Assessment of Students With Special Education Needs

This may be information that is obvious to us educators, but I have decided to write this for those who are not aware of current policy.

Under the Ontario Ministry of Education’s Growing Success directive, teachers are required to provide some students (identified as exceptional by the school’s Identification Placement and Review Committee or IPRC, for short) with at least one of the three services indicated below when it comes to assessment. Teachers must consider linguistic, cognitive, cultural, sensory, physical and developmental challenges when assessing students who are falling behind the grade level. The following services can be provided to ensure that assessment is equitable:


For assessment, students with special needs may need accommodations to grade level assessments to ensure that they can participate in the assessments. For example, a student may be working at grade level but may need a teacher, ECE or educational assistant to read the questions on an exam. The student may also have their responses scribed by an educator. These students may take their test using assistive technology (i.e. Kurzweil) and may be granted an extended time period for completion.


If the student is experiencing significant difficulty or is gifted, modifications to a curriculum expectation can be devised. The student may work on expectations from another grade level.

Alternative Expectations

In special circumstances, a student may work on achieving goals for expectations not in the curriculum, but important for personal development. The student will still be assessed on their ability to achieve these non-curriculum goals.

Implications for Senior Geography Instruction

The days of failing students and holding all students to the same standards are long gone. In a geography class (and any other class, to be quite honest), student assessment should be tailored to meet the needs of a diverse learning community. How are we to teach about diversity if we do not allow for students from diverse backgrounds in the classroom to succeed?

Do you have any geography assessment strategies that are differentiated in approach and satisfy the needs of students with challenges? Please share in the comments.

Student Feedback – A Personal Grey Area in Assessment

A question from my Senior Geography AQ:

What are the main features of the feedback you provide to students about their learning in geography?

To be honest, I have never done any official assessment for any of the students I have interacted with. Every placement and supply job leaves the classroom teacher in charge of true assessment. I have never met one teacher who has relinquished assessment control.

For this reason, I cannot answer this question using any experience, and I must rely on theoretical opinion to answer this. I find this module very difficult for this reason.

If I were to hypothetically teach geography or any subject where I was allowed to assess student learning, I would ensure the following types of feedback are provided:

  1. constructive, personalized comments on creative student work and habits
  2. detailed rubrics for standardized assignments that measure achievement in relation to provincial standards
  3. scores with answer key for knowledge based assignments

I have always enjoyed personal comments from teachers/professors as it shows that they spent some time trying to understand my point of view. This type of feedback has guided me to produce better work or develop better work skills/habits.

Rubrics are not as satisfying as comments, but sometimes it is nice to know where you stand in comparison to others. I guess that is part of the social learning theory; knowing you are ahead of the curve is motivating. I could imagine this could go the other way if you aren’t achieving high.

Call me old fashioned, but test scores (as long as incorrect answers can be learned from) are helpful in showing me how I am doing. This may cause undue stress for some students, but I do believe it is necessary to know how well (or not so well) one has done on a test.

I invite feedback to this approach as I am new to the profession. What types of feedback do you think are most effective?