[4 Testing Tips] Special Populations Preparation

Tuesday, July 29, 2014 -- Beth Holine

It’s almost back-to-school time, which means fall testing season is upon us. Testing is stressful for everyone, but it can be especially trying for special populations and their educators. These four tips will help you prepare for a smooth, successful fall testing season with your special population students.

  1. Understand the available test accommodations
    A variety of accommodations are available to special population students, depending on the type of test and educational policy local to your school. Utilize resources within your school, district, and Department of Education to determine exactly what kind of accommodations your special population students can qualify for. Make sure that your students have been granted all of the options available to them. Knowing the accommodations that apply to your learners will also help you to simulate the actual environment they will be tested in when practicing.
  2. Leverage your data
    You have access to a lot of data on your students, whether it is results from previous high-stakes exams or data that has been collected in the classroom. This data can be your best tool to differentiate instruction and determine how to prepare your students for testing. Make use of formative assessment strategies to identify which concepts and skills students are struggling with and where individualized attention is needed. Online instructional tools – like Edmentum Sensei – can be a great way to obtain actionable data.
  3. Prepare your students for the testing environment
    Let your students know what to expect from the tests and the setting in which they will be administered. Our Test-Taking Checklist can be a great resource to help them prepare. It’s also important that your learners practice in an environment that mirrors the actual test environment, including your state’s accommodation for special populations. If their official test will be conducted online, make sure they have been exposed to online tests. If technology-enhanced item types will be used, make sure your students have practiced answering these item types. Preparing for the experience of test-taking will reduce anxiety and have a huge impact on your students’ test scores.
  4. Make sure you are utilizing available funding
    Significant amounts of funding are available to support education for special populations. Spend some time researching online and talking to your school or district administrators – there may be grants or other funding sources that your program could take advantage of to obtain important resources like ed-tech tools or expand your staff. Some schools and teachers are even having success using crowdfunding techniques to meet their classroom needs. Regardless of the method you choose, taking full advantage of the funding options available will help to provide your students with the educational resources needed to be successful this testing season.

Are you ready for the coming school year? Make sure you have reviewed the special populations you serve to identify any gaps in programs, instructional content, and staffing you might have. To help you, we’ve created the Special Populations Planning Worksheet.