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.

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