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Q&A on the Issues

Testing and promotion

What you need to know for students with disabilities
New York Teacher

With testing season fast approaching, it’s a good time to review the Department of Education’s current policies regarding testing accommodations, alternate assessments and modified promotion criteria for students with disabilities.  

Testing Accommodations

Who is responsible for making decisions about modifications made to tests or testing conditions for students with disabilities?

For students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), the IEP team determines whether a student needs one or more testing accommodations to demonstrate skills and attainment of knowledge without being limited or unduly restricted due to the effects of a disability. If there is a need, the IEP team is responsible for identifying and documenting the appropriate testing accommodations.

For students with disabilities who are served under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Section 504 Committee performs these functions.

Where can I get information on allowable testing accommodations?

There are two sources of information:

  1. A state guidance document, “Testing Accommodations for Students with Disabilities: Policy and Tools to Guide Decision-Making and Implementation.”
  2. The school administrator’s manuals for the assessments and examinations included in the New York State testing program.

The state guidance document has an appendix indicating the accommodations currently permitted for various assessments, while the school administrator’s manuals provide up-to-date information on permissible accommodations.

Have there been any recent changes in policies and procedures regarding testing accommodations?

New state guidance was issued in February 2018 and updated in September 2019. Changes include updates on the use of the test-read accommodation, use of spell-check devices and software, assistive technology accommodations and computer-based testing as well as revised procedures on the use of a scribe and multiple-day test administration. School staff may find the following appendices particularly helpful: Appendix A, a fourteen-page question and answer document; Appendix C, examples of student characteristics and possible testing accommodations; Appendix F, recommending and administering tests read; Appendices G and H, procedures for use of a scribe and administering tests over multiple days; and Appendix J, allowable testing accommodations across the NYS testing program.

Can IEP teams recommend testing accommodations for students taking the New York State Alternate Assessment, which is a computer-based test?

They may as long as the accommodations are documented in the student’s IEP. The supports that a student requires in instructional environments may be used to inform decisions by the IEP team on appropriate testing accommodations.

Alternate Assessment

What is the New York State Alternate Assessment and who is eligible for it?

The current alternate assessment, Dynamic Learning Maps, is a computer-delivered adaptive assessment measuring a student’s achievement of English language arts, mathematics and science state standards at a reduced level of depth, breadth and complexity.

Only students who meet ALL of the following criteria are eligible for the alternate assessment:

  • The student has significant deficits in both communication/language and adaptive behavior; and
  • The student requires a highly specialized educational program that facilitates the acquisition, application and transfer of skills across natural environments (home, school, community and/or workplace); and
  • The student requires educational support systems, such as assistive technology, personal care services, health/medical services or behavioral intervention.

How is eligibility for the New York State Alternate Assessment determined?

The student’s IEP team determines whether the student will participate in general assessments with or without accommodations, the state’s alternate assessment with or without accommodations or a combination of general assessments in certain content areas and alternate assessments in other content areas.

What changes have been made to the guidance concerning alternate assessments?

Families must now be informed at every IEP meeting, using the Parent Notification of Participation in NYSAA Letter, that their child will participate in alternate assessments and is therefore not eligible for a high school diploma.

What resources are available to learn more about alternate assessments?

Modified Promotion Criteria

Does the DOE still allow modified promotion criteria?

Since schools are expected to assess students holistically using multiple measures defined annually by their schools, most students with disabilities are now held to standard promotion criteria. Multiple measures include course grades and report cards, writing samples, projects, assignments, other student work and state test scores. State test scores may not be the primary or major factor in determining a student’s readiness to be promoted to the next grade.

When are modified promotion criteria to be used?

IEP teams should recommend modified promotion criteria only in exceptional circumstances. They are appropriate only when the child’s IEP team determines that the impact of the student’s disability is so severe and the rate of the student’s progress is so slow that the student is unable to meet the promotion benchmarks of the grade even with the required and appropriate supports and services. A decision-making tool is available on the DOE’s InfoHub.

Does the use of modified promotion criteria affect a student’s advancement from grade to grade or summer school participation?

Students with modified promotion criteria are held to the ELA and math criteria specified in their IEP at the time the promotion decision is made. Students in grade 8 must also pass all four core courses (ELA, math, science and social studies) to be promoted to grade 9. Students promoted on the basis of modified criteria are not required to attend summer school.

How do modified promotion criteria affect a student’s ability to graduate from high school?

Modified promotion criteria are not available in high school. Promotion decisions for all students in grades 9 to 12 who participate in standard assessments, including students with disabilities, are based on credit accumulation and passing Regents exams. Due to the cumulative effects of promotion based on modified criteria in earlier grades, many high school students who were promoted in early grades with modified criteria find they are not adequately prepared for high school work and thus are unable to meet the requirements for a Regents or local diploma.