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New Jersey 4th Grade Statewide ESPA Tests—
What Parents Should Know

 

But do they have to...?

 

Did your 4th grader have a great school year -- until April of last year? Your not alone if your child with Tourette Syndrome had a difficult time preparing for and taking the state's Elementary School Proficiency Assessment (ESPA) for 4th graders.

 

The ESPA —What parents need to know. . .

 

Maybe your child has never been required to take standardized tests..or maybe your child has always performed well on traditional standardized tests with no modifications. The ESPA is not a typical standardized test, and state laws regarding who must participate in statewide assessments have changed.

 

Public Speaking — Field Test...

 

The ESPA is different in that it requires a timed preparation and presentation of a public speaking session. Students are judged on the presentation of their topic, their opening and closing, use of supporting details, word choice, sentence structure, eye contact, gestures, and expressions to the audience, pacing, and intonation. This could make many children (and adults) without a tic disorder begin to tic.

 

What if my child has never been required to take standardized tests in the past?

 

In early 1999, the New Jersey Department of Education implemented new policies to increase access to the statewide assessment system for students with disabilities, in accordance with new federal regulations, allowing very few students to be "exempt" from assessments.

 

Know the laws...

 

Under the new laws, students with disabilities must participate in statewide assessments unless "the nature of the student's disability is so severe that the student is not receiving instruction in any of the knowledge and skills measured by the statewide assessment and the student cannot complete any of the questions on the assessment in a subject area with or without accommodations." The state has identified categories of participation from testing with no modifications, testing with modifications, to the elimination of a specific section of the test.

 

Talk with your child...

 

Most children have done some type of speaking in front of the class by fourth grade. How did they do? Explain to your child what the teacher will be judging and decide together if participation in this type of assessment is appropriate. Would it be better if your child was assessed in a small group setting instead of with the full class? Or would eliminating the time limit to prepared be of help? Together, consider adaptations that may help your child participate.

 

Make a plan...

 

Meet with your child's teacher early in the 4th grade year to share your ideas. If your child already has an IEP, modifications for taking this part of the test should be noted. If your child does not receive special education services, and accommodations are necess

ary for the public speaking assessment, they can and should be made under Section 504, without having your child classified or an IEP written.


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