"High-stakes" tests are educational assessment tests whose outcomes have enormous bearing on the academic future of a student. One of the most common forms of high-stakes tests is a high-school exit exam.

Are Students with Disabilities Required to Take High Stakes Tests?

Whether or not a student with a disability is required to take a high stakes test varies according to state. However, in general, all students must take state mandated tests regardless of any disability. The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) does require that some concessions be made to students with disabilities:

  • The student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) must address what kinds of accommodations will be needed for the student to participate in educational assessments.
  • The IEP must also address the issue of the student’s graduation, whether he will participate in any exit exams, and if and how the test should be modified to fit his needs.
  • In some cases, you may be able to argue that your child should not be required to take the high-stakes test because the material it covers was not covered in your child’s curriculum.

Are There Alternatives to High Stakes Tests for Disabled Students?

Most of the states that use high stakes tests do make some accommodations for students with disabilities. Some of the common ways schools accommodate students with disabilities are:

  • Modifications to the test – Common modifications include extended time limits, large print, and allowing a teacher to read the instructions several times.
  • Exemption – Some states exempt students with disabilities from the test and allow them to graduate without compromising their ability to get a diploma.
  • Alternate assessment – Some states allow students with disabilities to be assessed in a different way to see if they meet the standards for graduation.
  • Retesting – Students have multiple opportunities to retake the test if they fail.
  • Scoring – Some states do not require students with disabilities to score as high on the test in order to graduate.

What If My Child Is Not Able to Graduate without Passing an Exit Exam?

Every school allows a student to graduate if they meet the state-mandated requirements for graduation. If a student is unable to meet those requirements, alternatives to a standard graduation may be available to him, but these alternatives vary from state to state. Some of the common alternative options include:

  • IEP Diplomas – Some states award special IEP diplomas to students with disabilities who successfully complete the program outlined in their IEP.
  • Certificates of Achievement – If a student’s IEP has found the diploma track to not be appropriate, the state may award him a certificate of achievement instead of a diploma.
  • Occupational Diplomas – Some states will award occupational diplomas to students who have completed a work-study program.

Should I Contact a Lawyer?

If you have questions or concerns about high stakes tests and how they will affect your child, you may want to contact a government lawyer. The laws governing high stakes tests are complex and vary according to state. An attorney will be able to inform you more about your states laws and regulations and can help you understand and protect you and your child’s rights.