Alternate Assessment of Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities: A Research Report

Dr. Icylin Leslie Harding

Publisher: Xlibris Pages: 111 Price: (paperback) $19.99 ISBN: 9781524525989 Reviewed: June, 2017 Author Website: Visit »

The task of administering alternate assessments—non-standard tests for special education students who can’t take them in writing—is daunting. Despite government mandates giving all students the right to an equal education, teachers are not always given the tools and training they need to properly administer the test. Exacerbating the problem: a shortage of special ed teachers, high turnover, and the fact that different states test students differently.

In this book, Dr. Icylin Leslie Harding, a social worker and veteran educator, shares the research she conducted for her doctoral dissertation at Atlanta’s Argosy University so that colleges and universities could use the findings when preparing teachers for alternate assessments. Her study of 42 elementary, middle and high school special education teachers in one suburban Georgia school district, where nearly 12% of the students have disabilities, shows the connection between teacher attitude, experience and professional training in administering the GAA (Georgia Alternate Assessment).

Her survey, which gathered both numbers-driven data and subjective answers, revealed that a college education had little influence; specific training was somewhat more helpful, and attitude and experience often trumped the other two.  In her compilation of the responses, Harding cites “the need for changes in a system that influences the lives of teachers, students, families and communities.”

Well-written and thoroughly discussed, Alternate Assessment is essentially a research paper in book form, with references punctuating nearly every page. Unlike many books about education, this one merely states the study results and is void of strong opinions or guidance for educators. It’s unclear why Harding chose to publish her dissertation in this format, rather than in a standard report or a PDF version online, either of which would have been sufficient.

Although the book is geared toward a very specific audience of special education teachers and administrators, parents of children with significant cognitive disabilities who can wade through all the data may glean insights into what teachers are up against in a less-than-perfect system.

Also available in hardcover and ebook.

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