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A Comparison of Regular Education Students and Students with Learning Disabilities on a Performance-based Assessment in the Area of Science

Jacqueline L. McFarland


The purpose of this study was to examine the performance of middle school students with disabilities and students without disabilities on a set of tasks in the area of science. Two separate forms of the Science Appraisal Battery, each containing four tasks were developed. The assessments encompass topic areas including vocabulary (2 tests), the human body, plants, electricity, force, measurement, and balance. Each student was assessed individually, with no time limit applied. Students were asked to answer questions verbally or to perform hands-on tasks concerning the topic. Students from 5 school districts in western New York state were chosen to form the sample population of 125 students. The students were grouped according to age (11-13 years of age) and classification (39 regular education and 86 learning disability students). Results indicate that regular education students outperformed students with leamingdisabilities on all portions of the Science Appraisal Battery. Statistically significant differences were however not found between the two groups on the subtests of balance and measurement. Educators must continue to develop tests which better reflect the goals of education and use them to assess student learning. Performance-based assessment may provide opportunities for educators to evaluate the learning of students by actual hands-on assessment of the task being evaluated.

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