad policy in the future.