Helping Students With Special Needs to Prepare for Various Test Formats
The level to which students understand the format of the state tests may have a direct correlation to their ability to do well. While school districts often overload students with practice tests, there are some things special Ed and regular teachers can do to increase familiarity of the test format, using released items and regular homework assignments.
Preparing Students for Tests
1) Locate the student's IEP and compare it to the state frameworks. Once test results are released for your students to the districts, compare the items the student missed to the last administration of the exam. As stated before, it is important to measure progress over time, rather than comparison to other students. Focus on what the student needs to work on individually, and then try to correlate this to what is required on the benchmark exams.
2) Work released items/practice items into the regular assignments for bonus points or make it one of the regular items in the homework, but don't count it against the students if they get them wrong. They are typically more challenging and require more thought than any homework you would normally assign. But if students get even a few of the questions right, it may increase their confidence to the level that will enable them to perform better.
3) Explain to the students the strategies used in multiple choice questions, as well as essay or open-response type questions and have them practice responses for both types of questions. Once the practice tests are scored, items missed should be discussed in detail.
4) Use "open response" type questions on work given to students regularly, including math and Reading lessons. Once students have gotten used to explaining their answers in this way, the test may not seem so different to them.
5) Finally, have a brainstorming session with students asking them what scares them most about the test and try to reduce test anxiety. By airing their fears with peers and teachers, they may feel more relaxed about the actual test when that day comes around.
Explore the resources in the Reference Box for more tips and ideas on increasing self-esteem in special needs students. Special needs students generally have lower self-esteem due to their past struggles in education, and therefore it may take that much more work to bring their level of confidence up. But teachers should do this, not just for the state and federal tests, but also because they are kids in need, and you are a teacher, and it is just the "right thing to do."