I have been a special education teacher since the late 1980's. I have worked with all kinds of children and know how critical self-esteem is when it comes to learning. Back in the day, I worked with some of the same kids for years, slowly gaining ground. I started by teaching the letters of the alphabet and then continued on to reading readiness skills, the primers and finally brought my students to mastering the early readers. Eventually, you have several students make it through all the Henry and Mudge books, then on to the wonderful series based on, The Stories Julian Tells. THEN a mandate is given that all children will partake in standardized tests... that are at least two levels above their reading level. Want to know what happens? The little boy who was so proud yesterday that he could read opens the test booklet and after a few minutes turns to me with tears streaming down his face and says, "I thought, I thought, I could read!" You try and reassure him that he can read, just not at that level. All the hard work of building that self-esteem is wiped away in five minutes. The typical standardized assessment is not a viable tool for many of our students. Which brings us to the age-old question: How should we measure student learning?
Testing Students With Special Needs Teaching students with special needs have always been a challenging task. TRY testing students with special needs in the present era, and you've got a lot more than a challenge going on. Let's not forget, we are all different and all have different talents and skill sets. My favorite expression as a teacher is, In order to be treated equally and fairly, all children need to be treated differently. Howard Gardener is best known for his theory of multiple intelligences, which holds that intelligence goes far beyond the traditional verbal/linguistic and logical/mathematical measurements. Here he discusses student-directed learning, multiple intelligences, and a different approach to assessment: Big Thinkers: Howard Gardner on Multiple Intelligences