Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Educational Policy and Leadership Studies
David B. Bills
This qualitative case study examines teachers' perspectives on testing accommodations for Limited English Proficient (LEP) students taking Indiana's Graduation Qualifying Exam (GQE). The Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) states that the purpose of testing accommodations is to "level the playing field" between LEP students and their non-LEP peers. If the IDOE intends a "level playing field" to be a situation of equity in testing, several years of recent test scores show that accommodations have failed to assist LEP students to achieve on par with their peers in both English/Language Arts and Mathematics.
The 14 teachers from Grant High School in Midfield, Indiana, who participated in this study, shared in individual interviews about how and whether testing accommodations can provide the solution for closing the performance gap between LEP and non-LEP students. Teachers discussed their experiences using testing accommodations both in the classroom and during GQE testing. They also shared their perspectives on the statewide testing system and offered suggestions on how to improve the testing situation, specifically for LEP students.
Teachers were cautiously supportive of the practice of using testing accommodations, and were against implementing a high-stakes test with enough importance to determine whether students qualify for graduation. Most interviewees perceived testing accommodations as a "necessary evil," a tool that helps LEP students, but not the panacea for creating equity in testing for LEP learners.
Teachers' internal struggles to balance mandates from the State while, at the same time, preserving unique teaching practices came forth in these interviews. This conflict came to light when teachers discussed how they must adhere to IDOE practices, such as offering testing accommodations, even though they perceived accommodations as inadequate to significantly raise test scores.
Teachers generally reflected the wariness of scholars who warn against implementing a system of accommodations that, although widespread, has yet to be proved scientifically sound. Without further research into the effectiveness of testing accommodations and the benefits of exit exams, schools like Grant will continue administering high-stakes tests to all demographics of students without possessing a firm understanding of the process.
Copyright 2010 Angela D. Hetler