ERIC Identifier: ED289886
Publication Date: 1983-12-00
Author: Wildemuth, Barbara M.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse
on Tests Measurement and Evaluation Princeton NJ.
Minimum Competency Testing and the Handicapped.
Most states have instituted some type of minimum competency testing (MCT)
program; in many, students must pass the MCT in order to receive a high school
diploma. This Digest reviews some of the approaches taken to accommodate
handicapped students in MCT programs, and some of the legal issues involved.
INCLUDING OR EXCLUDING HANDICAPPED STUDENTS IN MCT PROGRAMS
A survey of the states with MCT requirements found that many had explicitly
mentioned handicapped students in their legislation (Schenck 1981). These states
have taken various approaches to accommodate the needs of handicapped students:
excluding them from the test requirement, using student's IEP as a standard for
graduation, establishing different standards for handicapped students, modifying
the testing procedures for handicapped students, or making no modification for
The choice of approach should be based on the modifications that the student
needs in his or her educational program (Ewing and Smith 1981). Some students
merely require slight modification of their learning environment; their
educational goals are very similar to those of non-handicapped students. For
these students, modification in the administration procedures of a test may be
Other students require a substantially modified curriculum and/or
instrucional goals; their educational programs are noticeably different from the
programs of non-handicapped students. For these students, different standards
may need to be established. Finally, it may be most appropriate to exempt
severely or profoundly handicapped students from MCT programs.
ACCOMMODATING THE NEEDS OF HANDICAPPED STUDENTS
States have taken various approaches to accommodating handicapped students in
their MCT programs.
One approach is to exclude handicapped students from the MCT requirement.
This approach has not been used by any state for all handicapped students.
However, some states have used this option for multiply-handicapped or trainable
A different approach is to use successful completion of the student's
individualized education program (IEP) as the standard for graduation (Schenck
and Welch 1980). The IEP may or may not include a compentency test of some kind
as part of the graduation requirement.
In some states, the IEP specifies whether the student should receive a
regular diploma or a certificate of attendance. In other states, the IEP
specifies modified testing procedures. Twelve states with MCT programs use the
IEP in some way to specify graduation requirements for special education
Some states require that handicapped students take the regular MCT, but
establish different standards as graduation requirements. For example, they
might lower the passing score or weight grades and teacher ratings more heavily
than for non-handicapped students. In several states, a special diploma or
certificate of attendance is awarded to special education students who do not
pass the MCT.
One very common approach is to modify the test administration procedures to
accommodate some types of handicaps. For instance, audio cassette or Braille
versions of the test are provided for blind students; the test is administered
in sign language for deaf students; the time limits are extended; answers are
recorded by a proctor rather than the examinee; or certain types of test items
are omitted from the test. Usually, such test modifications are left to the
discretion of the local school district.
In a few states, a different compentency test is used for students with
specific handicaps. This approach can be legally problematic if handicapped
students are not allowed to take the regular test and are granted a special
In some states, handicapped students must take the regular competency test.
No special accommodations are made, and no special diplomas are granted. A
similar approach leaves the decision about whether and how to test handicapped
students to the local school district.
Adding a MCT to the graducation requirements of handicapped students does not
seem to raise severe legal problems. "However, if MCT is used as a graduation
requirement and certain students are not allowed to take the test (and thus are
denied the opportunity to earn a diploma), a protected right might be impaired"
Another legal issue centers around providing remedial education to students
who do not pass the MCT. Most states provide remedial programs for students who
do not pass the test. Discrimination might be charged if the handicapped student
is denied access to the remedial programs available to non-handicapped students
because he or she is already involved in a special education program.
A final legal problem associated with including handicapped students in MCT
programs is the inconsistent application of evaluation standards within local
school districts or across school districts. This is a common problem when local
school districts are allowed to modify or waive the test requirment with little
or no guidance from the state.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Ewing, Norma J., and James Smith. MINIMUM COMPETENCY TESTING AND THE
HANDICAPPED. April 1981. ED 203 570.
Linde, James L., and Kenneth R. Olsen. MINIMUM COMPETENCY TESTING AND
HANDICAPPED STUDENTS. RESOURCE REPORT NO. 1. ANALYSIS OF THE STATE-OF-THE-ART OF
SERVICE DELIVERY AND TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE ACTIVITIES PROVIDED BY SEAS AND LEAS
UNDER P.L. 94-142. Washington, D.C.: Mid-East Regional Resource Center, 1980.
Lexington, KY: Mid-South Regional Resource Center, 1980. ED 191 873.
McCarthy, Martha M. "Minimum Competency Testing and Handicapped Students."
EXCEPTIONAL CHILDREN 47 (November 1980):166-73.
Schenck, Susan J. RAMIFICATIONS OF THE MINIMUM COMPETENCY MOVEMENT FOR
SPECIAL EDUCATION. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American
Educational Research Association, Los Angeles, CA, April 13-17, 1981. ED 207
Schenck, Susan J., and Frances C. Welch. THE ROLE OF THE IEP IN THE MINIMUM
COMPENTENCY MOVEMENT. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the South
Carolina Educational Research Association, Columbia, SC, December 1980. ED 198
Smith, J. David, and Diane S. Jenkins. "Minimum Competency Testing and
Handicapped Students." EXCEPTIONAL CHILDREN 46 (March 1980):440-443.