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  #1  
Old 09-18-2013, 07:06 PM
Jerseygirlteach Jerseygirlteach is offline
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3rd/4th grade special education
Any NJ teachers who have to administer the APA (alternative portfolio assessment)?

This is probably just going to be a vent because there aren't many of us who have to do this, but the APA might just do me in. For those of you that aren't familiar with this, let me explain what it is. NJ requires 3rd - 12th graders to take state tests. However, for those special education students considered eligible, they do not take the state tests. Instead, their teachers must create portfolios for them demonstrating their acquisition of the grade level content. So, unlike the state test, the teacher has to create the assessments (4 initial and 4 final assessments from different strands of each subject: math, science, and language arts) from scratch, aligned exactly (or it doesn't count at all) with what the state wants. If your student, for example, is to demonstrate an ability to answer a specific type of questions on a non-fiction writing piece, the teacher must either locate or write a non-fiction piece and the exactly those questions that meet the strand’s criteria. Believe me when I tell you that these assessments take a very, very long time to make.

Here comes the fun part. Your student must get under a 40% on the initial assessment. If, on the multiple choice test you spent hours creating, they guess their way to a 40%, YOU fail! You need to start from scratch. You have given an initial assessment that is too easy. You need to keep trying until you make one hard enough that they will fail (get less than 40%). Now you get to teach it to them and then reassess them with a final. The final assessment needs to be different and harder than the initial and if your school is to get credit, they need to score at least an 80%. Even more fun, you only get a very small window to try to teach them this concept that is most likely, way too difficult for them to grasp. Because if they could grasp it, they sure the heck wouldn't be in your class to begin with. Oh, and you get to create your own materials to actually teach these concepts because no one gives them to you.

The cherry on top (pure sarcasm here) is that when you give them initial assessments that they must fail (to show how they don't already know the material before you teach it to them), they get incredibly frustrated and cry because you're making them take a test that they are set up to fail. And if, by some stroke of luck, they don't fail, you have to make new ones and keep giving them until they do fail.

Can you think of any more ridiculous way to assess special education students than this?
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  #2  
Old 09-19-2013, 07:29 PM
bethechange bethechange is offline
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Minnesota
Elementary SPED - Autism
That is insane!!! I am never moving to New Jersey. I thought our state alternative assessments were ridiculous, but at least they give them to me and I only waste a week or so giving them, trying not to make my students either cry or try to eat the response cards, and taking their ridiculous data. I can't imagine having to make and give them all myself twice!!!!
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Old 10-08-2013, 08:48 AM
rascal264
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I had actually been in charge of coordinating APAs in my school for years. It is a total nightmare. I don't get the logic of expecting students who are still struggling to learn simple concepts like counting to five to be able to grasp even a simple understanding of high school mathematics. And what sane parent would care if their kid is learning about matrices if she can't identify her numbers? We kept getting a lot of zeroes no matter what I did. If a date was left off or the score was written wrong- zero. If the activity didn't line up with what they wanted (completely subjective) zero. One activity that would meet their criteria one year would not do so another year. I think they should have premade activities for this- maybe with a few different ways to present it (pictures, objects, etc.) so that we don't have to play the gotcha game with teachers. But anyway, I no longer work there and don't have to run APA's anymore. I feel bad for the teachers who took it over.
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Old 10-08-2013, 08:54 AM
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TeacherNY TeacherNY is online now
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NY of course!
Special Education Teacher
NY changed their test to something similiar but my students will have to get under 74%. I don't think it will be too bad.
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Old 10-08-2013, 02:57 PM
Jerseygirlteach Jerseygirlteach is offline
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3rd/4th grade special education
Quote:
Originally Posted by rascal264 View Post
I had actually been in charge of coordinating APAs in my school for years. It is a total nightmare. I don't get the logic of expecting students who are still struggling to learn simple concepts like counting to five to be able to grasp even a simple understanding of high school mathematics. And what sane parent would care if their kid is learning about matrices if she can't identify her numbers? We kept getting a lot of zeroes no matter what I did. If a date was left off or the score was written wrong- zero. If the activity didn't line up with what they wanted (completely subjective) zero. One activity that would meet their criteria one year would not do so another year. I think they should have premade activities for this- maybe with a few different ways to present it (pictures, objects, etc.) so that we don't have to play the gotcha game with teachers. But anyway, I no longer work there and don't have to run APA's anymore. I feel bad for the teachers who took it over.
EXACTLY. The system is...

1) Students MUST get a less than a specific maximum grade on the initial assessment - - even if s/he is guessing - or it won't count and I have to reassess at a more advanced level.

2). Students MUST get a specific minimum grade on the final assessment.

3) Teachers need to figure out and create an assessment that is EXACTLY what the state wants even though the requirements are incredibly brief, vague, and confusing.

4) Regardless of the student's level of ability, they must demonstrate that they have been taught and comprehend grade level material. So, if you have an 11th grader who can't add two numbers together, you still have to instruct them and assess them in grade level chemistry, for example.

5) As a teacher, I spend far more time doing this with students than I do addressing IEP goals. How is that ethical and fair to them?
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Old 10-08-2013, 06:50 PM
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gr3teacher gr3teacher is online now
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Virginia
3rd Grade Teacher
Sounds like the Virginia VGLA. It was a happy day when I turned the final VGLA binder in, and actually got to be a real teacher for the last month of the school year.
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  #7  
Old 12-30-2013, 04:14 AM
dotty04 dotty04 is offline
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NJ
Spec Ed
NJ APA

I am spending hours of my vacation trying to make up tests for my students; 4th and 5th graders so I can complete it by Feb. I am constantly cutting and pasting and perusing the internet for ideas. Have you found any good resources? I use Boardmaker Achieve and Teachers Pay Teachers. I don't know about you but I do not get any credit for putting in all this extra work. I was told next year it will be computerized BUT this year it is not.
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  #8  
Old 12-30-2013, 11:21 AM
Jerseygirlteach Jerseygirlteach is offline
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3rd/4th grade special education
Quote:
Originally Posted by dotty04 View Post
I am spending hours of my vacation trying to make up tests for my students; 4th and 5th graders so I can complete it by Feb. I am constantly cutting and pasting and perusing the internet for ideas. Have you found any good resources? I use Boardmaker Achieve and Teachers Pay Teachers. I don't know about you but I do not get any credit for putting in all this extra work. I was told next year it will be computerized BUT this year it is not.
I mainly make up my own assessments since they are so specific that I usually can't find exactly what I'm looking for in premade worksheets. I thought I would get a break this year since I did so much last year and I thought I could just reuse it. However, we were told that the state doesn't want us reusing the same activities year and year so we had to do all new activities this year. Plus, last year I only had 4th grade and this year I have 3rd and 4th so I had to make up the 3rd grade ones. Many of my students passed the initial assessments I made so I had to keep remaking them over and over again.

No, I definitely don't get anything for putting in the extra work. I don't blame my district, though. They are not the ones who sit in their ivory towers and make up this ridiculous system.
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  #9  
Old 01-05-2014, 05:58 PM
kit_kate27 kit_kate27 is offline
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Hi all,
I'm in the same boat here! Just as a heads up for next year (it's probably too late now)...the NJ APA website gives examples of certain link assessments. These are for sure the best ones to use because you can use exactly the same format as these assessments, and even the same questions if you want! You don't get penalized for using the same thing, or even using the same thing for multiple students.
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