The Punch Line! (and not a funny one ...)

Just the concept of testing the severely disabled against the Curriculum Frameworks is a farce. These are children who do not or cannot display the understanding of the concept of the number one, or the difference between "yes" and "no."

The MCAS-Alt Coordinator for the Department of Education was specifically asked about testing of these children. Her responses are fascinating (for lack of a proper word).
"When it comes to the required self-evaluation, if a student cannot self-evaluate, then just skip that part."
Hence, a requirement is only a requirement when it is convenient.

When asked how to test a student in English when that student has absolutely no means of communication, the MCAS-Alt Coordinator suggested the following:
"If the student picks up her head for five seconds while listening to someone speak English, you can count that."
That is the recommended method to see how well a student has mastered the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks in English on a tenth grade level. Recommended by the test coordinator herself! How that fits a guideline is a bit difficult to understand. How anyone can assess anything about anything from this is, well, a bit difficult to understand. But I am not the Commonwealth's MCAS-Alt Coordinator, so what do I know?
The scoring of MCAS-Alt portfolios reflects the goal of standard MCAS tests, which is to gauge the level at which a student learns, understands, and applies skills and knowledge outlined in the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks. MCAS-Alt is intended to ensure that students with significant disabilities have been given access to the general education curriculum (i.e., the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks), as required by law, and to measure how much of this material they have learned.
2008 Educator's Manual for MCAS-Alt, page 49. (Mass DOE web site) (this web site)

Yes, picking your head up when hearing English does that.

Finally ...

This test is NOT STANDARDIZED. Every student gets a completely different test.

This test is NOT AN ASSESSMENT. It does not test against any known guidelines nor framework. Even though the guidelines and law mandate the MCAS-Alt is to test and assess against the Curriculum Frameworks, in actuality this is not done. A student may be subjected to the entire MCAS-Alt, potentially over a 45 day period or more, and not once be tested at any time on an item in the Curriculum Frameworks nor it's associate but rarely mentioned Curriculum Frameworks for Students with Disabilities.

This test is NOT LEGITIMATE. The student's teacher makes up the exam, an exam where the outcome directly reflects on the teacher and the school as it is recorded with the rest of the school's NCLB testing. How well the student does is completely controlled by the teacher, the second least impartial party to the testing.

This test is NOT TAKEN SERIOUSLY. The DOE's own MCAS-Alt Coordinator picks and chooses which required parts of the testing may be skipped. What part of "required" is difficult to understand? This further shows there is absolutely no attempt at either standardization or assessment.

The student CANNOT PASS. Why stress a student for anywhere from 5 to over 45 days with testing and assessing when the student does not even get grades in school?

The severely disabled are not taught to the Curriculum Frameworks. You (properly) don't attempt to teach a non-verbal, physically and mentally severely disabled student 10th grade mathematics when she has not shown a mastery of the concept of basic numbers. The exam requires the severely disabled to be tested and assessed against that to which they have never been exposed. This is a burden above and beyond that placed upon other able bodied students.

"The student's MCAS-Alt portfolio must include ... Student's Introduction to the Portfolio produced as independently as possible by the student 'using his or her primary mode of communication.' " (2008 Educator's Manual for MCAS-Alt, page 33). This is proof the portfolio is designed to test a student who has a "mode of communication," thus clearly eliminating the appropriateness of the exam for the severely disabled. This is an added burden for the severely disabled above any such requirement for the able bodied student.

The mandate that the "Data charts must show that the student attempted to learn a new skill" is absurd. This is a requirement that is not mandated for the MCAS nor the MCAS with Accommodations exams. This is an added burden for the severely disabled above and beyond that placed upon the able bodied students.

Now, you decide. Let me know. Send me more examples.

REMEMBER: The MCAS-Alt is for the disabled, the special needs students. Some of these students are non-verbal, they cannot communicate AT ALL. They make no known movements with intent. And this is how they MUST be tested! For more on these students and the test ... check out this website.