An analysis of the performance and accommodations for students who are non-verbal taking Pennsylvania's Statewide Alternative Assessment (PASA)
Harayama, Nancy Eiko
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The No Child Left Behind Act mandated the development of statewide alternate assessments to measure the academic achievement of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. The valid assessment of all test takers is critical due to its highstakes nature and the use of its results to inform instruction. Given the heterogeneity of the population, test accommodations are necessary to ensure that items measure constructs that they were designed to measure. Pennsylvania Alternate System of Assessment (PASA) is a performance-based alternate assessment. Some items in the PASA Reading test are open-ended to which most students respond using speech. But, students who are non-verbal require accommodations. For these oral response test items, the PASA test developers designed an adapted version of the PASA; however, it was speculated that some test administrators were using their own adaptations that changed test constructs. This study investigated the performance of and adaptations made for students who are non-verbal to gather information that may lead to a more valid assessment. Adaptations were examined to determine whether students were assessed using the PASA Adapted Version or test administrator-made adaptations, and whether test administrator-made adaptations were accommodations that maintained the construct or modifications that changed the construct. Information regarding presentation/response format were collected, and student performance scored. Comparisons between scores of students who are non-verbal and those with functional speech were made using the Mann-Whitney U test. Also, students who are non-verbal were matched to those with functional speech on the basis of the non-oral response test items, and their scores were compared using the Wilcoxon signed-ranks test. The scores of students assessed using the Adapted Version and test administrator-made adaptations were compared using the Mann-Whitney U test. The results indicated that both the PASA Adapted Version and test administrator-made adaptations were used. However, test administrator-made adaptations often led to modifications. Students who are non-verbal were outperformed by those with functional speech, and those assessed with the PASA Adapted Version scored higher than those assessed with test administrator-made adaptations. The findings point to a need for professional development in accommodation methods to more validly assess this population.
Thesis (Ed.D.)--Boston University