Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is the fastest growing developmental disability in America. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of children diagnosed with ASD increased by 119.4% (Autism Society, 2015). Approximately 1 out of every 68 births in the Unites States produces a child with ASD (Autism Society, 2015). Given that autism is becoming such a prevalent issue, society must change how it handles individuals with ASD. This includes our treatment of school children who suffer from ASD. When it comes to assessment testing for children with ASD, there is still a lot of changes that need to be made in order to obtain the children’s best performances and also to properly assess their school performance in light of their disability. Clayton County School District, located in Georgia just underneath Atlanta, is a school system that is consistently seeking ways to improve itself. It services over 50,000 students, and is growing by around 1,200 students annually (Clayton.k12.ga.us, 2015). Clayton County’s third grade testing scores were still low in 2014. They received a 63.44% in science, 65.7% in math, 78.66% in language arts, 86.59% in reading and a 73.68% in social studies (Homefacts.com, 2015). This gives the third grade class a low overall rating of D+. By seeking alternative methods of assessment testing for ASD students, Clayton County school district will improve the learning environment for its students with ASD and ultimately improve its overall ratings in the third grade classes.
Another issue facing school assessments for disabled students, especially those who are in general education classes, is the lack of a fair grading system. Since each student with special needs has individualized hurdles and challenges, individualized grading would be the ideal; unfortunately school systems do not grade in this way. What this leads to is students with disabilities receiving either grades that are unfair or grades that do not accurately reflect their school achievements (Ascd.org, 2015). Teachers also are not taught how to accurately grade learning disabled students, adding to the issue (Ascd.org, 2015).
A final issue which is faced by learning disabled students and their assessments is in regards to behavior. Many elementary school teachers grade children on behavior, and/or have some kind of reward system within the classroom to highlight students with excellent behavior. Many learning disabled students have behavioral issues which are no fault of their own. Students with autism are especially at a disadvantage, since autism directly affects the child’s behavior. In this case, learning disabled students are either at risk of receiving unfair behavioral grades, or they watch other students be rewarded for behavior while they are not, even if their best efforts to control their behavioral issues are being out forth.
While the Clayton County school district has made huge strides in improving, there are still improvements that can be made. One of the most major improvements needed is an increase the use of electronics in the classroom. During a review by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), it was found that the school system scored lowest on having hands-on technology available in the classrooms (www.news-daily.com, 2015). Considering the prevalence of technology in society, this is an issue that needs to be addressed.
Two other needs for students in Clayton County is to have their progress monitored better and to have better feedback. This is true for all students. Especially courses where answers are subjective, grading is also subjective (www.news-daily.com, 2015). This leaves students which grades that may be based off how the teacher is feeling in the moment, versus how well the student actually did. Proper progress monitoring and feedback is even more important for students with learning disabilities.
There are many journal articles which outline alternative ways which children with autism should be assessed. For instance, Kurth & Mastergeorge (2010) talk about the implementation of having autistic students core goals all relate to increasing their communication skills. This type of assessment makes a lot of logical sense, since an increase in communication skills for an autistics student also means an increase in the ability to navigate life. This is especially important in younger students, since the earlier autism is dealt with and treated, the greater a chance of the autistic child having greater improvement. Another reason this could be so effective is because each individual with autism can have such unique symptoms.
Odom, Collet-Klingenberg, Rogers and Hatton (2010) talk about various ways in which an autistic student should be assessed. These include computer aided instruction and social group settings. Once again, individualizing assessments for the autistic students’ needs is important. This allows the student to be looked at for improvements in an accurate manner, and their growth will continue as a result.
Ashburner, Ziviani and Rodger (2010) look at how autistic students can perform and behave when in the mainstream school. The study compared teacher’s perceptions of autistic students with typically developing students. They found that 54% of the autistic children were considered underachieving, compared with only 8% of typical children (Ashburner, Ziviani & Rodger, 2010). Also, they rated the autistic children as having significantly higher amounts of behavioral and emotional issues. This is indicative of the lack of understanding which teachers have of the autism spectrum and its effect on students. It also shows how unaware teachers are as to how to alternatively assess autistic students.
The final journal which contains information that pertains to alternative assessments of children on the autism spectrum is by Mastergeorge and Kurth (2010).
Mastergeorge and Kurth (2010) studied autistic children who were kept in special education classes and those who were integrated. They found that the adaptive behavior and intelligence scores between these children did not differ. The children who were in general education obtained significantly higher scored in tests of achievement, indicating they were learning more of the curriculum. These findings stress the importance of autistic students being in general education; they still need the guidance and help to address their social and behavioral issues, but they will get the benefit of learning much more in the long run.
The Clayton County school district has worked hard to become a stellar school system. They have decided on and implemented goals which were designed to make for a better school system. In order for any school system to excel, it cannot forget the needs of the children with learning disabilities. These students need social activities and education just like their typical counterparts; they just may require different ways to achieve their goals. In order to fairly determine the performance of an autistic child alternative forms of assessment must be used; they must be assessed on their own personalized set of goals versus being treated as if they are either on par with typical students, or unable to achieve because of their disability. The implementation of alternative testing also will give the school district a more accurate representation of how the schools are performing, since assessment terms would be changed to reflect the growth of autistic students.
Ascd.org,. (2015). Educational Leadership:Teaching All Students:Grading Students with Disabilities. Retrieved 19 July 2015, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational- leadership/oct03/vol61/num02/Grading-Students-with-Disabilities.aspx
Ashburner, J., Ziviani, J., & Rodger, S. (2010). Surviving in the mainstream: Capacity of children with autism spectrum disorders to perform academically and regulate their emotions and behavior at school. Research In Autism Spectrum Disorders, 4(1), 18-27. doi:10.1016/j.rasd.2009.07.002
Autism Society,. (2015). Facts and Statistics | Autism Society. Retrieved 19 July 2015, from http://www.autism-society.org/what-is/facts-and-statistics/
Clayton.k12.ga.us,. (2015). Human Resources. Retrieved 19 July 2015, from https://www.clayton.k12.ga.us/administration/humanrsc/
Clayton County Schools CCPS Strategic Improvement Plan. (2012) (1st ed.). Clayton County School District. Retrieved from http://www.clayton.k12.ga.us/stratplan/strategicplan_2013.pdf
Homefacts.com,. (2015). Clayton County School District in Jonesboro, GA | Homefacts. Retrieved 19 July 2015, from http://www.homefacts.com/schools/Georgia/Clayton-County/Jonesboro/District/Clayton-County-School-District.html
Kurth, J., & Mastergeorge, A. (2010). Services for Adolescents With Autism: Impact of Age and Educational Setting. The Journal Of Special Education, 44(3), 146-160. doi:10.1177/0022466908329825
Mastergeorge, A., & Kurth, J. (2010). Academic and Cognitive Profiles of Students with Autism: Implications for Classroom Practice and Placement. International Journal Of Special Education, 25(2), 8-14.
Odom, S., Collet-Klingenberg, L., Rogers, S., & Hatton, D. (2010). Evidence-Based Practices in Interventions for Children and Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education For Children And Youth, 54(4), 275-282. doi:10.1080/10459881003785506
Walker, T. (2015). U.S. Senate Passes Every Child Achieves Act, End of NCLB Era Draws Closer - NEA Today. NEA Today. Retrieved 19 July 2015, from http://neatoday.org/2015/07/16/u-s-senate-passes-every-child-achieves-act- end-of-nclb-era-draws-closer/
www.news-daily.com,. (2015). Clayton schools earning district-wide accreditation. Retrieved 19 July 2015, from http://www.news- daily.com/news/2013/apr/17/clayton-county-public-schools-earns-district- wide-/