High-Stakes Testing for Students with Disabilities

High-Stakes Testing for Students with Disabilities

Title of Study

The article is titled “What We Know and Need to Know about the Consequences of High-Stakes Testing for Students with Disabilities” having been published in 2004. The authors of the article include Jim Ysseldyke, Ruth Nelson, Sandra Christenson, David Johnson, Amanda Dennison, Heidi Triezenberg, Michael Sharpe and Maureen Hawes.



In today’s modern world, most of the consequences of high-stakes testing among students with disabilities are alleged; there is no substantial proof. While the consequences include both positive and negative implications, their occurrence is only alleged with no empirical evidence on the same. In fact, most of the information used in alleging such consequences revolves around anecdotal evidence. The fact that there is very little empirical evidence regarding the implications of high-stakes tests results in newspapers highlighting unintended negative consequences (Ysseldyke et al, 2004). In turn, there is a lot of confusion and uncertainty concerning the consequences of high-stakes testing among children with disabilities. The bigger problem is thus the identification of what people already know and the determination of what they should know on the administration of the high-stakes test. The importance of this research is evidenced in the high number of students targeted and especially those with disabilities.


Research Purpose

            The purpose of the study is to examine the consequences of high stakes assessment of students with disabilities. It aims at consolidating the information that is already known on the topic while determining what needs to be known on the same (Ysseldyke et al, 2004).


Research Methods

In pursuing the purpose of the research, the paper employed a variety of methodologies to examine both positive and negative consequences. The study also searched for both evidence-based and anecdotal reports. In the search for anecdotal reports, tracking discourse as well as the tracking of specific themes, issues, and frames was employed in media analyses. A total of about 3000 articles were archived from major newspapers using the Lexis-Nexis electronic database (Ysseldyke et al, 2004). Moreover, daily news headlines highlighted by educational organizations as well as magazines and publications were monitored. In the search for empirical reports, various electronic databases were reviewed including ERIC, PSYCINFO, and InfoTrac. Further, focus groups were formed to include parents and special educators of students with disabilities. This method helped in the collection of unintended and intended consequences of high stakes testing in Minnesota. There was also a need to analyze the coded transcriptions using the QSR N5 software.


Research Findings

The paper found that high-stakes assessment of students with disabilities results in both positive and negative consequences. For instance, the move to test all students with disabilities in New York had positive impacts on their general class performance. There is also a negative consequence as the students are faced with higher expectations to perform.


Comments, Evaluation and Reflection

The study’s importance cannot be overlooked in terms of its contribution to the development of childhood education. The results portray a balanced outcome of events with both negative and positive consequences being covered in the paper. Also, the paper analyzes the aspects that are already known while determining those that need to be known regarding this particular topic. The delivery is also exceptional as the researchers employ a unique methodology drawn from various methods of research. Even though there is no clear research question, the purpose of the study is well articulated within the text. Further, the findings and conclusion resonate with the outcomes of the study reflecting both positive and negative aspects.

The study comes at a time when the world is faced with uncertainty on the implications of high-stakes test or students with disabilities. While one group takes the view that it produces positive consequences, another asserts the negative impacts accrued from the tests. The study does not incline towards one side of the debate but chooses a balanced review of the problem, highlighting both positive and negative implications. The findings portray that raised expectations for students with disabilities automatically contributes to the realization of positive results (Ysseldyke et al, 2004). This positive result is attained through improvements in instruction, individualized accommodation as well as increases in general class participation. Still, the raised expectations accrued from high-stakes tests may be a hindrance to improvements as students with disabilities suffer negative consequences from the same. Regardless of the different results, the study outlines the findings in a clear and concise manner.

The results of the study reveal a need for the reconsideration of the application and administration of high-stakes tests among students with disabilities. Although there are numerous positive impacts, the possibility of negative results on the students should prompt the stakeholders involved to review the concept afresh (Ysseldyke et al, 2004). Indeed, grade retention has been found to be ineffective when the mode of instruction is not changed significantly. However, the right instruction and accommodation may well result in increased class performance through content. High-stakes assessments are generally instrumental in encouraging improved communication with parents on the issue of student performance. In fact, the availability of such avenues presents parents with an opportunity to ask a better question on areas that their children require additional work. Also, teachers and students have the opportunity to collaborate on all aspects of learning both within and outside the classrooms. Ultimately, therefore, the contribution of the study towards the realization of these important aspects is highly appreciated.



Ysseldyke, J. et al., (2004). What we know and need to know about consequences of high-stakes testing for students with disabilities. Exceptional Children, 71 (1), 75-94.

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