MCAS-Alt Portfolio IS a test

The Federation for Children with Special Needs told me here:

I do not see why your daughter should ever need to be involved in “testing,” in the traditional sense. In other words, she does not have to answer special questions in a testing situation. She has no need to know the NCLB exists.

Then from the Superintendent’s office of our school district:

The Alternative Assessment is never intended to be a “block of time,” set aside for “testing.”  Using whatever communication system is in place for the student, the teacher collects data throughout the school year to create the portfolio.  The process would be invisible to the child.

Both of these quotes show a lack of understanding of the Commonwealth’s testing guidelines and rules as outlined in The 2008 Educator’s Manual for MCAS-Alt. I have reproduced Part III, “Portfolio Evidence” here and highlighted many items in red. Here are some of them …

The student’s MCAS-Alt portfolio must include the elements listed below … 

Student’s Introduction to the Portfolio produced as independently as possible by the student using his or her primary mode of communication. This introduction may be written, dictated, or recorded on video or audiotape and should describe “What I want others to know about me as a learner and about my portfolio.”

The student’s weekly schedule that documents that he or she is enrolled in a program of instruction that includes participation in the general academic curriculum. 

That mandatory part of the portfolio does not take into account the child with NO communication. Hence, the portfolio, from the beginning, cannot be completed. My daughter does NOT participate at all in the “general academic curriculum.”

Data charts must show that the student has attempted to learn a new skill … Work samples: items produced by the student during routine instruction, either in the classroom, other school settings, the community, or at home.

Obviously not designed to assess my daughter’s population. She cannot show ANYTHING, let alone the attempt to learn a new skill. She doest not produce ANYTHING in the academic sense here.

The following evidence must be included in each strand of the portfolio:
One Data Chart
A completed data chart must be included that measures the student’s accuracy and independence in performing tasks on at least five different dates based on a single skill or outcome in the learning standard being assessed.
Data charts must show that the student attempted to learn a new skill.

That is the SPECIFIC detriment to my daughter. At least FIVE times she MUST be tested on a specific single skill. SHE WILL FAIL EVERY TIME. SHE WILL KNOW SHE IS BEING TESTED. SHE WILL BE FRUSTRATED AND HUMILIATED REPEATEDLY because she UNDERSTANDS what is being asked and is PHYSICALLY incapable of responding. How can she not know when she is being tested (assuming we deceive her) when she is reapeatedly asked to fail at the same task? THIS TEST IS NOT DESIGNED TO ASSESS ANYTHING CONCERNING MY DAUGHTER.

At least one instructional data chart is required in each strand in the student’s 2008 MCAS-Alt portfolio, consisting either of a field data chart, line graph, or bar graph.
Each data chart must:

  • measure the student’s accuracy and independence in performing tasks on at least five different dates based on a single skill or outcome in the learning standard being assessed.
  • NEW! Beginning in the 2008-2009 school year, the minimum number of required data points will be increased from five (5) to eight (8).
  • be clearly labeled with the student’s name, date of each activity, whether each task was performed accurately (correctly), and how frequently cues and prompts were provided to the student.
  • provide a brief description of each activity during which data was collected, such as the setting in which it occurred; approach or format of the activity; materials used; and any staff who assisted the student.
  • show evidence that the student was taught a new skill. Therefore, a data chart will not be considered scorable primary evidence if it indicates that a student performed at a level of 80-100% accuracy and 80-100% independence throughout the data collection period.

That first bullet specifies that for at least EIGHT data points (bullet 2) she must be TESTED at least FIVE times. She will be stressed, humiliated, tested AT LEAST 40 TIMES (eight data points, five times each) and will FAIL all forty times. This test is NOT designed to assess anything with regards to my daughter. The last bullet “show evidence that the student was taught a new skill.” Ludicrous. And in math? English?

However, a small number of students with the most complex and significant disabilities may not yet be ready to address academic content, even at the lowest levels. These students may need to focus on goals that allow them to explore tools, materials, and academic content through targeted social, communication, and/or motor skills (“access skills”) practiced during academic activities. For example, a student might practice ushing an electronic switch on cue to indicate whose turn is next during a science activity, or assist a teacher by handing out materials during a math activity, or focus on a story read aloud for increasing periods of time.

Again, a solid example that the portfolio is not designed to assess this population. My daughter has ZERO targeted social, communication, and / or motor skills and said skills are NOT practiced during “academic” activities. “Assist a teacher by handing out materials” ??? “Focus on a story read aloud” … how on earth will one test if she is focused? She hears, she understands. But she cannot control her physical movements. This test is NOT designed to assess anything with regards to my daughter.

Finally, identify the criteria for mastering the skill.
When and how will you know if the student has mastered the skill? For each outcome, criteria for success should be based on a numerical proportion (3 out of 5) or percentage (60%) of the total observations of the targeted skill. In addition, it is useful to determine success over at least three, and preferably more, teaching sessions to be sure the student has truly mastered the skill (for example, when presented with five sight words paired with pictures, Jamie will sign each word with 80% accuracy on at least three occasions).
Another criterion might be to identify the degree to which the student will perform the skill independently, rather than accurately (for example, when presented with sight words paired with pictures on at least three occasions, Jamie will sign each word independently in four out of five opportunities).

Do I need to continue to explain that this is REPEATED testing and REPEATED failures. Assessing nonsense as far as testing my daughter is conerned.

Step 9. Student self-evaluates.
At the end of a series of instructional activities in which strategies for reinforcement and/or consequences are used, it is important to provide opportunities for a student to evaluate and reflect on his or her performance. For example, Selma worked on her goal of identifying numbers in math class. At the end of the session, Selma reflected on her performance and reported that she “worked very hard and was proud that she got only one wrong.” Evidence of self-evaluation and reflection should be included in all student portfolios, along with instructional data on the performance itself, since this activity increases the student’s awareness of and engagement in his or her own learning.

Are they going to write about test axiety, stress and humiliation around not being able to answer, diminished self worth surrounding complete and total failure?

How is it possible to claim that my daughter won’t know she is being tested? How is it possible to claim that it will be school as normal? How is it possible to claim that this test will assess ANYTHING about the education afforded to my daughter? How is it possible that anyone will learn anything from this portfolio? How is it possible that this will not cause harm to my daughter?

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