Lending Students a Helping Hand

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Since the No Child Left Behind Act has been adopted recently, the change in the education system to adjust it to the needs of the disadvantaged children has been the concern for teachers and students. Despite the obvious humanity and usefulness of the Act and the following oral reading accommodations, opinions concerning them vary among both teachers and students. Considering the remarks of each, it would be possible to evaluate the changes that have happened to the educational system.

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According to what Bielinski (2001) says, the invention designed for the disabled students to feel more comfortable does raise numerous discussions: “There is a dearth of empirical evidence that demonstrates how audio presentation of test material, heretofore referred to as the read-aloud accommodation, affects the construct the test was designed measure” (Bielinski 2001). A number of researchers have already raised this issue, yet they are often at the crossroads between decreasing the difficulty level for the students (“Accommodations are typically provided to offset construct-irrelevant difficulty that is assumed to be present solely for students with disabilities” – Bolt & Thurlow (2006)) and at the same time keeping the sufficient level of competitiveness among the students.

It is evident at present that the new system is designed to help the students who have problems with eyesight to adapt to the school environment and succeed in their studying without the difficulties which disabled students often encounter at school. Since the famous No Child Left Behind Act came into force, teachers’ chief priority was to create the so-called accommodations for these students to be able to learn efficiently, as Cortiella (2005) claims:

Accommodations are tools and procedures that provide equal access to instruction and assessment for students with disabilities. They are provided to “level the playing field.” Without accommodations, students with disabilities may not be able to access grade level instruction and participate fully on assessments (2)

Thus, it is obvious that the environment created for the disabled students were initially considered as the positive ones. However, the decision to change the educational system to adapt it to the needs of the disabled students has come comparatively recently; according to Crawford (2006), “The impact of academic standards and statewide testing on students in special education is not always viewed as negative”. With the NCLB Act, the educational system was overlooked and changed.

It is quite expected that the new system was greeted rather eagerly by both teachers and students, though the former understood the difficulties in reorganizing the existing system: as Cortielle (2005) claimed, these accommodations were supposed to “facilitate the student’s access to grade level instruction and full participation in state/district assessments” (1) and result I further improvement of the studying environment for disabled children.

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On the other hand, the difficulties which such innovation triggered were quite predictable as well. For instance, it was rather hard to maintain the balance between the disabled and the advantaged students, giving both equal chances to study. Bolt and Ysselduke (2006) claimed that this would pose quite a difficulty for teachers: “Phillips (2002) provided several questions that have guided empirical investigation. One of her questions was, “Would allowing the alteration for all students help nondisabled students achieve higher scores and change the interpretation of their test scores?” (331) Therefore, the issue triggered much more complicated questions to be solved than the Educational Department could have predicted. Thus, what could be the way out for disabled students turned out a problem for teachers and other college staff.

To be objective, it would be necessary to consider the opinion of students themselves, for they have experienced the result of the reform personally. According to what the reports say, the new system proved rather efficient; as Crawford’s (2004) experiment demonstrated,

Teacher judgments related to the importance of the read-aloud modification on the performance of individual students were compared to students’ actual boost. Teachers identified a total of 135 students who they believed would substantially benefit from the modification (100)

One of the most important issues concerning the innovation is that it solves the most essential problems of the disabled students. As Cook (2010) marks, “the studies that were reviewed indicate that the most common accommodations for students with learning disabilities are extra time and audio (read-aloud) presentation” (189).

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Indeed, as Cook (2010) conducted her research to realize the difficulties which the NCLB system suggests and if there is any, she noticed that there “was reason to suspect a difference in factor structures” (192) across the two groups of students, namely those who received the new tests with the oral reading accommodations provided and those who performed the task according to the traditional system. In addition, the researcher emphasized that the new way of testing intensifies the performance of the students several times (Cook 2010). Thus, the positive effect of the new educational approach must be marked. However, there are certain concerns that the improvements can be made only in specific spheres of studying, such as reading and writing:

By allowing an adult to read the test out loud, providing an audiocassette or video version of the test, or offering a computerized screen-reader, one can anticipate that students with reading difficulties can more effectively demonstrate their math knowledge. (Bolt 2007, 16)

There is no doubt that with help of the new testing system disabled children will be able to feel that they can contribute to the world of science and stand the comparison to the rest of the students in the class. Therefore, such important psychological issue as the disabled students’ self-esteem will not be forgotten either.

Another important issue of the problem is the level of parental involvement into the studying process. According to the results of the testing, the parental involvement of the state increased several times in two years after the new system of disabled children evaluation was provided; thus, Christensen (2008) marks: “The number of states requiring parental involvement in the assessment participation decision-making process was also greater in 2001 than in 1999” (156). The author also emphasizes: “Moreover, parents are playing a bigger role in the participation and accommodation decision-making process” (156).

It is of paramount importance to understand that the way to teach disabled children must be found, for this is the only way for them to step into the world of the adults. At the very early age such students learn much more efficiently than they will do as they grow up. Cook (2010) showed in his study the possible effects of missing on school studies for the disabled: “Charles knows short and long vowel sounds and can haltingly sound out two- and three-syllable words. Although his reading comprehension is poor because of his labored reading rate, his comprehension is excellent when passages are read to him” (21)

Therefore, the effect of the new methods of teaching disadvantaged children cannot be denied. With help of this approach, children will be able to learn the basic things and even to develop their skills. Despite the numerous problematic issues, this way out is the only one at present, and there is some hope that the obstacles will prove temporary and easy to overcome.

Reference List

Belinski, J. et al. (2001) Read-Aloud Accommodations: Effects on Multiple-Choice Reading and Math Items. NCEO Technical Report. NCEO. Web.

Bolt, s. E. & Thurlow, M. L. (2006) Item-Level Effects of the Read-Aloud Accommodation for Students with Reading Disabilities. NCEO. Web.

Bolt, S. E., & Thurlow, M. L. (2007). Item-Level Effects of the Read-Aloud Accommodation for Students with Reading Disabilities, Assessment for Effective Intervention, (33) 1, 15-28.

Bolt, S. E. & Ysselduke, J. (2006) Comparing DIF Across Math and Reading/Language Arts Test for Students Receiving a Read-Aloud Accommodation. Applied Measurement in Education, 19 (4), 329-335.

Christensen, L. L., Lazarus, S. S., Crone, M., & Thurlow, (2008). 2007 State policies on Assessment Participation and Accommodations for Students with Disabilities. Synthesis Report 69. National Center on Educational Outcomes, p. 156.

Cook, L. et al. (2010) ‘Using Factor Analysis to Investigate Accommodations Used by Students with Disabilities on an English-Language Arts Assessment’, Applied Measurement in Education, (23) 2, 187 – 208.

Corley, M. A. & Tibbets, J. (2002) Learning Disabilities in the Workplace. A Professional Development Packet. Session 1 & 2. ERINST: American Institutes for Research, Washington, DC.

Cortiella, C. (2005). No Child Left Behind: Determining Appropriate Assessment Accommodations for Students with Disabilities. ERINST: National Center for Learning Disabilities, Inc., New York, NY: National Center for Learning Disabilities.

Crawford, L., & Tindal, G. (2004). Effects of a Read-Aloud Modification on a Standardized Reading Test. [Feature]. Exceptionality, 12(2), 89-106.

Crawford, L., & Tindal, G. (2006). Policy and practice: Knowledge and Beliefs of Education Professionals Related to the Inclusion of Students with Disabilities in a State Assessment. Remedial and Special Education, 27 (4), 208-217.

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