State Testing and Special Education

Cailyn Dougherty
English & Creative Writing Teacher

Teaching has been one of the greatest joys of my life and I am constantly thrilled to be given the privilege to influence young minds as far as literature goes. Recently, I have noticed in my students an increase of stress due to the expectations of state testing. What breaks my heart the most is when I see my special education students' results, and not because they didn't try; because of how hard they applied themselves all year to only receive a failing grade.

As a relatively new teacher, I find myself reading articles, and doing research to figure out other ways to bring in resources to help my students succeed. Whether it's the newest graphic organizer, technology like Socrative or just offering flexible tutorials so my kiddos can the lesson more than once. Lately, though, I have found myself at a bit of a crossroads in my research. Time after time, I find articles saying state tests are getting more and more difficult for not only special population students to pass but our general education students to as well. It is the biggest heartache of my teaching career so far. Yes, you heard correct, even the paperwork and late nights don't get to me as hard as my special education students being unsuccessful on the state assessment.

The thing that really gets me is how can you test one school district the same as another. In theory, it makes sense. We have to give a test for funding, and it needs to be the same one so no one has a bigger advantage than others. I completely understand this thinking, and am definitely not a proponent of a trophy for everyone; however, I am definitely one for gives tests and assessments that fit the person taking the test. Matthew Kelly, in his book titled "The Rhythm of Life: Living Every Day with Passion and Purpose" uses a famous Einstein quote then adds a little bit of his own twist to it. In the book he states, "Albert Einstein wrote, "'Everybody is a genius'. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." The question I have for you at this point of our journey together is, "What is your genius?""

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What an excellent unintended way to summarize education at this point in time. Our students are often tested on subject matters that they have yet to master. Don't get me wrong. I am definitely one for assessments, but if you have a student whose reading level is significantly below their grade level, and is classified as special education, is there really enough scaffolding and resources that will prepare this student to pass their state exam?

I for one hope so. I will continue to research, and try new things in the classroom. I have yet given up on my abilities, and my students' abilities. I think one of the greatest things we as a teaching community can do for each other is to help build resources to further help all students regardless of their background.

One resource that has helped me the most is teaching websites where other teachers, both new and master, upload lesson plans. These have helped me out when I have had a student who needed additional resources but I didn't have anything more on hand to offer. What about you? What helps you in your classroom? Your school? Please share.

Together we can make a difference.

Learn more about becoming a special education teacher and a special education degree.



Kelly, Matthew. The Rhythm of Life: Living Every Day with Passion and Purpose. New York: Fireside, 2004. Print.

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