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Teachers Network Leadership Institute:
Action Research:
Assessment & Preparation for Assessment: Plummet or Summit

In what ways other than DSTP scores can special education students show growth in reading?


As an advocate for special education students, I am often frustrated that the progress of these students in the classroom is being negated by their poor Delaware State Testing Program (DSTP) scores. In this time of high-stakes testing, special education students often fall through the cracks. Some districts in other states are looking into a value-added measure that allows districts to examine the growth of students over time through a statistical approach. Granted, the mathematical analysis may vary a little from state to state, but this is a way to corroborate data including, but not exclusive to, the high-stakes state test.

Through this research, I simply wanted to explore alternate routes to show growth in special education students. As a result, I found district and classroom assessments that display performance-level and on-level growth. I also examined IEP objectives in reading to determine growth of these students. In addition, two students put together portfolios to showcase their progress in reading.

What I found was that many of these students do not show growth on the DSTP yet show growth on the district and classroom assessments. Since many of these tests are required throughout the district, isn’t it then feasible to document growth over time and develop some statistical measure to use as a value-added approach? Any growth should be celebrated, not undermined by the performance on one high-stakes test.

Although there was not as much growth as I would have liked to see, I am able to determine strengths and weaknesses with my teaching and the curriculum. Through this study, I was able to examine the real effectiveness of what takes place in the classroom.


On a federal level, the No Child Left Behind mandate should be modified to allow for statewide measuring methods for learning among special education students.

On a state level, policy makers should create and adopt alternate forms of measuring growth within a diverse range of ability levels among special needs students.

Special education teachers should be given the latitude to use specific measures to determine growth among their students.

Christina James

5th Grade and
Special Education, Bayard Elementary Wilmington

TNLI Affiliate:

If you would like to learn more about Teachers Network Leadership Institute--Delaware, please e-mail Michael Rasmussen.



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