State Offers Modified Tests to ELL, Special Education Students

For the first time state achievement tests aren’t one size fits all. This year Tennessee is rolling out alternate versions for students facing certain hurdles in the classroom.

Special education students as well as English language learners typically struggle with passing state achievement tests. This year that could change. In third through eighth grades, different versions now exist to accommodate those two groups.

Lori Nixon oversees special education testing in Tennessee. She says the test for disabled students has simpler language, fewer answer options, and key words are underlined. Still, the skills tested remain the same.

“It gives them a shot at being proficient that they didn’t have before.”

Simpler language is also used on the new test for ELL students. For example, here’s a math question on the original test:

“If bananas cost 35 cents per pound, how much will 4 pounds cost?”

On the ELL version:

“Bananas cost 35 cents per pound. How much do 4 pounds of bananas cost?”

The state has been working on these new, modified tests for three years. While the middle school changes are complete, alternate tests for high school ELL and special education students are still in the works.

In the original version, a fourth grade math question might read:

“Last month, 104,629 people went to the circus. What is the value of the 6 in 104,629?”

In the ELL version it’s written this way:

“What is the value of the 6 in 104,629?”

In addition to using simpler language, the ELL version does not have an accompanying photo. The original question comes with a black and white drawing of a circus.

In the original version, a sixth grade math question might read:

“To prepare for a regional competition, Keith practiced on his skateboard 12 hours each week for 18 weeks. How many hours did Keith practice in all?”

In the ELL version:

“Keith worked 12 hours each week for 18 weeks. How many hours did Keith work in all?”

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