FACTORS RELATED TO PERFORMANCE ON THE NEW MEXICO HIGH SCHOOL PROFICIENCY EXAM FOR MILDLY HANDICAPPED STUDENTS IN NEW MEXICO RURAL SCHOOLS by RUBEN ALFREDO CORDOVA B.A., New Mexico Highlands 1973 M.A., New Mexico HIghlands 1979 A submitted to the Faculty of the School of the of in fulfillment of the the of of Philosophy School of Education 1988
Cordova, Ruben Alfredo (Ph.D .. Education) Factors Related to Performance on the New Mexico High School Proficiency Exam for Mi Idly Handicapped Students in New MexIco Rural Schools DissertatIon directed by Professor Bob L. Taylor Seventy-one students who entered ninth grade in school year 1981-1982 and received special education services in resource rooms were the focus of this study. Data for the study were provided by 16 rural school districts. The purpose of this study was (a) to examine the relationships between students/ performance on the exam and their high school completion status, (b) to compare students who passed, students who failed, and students who did not take the exam, and (c) to examine the relationships between performance on the exam and high school completion with occupational status two years after leaving high school. Performance on the exam was signifiGantly associated .001) with the manner in which students ended their high school careers. Students who passed the exam were most I ikely to remaIn in school and receive the endorsed diplomas upon graduation. Most of the students who dropped out of school were either students who fai led the exam or students who did not take the exam.
iv ImpoLtant diffeLences and similaLities weLe obseLved among students who passed, students who failed, and students who did not take the exam. Students who failed and students who did not take the exam weLe mostly fLom low income families in which the parents' level of education was also low. In LegaLd to ability, as measuLed by VeLbal Scales on intelligence tests, students who did not take the exam weLe not significantly diffeLent fLom students who passed the exam. Occupational status since leaving high school was significantly associated with the manneL in which students ended their high school caLeeLS and with peLfoLmance on the exam. Students who passed the exam weLe the most likely to graduate and be employed full time OL pULsue fULther education. Students who failed and students who did not take the exam had higher dLopout Lates and weLe most likely to be unemployed. The Lelationship between competency testing and occupational status has not been thoLoughly examined. This study included only LULal schools in one state. A similaL study in otheL Legions with LULal and nonLuLal, mildly handicappped students whould pLovide a betteL pOLtLait on the impact of competency testing.
FACTORS RELATED TO PERFORMANCE ON THE NEW MEXICO HIGH SCHOOL PROFICIENCY EXAM FOR MILDLY HANDICAPPED STUDENTS IN NEW MEXICO RURAL SCHOOLS by RUBEN ALFREDO CORDOVA B.A New Mexico Highlands 1973 M.A New MexIco Highlands 1979 A submitted to the Faculty of School of the of in fulfillment of the the degree of of PhIlosophy School of Education 1988
This the of PhIlosophy by Ruben has been the School of Education by W. Michael M. Baca
Ruben Alfredo (Ph.D., Education) Related to on the New Mexico High School Exam Mildly Handicapped Students in New Mexico Schools by Bob L. Seventy-one students who ninth in school 1981-1982 and special education in the focus of this study. Data the study by 16 school distLicts. The pULpose of this study was (a) to examine the between students' peLfoLmance on the exam and hlgh school completlon status, (b) to compaLe students who passed, students who failed, and students who did not take the exam, and (c) to examine the Lelationships between on the exam and high school completion with occupational status two afteL leaving high school. PeLfoLmance on the exam was significantly associated (2 < .001) with the manneL in which students ended theiL high school Students who passed the exam weLe most likely to Lemain In school and Leceive the diplomas upon gLaduation. Most of the students who out of school weLe students who failed the exam OL students who did not take the exam.
Iv and among students who passed, students who failed, and students who did not take the exam. Students who failed and students who did not take the exam were mostly from low income families in which the parents' level of education was also low. In to ability, as by Verbal Scales on intelligence tests, students who did not take the exam were not significantly from students who passed the exam. Occupational status since leaving high school was significantly associated with the manner in which students ended their high school careers and with on the exam. Students who passed the exam were the most likely to graduate and be employed full time or pursue further education. Students who failed and stUdents who did not take the exam had higher dropout and were most likely to be unemployed. The relationship between competency testing and occupational status has not been examined. This study Included only rural schools In one state. A similar study in other regions with rural and nonrural, mildly handicappped students whould provIde a better on the impact of competency testing.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS This was made possible by the and to me by many individuals. am indebted to Dr. Bob L. Taylor, Dr. W. Michael Martin, and M. Baca who served on my committee. guidance, patience, and friendship will always be and deeply appreciated. my to Charles Zartman, Dr. Ofelia and M. Baca for me to attend the of Colorado. also thank Miramontes, Baca, and the staff at the BUENO Center my studies. am to my brothers, and sisters for in me the to pursue higher goals. Their demonstrated confidence in my abilities has always been a source of strength. Thank you for that you have done for me. will always be to Dr. Kenneth D. Hopkins for his friendship and sharing his on design and data analysis. A sincere thank you Is extended to Dr. BIll Barclay, a personal friend, who provided his computer and
vi his time to run statistical tests. A note of appreciation goes to the school district superintendents and their staffs who provided the data for this study. This study could not have taken place without their cooperation. I am very grateful to the Graduate School at the University of Colorado for recognizing this research project as exemplary and providing a financial award. Finally, I am grateful to my wife, Lillian, who fulfilled the responsibilities of a caring mother and father to our chlldren while I spent endless hours fulfilling the requirements for a Ph.D. I also thank our children Elias, Marcos, and Amanda for their love and patience.
TABLE OF CONTENTS CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION. Statement of the Problem. Questions to be Answered Research Hypotheses Limitations of the Study Definition of Terms S-i gn if i cance of the Study Organization of the Dissertation II. REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE Characteristics of Competency Testing The New Mexico High School Proficiency Exam Competency Testing, Handicapped Students, and the Courts. Competency Testing and Handicapped Students. Educational Attainment of Mildly Handicapped Students Summary of -Rev i ew of Li terature III. METHODOLOGY Site Selection .. Sample Selection Approach ... 5 6 8 12 16 20 22 24 30 32 36 37 38
vii i CHAPTER Data Gathering ... 41 Instrumentation. 44 Data Analysis 46 IV. ANALYSIS OF THE DATA .. 49 Section I 49 Variables 49 Sect ion II .. 66 Research Question # 1 66 Research Question # 2 Analysis of Variance ... 79 Multiple Comparisons .. 80 Research Question # 3 85 Research Question # 4 87 Sununary of Data Analysis .. 90 V. SUMMARY OF FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS ... 96 Sununary of Findings 97 Conclusions 101 Recommendations 104 Recommendations to School Administrators and Pol icy Makers. 104 Recommendations for Research .. REFERENCES APPENDIX A. B. LETTER TO SUPERINTENDENTS LETTER TO SPECIAL EDUCATION CONTACT PERSONS . 106 108 112 117
TABLES Table 1. Number and Percent of Subjects on the Variables: Sex, Race/Ethnicitv, and Handicap. 51 2. \ Test Scores on the Variables: Verbal la, Performance la, Reading Achievement, and Achievement ......... 3. Record of the Subjects on the Variables: 4. 5. 6. 7. Mainstream Courses Failed, Absences and Years in Special Education .... Attempts to Pass the High School Proficiency Exam .. Number and Percentage of Parents Based on Education Level Number and Percent of Parents Based on Income Level .. Number and Percent of Subjects on the Variable High School Completion .Status 54 56 60 61 63 65 8. Status of Subjects Since Leaving High School. 67 9. Performance on the High School Proficiency Exam and Status of High School Completion.. 69 10. Subjects' Performance on High School Prof i c i Exam and Parents' Level s of Education ....... 11. Performance on the High .School Proficiency 72 Exam and Mainstream Courses Failed. 74 12. Performance on the Proficiency Exam and Parents Level of Income .... 13. Comparisons bV Performance on High School Proficiency Exam and Selected Variables. 77 81
TABLE 14. 15. 16. 17. of Subjects by on High School Exam and Reading AchIevement ......... of Subjects by on School Exam and lQ. High on the High School Exam and Occupational Status High School Completion and Occupational Status. 83 84 88 91
CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION In recent years student achievement has been the focus of national concern in education. Concern over the lack of basic skills competency on the part of many high school graduates has brought about the requirement that students demonstrate proficiency in basic skills in order to be eligible to receive a regular high school diploma. Minimum competency testing is now a realIty in many states either through state boards of education pqlicy or from legislation enacted in response to public pressure. The publlc is demanding that schools be held more accountable. The use of minimum competency tests, tied to high school graduation, has brought about mlxed reactlons on the part of educators. Critics have charged that the use of such tests could have the effect of pushing students out of schools prematurely (Glass, 1978; Madaus & Greaney, 1985). and Greaney (1985) wrote: The question of how prevalent these may be or of what happens to those by the competency testing requirements have not received adequate attention to date. This is an area badly in need of research" (p. 282).
2 have minimum competency testing on that competency testing is what the public wants and that its implementation will targets for students and to (Popham, 1978). Competency testing state to state. Some states select the test to be used and set the for passIng. Other states select the test to be used and allow school districts to set the passing other states allow school districts to select the test to be used and to set the as well 1981). Efforts to credibility to the high school diploma the use of paper and pencil tests have given rise to many issues when handicapped students involved. In the absence of policy the federal level, state with to the of handicapped students in minimum competency testing state to state. In some states, handicapped students exempt taking such tests. This may mean that since they don't take the test, they not eligible to a diploma. In New Mexico, students who special education for half of the day or more are exempt proficiency on the New Mexico High School EXam (NMHSPE). Students who receive special education services for the equivalent of
3 two or less class periods of the instructional day (mildly handicapped) are not automatically exempt. However, in order to be entitled to receive a regular high school diploma, students must have passed the proficiency exam. Since 1978 to the present, the performance by mildly handicapped students on the NMHSPE has not been very successful. More than half of the handicapped students taking the exam each year have failed to score at or above the competency standard. It does not appear that performance on the exam by the mildly handicapped has improved significantly over the years. This condition continues in spite of the fact that educators at .the local district level (Education Appraisal and Review Committees (EA8.R), who. are knowledgeable about these students and their individualized .educational plans,. recommend whether or not these students shou d take the exam. Numerous position papers have been written about the potential impact (positive or negative) of competency testing on handicapped students; however, research on the impact of competency testing on mildly handicapped students is very limited. This is especially true in the case of handicapped students in rural schools. The fact that competency tests vary from state to state, coupled with the diversity that exists among the mildly
handicapped student population, the little that exlsts is always followed by a caution about the of the findings (Hall, & Thompson, 1985; Santilli, 1985; & 1983; 1984). In addition, none of these have made the connection between on competency tests and occupational status of subjects leaving high school in of the with populations will to a on the impact of competency testing. Statement of the The of thIs study was: Ca) to the high school completion status of a group of mildly handicapped subjects In New Mexico schools, Cb) to the between mildly handicapped students' on the New Mexico High School Proficiency Exam (NMHSPE) and their status of high school completion, Cc) to compare, on selected variables, mildly handicapped students from New Mexico rural schools who passed the NMHSPE, mildly handicapped students In New Mexico rural schools who failed the NMHSPE, and mildly handicapped students in New Mexico rural -schools who did not take the NMHSPE, Cd) to determine the occupational status of a of mildly
5 handicapped students from New Mexico rural schools two years after leaving high school,
6 level of income, (j) 10 (k) 10 (1) sex, and (m) ethnlcity? 3. between on the NMHSPE and the occupational status of mildly handicapped students of New Mexico schools two leaving high school? 4. significant between status of high school completion and the occupational status of mildly handicapped students of New Mexico schools two leaving high school? Research Hypotheses 1. no significant between on the New Mexico High School Exam and the high school completion status by mildly handicapped students in New Mexico schools. 2. Ther'e no significant among mildly handicapped students in New Mexico schools who passed, those who failed, and those who did not take the New Mexico High School Exam on the var'iables: (a) achievement (b) math achievement (c) handicap, (d) of days absent school, (e) of mainstr'eam failed, (f) of special education failed, (g) year's in special education, (h) level of education, (i) level of income, (j) IQ
(k) IQ (1) sex, and (m) ethnicity. 3. no significant between on the New Mexico High School Exam and the occupational status of mildly handicapped students New Mexico schools two leaving high school. 4. no significant between status of high school completion and the occupational status of mildly handicapped students New Mexico schools two leaving high school. Limitations of the Study 7 Since this study was not an the independent not manipulated. Due to the size of the sample plus the that exists among mildly handicapped students, as well as the that exists one community to the of the limited. The data this study influenced by the at each Some school were able to information on all the each subject while others were not. Data on reading and math mostly limited to grade equivalent on of absences was also
limited. is no to suspect that any data which not available for analysis would have changed the outcome of this study in any significant Definition of Terms 1. Rural School District: a Is considered rural when the number of inhabitants is less than 150 mile when located in counties with 60 or of the population living in communities no than 5,000 inhabitants. Districts with more than 10,000 students and those within a Metropolitan Statistical as by the U.S. Census Bureau, are not considered (Helge, 1980) 2. Minimum Competency Tests: tests intended to examinees into two and non-masters. The competencies are the substance the test either or knowledge 1980) 3. High School Completion Status: to the status of a subject at the time she/he terminated studies from high school. This includes: with a diploma bearing a state seal of endorsement, from high school without an endorsed diploma,
high school with a of completion, and out graduating. 9 4. Mildlv Handicapped Students: to subjects who were enrolled in mainstream classes or of the day while in high school. Subjects who received special education than of the day not included in this study. 5. Leve)-A Special Education special education programs for children whose special needs do not a basic modification of the although special instructional techniques may be emphasis is on a consultation" and assistance to the each student's and making recommendations for alterations and strategy changes when (Educatipn Standards for New Mexico Schools (1986>, Section B.1.3.4>. 6. Special Education Program: special education programs for children whose special needs do not require a basic modification of the although special techniques may be along with scheduled intervention outside the classroom. In any specific area skills must be taught, emphasis is on provldlng remediation or special adaptive
10 techniques which will help the student to accommodate for his/her exceptionality and academic deficits (Education Standards for New MexIco Schools (1986), Section B.1.3.4). 7. Level-C SpecIal Education Programs: special education programs for children whose special learning needs are such that the content, methods, and pacIng of the regular classroom are inappropriate and must be modified. AssIstance with adaptive techniques may be necessary before the child can function in the regular classroom setting. At a mInimum, participatIon in the Level-C program accounts for fifty percent of the instructional day (Education Standards for New Mexico Schools (1986), Section B.1.3.4). 8. Level-D SpecIal Education Programs: special education programs for children whose speCial learning needs are such that they requIre extensive modifications of instructional content, instructional methods, and the provision of a highly structured learning environment. Academic achievement and/or social development may be significantly behInd the chronological peer group. The child requires extensive training in the acquisition of adaptive or compensatory skIlls. At a minimum, tIme in the Level-D program accounts for fifty percent of the instructional day (Education Standards for New Mexico Schools (1986), Section 220.127.116.11).
9. Educational Appraisal and Review Committee (EA&R): refers to a group of no fewer than four persons responsible to Insure that the evaluatlon and placement decisions are in compliance with prescribed standards. Inherent in the decision process is the need for the membershIp to be knowledgeable about the child. Standards do not name specific educational personnel to be members of the committee. However, at the high school level, it is intended that a representative of the student's teachers be a member of the committee. The committee must meet as a whole and be composed of individuals directly involved with providing educational and ancillary services to the students. Individuals knowledgeable in diagnosis and program planning for the areas of the child's suspected exceptionalitles must also be a part of the committee. A member of the evaluation team must be present at the initial placement review. Staff members acquainted with the needs of the linguistically different child shall serve on the committee when appropriate. The child's parents and the child (when appropriate) shall be invited to participate in all EA&R meetings (Education Standards For New Mexico Schools (1986) Sections B.2.S; B.2.S.I; B.2.8.2>.
12 Significance of the Study The need to conduct this research endeavor stems from at least three sources: (a) A review of the literature on minimum competency testing revealed that not only was this aspect of educational reform very popular and controverSial, but also its Impact on the education of mildly handicapped students In rural schools had not been the focus of research, (b) data collected by New Mexico State Department of Education officials showed that a disproportionate number of special education students have failed the NMHSPE, and (c) recently enacted legislation called for more rigorous competency testing beginning with the senior class of 1990. Rural America has not been the focus of attention by many researchers. Much concern has been expressed about the education problems generated by conditions in the large cities and their environments. This concern is real and deserves much attention. However, the 'corresponding concern has not appeared to any great extent for the problems of education in sparsely populated areas. With declining enrollments and limited financial the provision of minimal education programs becomes increasingly difficult. Probably there are a number of reasons as to why rural education has not received the attention it
One might be that institutions of education that emphasize are generally not located in A second reason may very weI I be that of convenience. The cost involved in between sites, plus the to obtain a sizeable sample of school districts with which to imposes strict limitations on any meaningful study. Data from 1978 indicated that about two-thirds of our nation's schools were considered rural, and about one-third of the school-aged children attended these schools. It was estimated that of the 15 million students enro.lled in rural schools, at least 1.5 million were 1978). In addition, the literature on rural special education had consistently that rural schools faced numerous obstacles In meeting the educatIonal needs of handIcapped students (Halpern, 1982; Helge, 1981; Kirmer, et al., 1984; Nash, 1984) An historical review on minimum competency testing in this that its previous use has had the effect of driving students out of school (Resnick, 1980). Similar effects were reported by Madaus and Greaney in their study, "The Irish Experience in Competency Testing: Implications for American Education" (1985), By determining the high
14 school completion status of a of mildly handicapped students in schools who came into ninth school 1981-1982 and on the high school exam, one can not a significant exists between test and high school completion. This component was given significance by the fact that of competency testing have that the use of such tests will to motivate students (Popham, 1978). that have to student which significantly to student on cOmpetency tests have yielded that Is of value about the populations in sample and about tests. Studies by Hall, and Thompson (1985), Santilli (1985), and (1984), have identified mildly handicapped students' that are to on competency tests. since these findings had not been totally consistent was needed. In addition, all of these studies had dealt with students who had failed a competency test at least once. These studies did not the possibility that some mildly handicapped students may not have taken such exams either because they dropped out for
This study utilized variables that other researchers have identified as possibly being related to performance on competency tests. Testing the relationship between selected variables and performance on the high school proficiency can provide meaningful information for educators and others concerned with the educational needs of mildly handicapped students. Furthermore, this study provides information about mildly handicapped subjects who passed, those who failed, and those who did not take the high school proficiency exam. The component of this study which compared mildly handicapped subjects by performance on the high school proficiency exam yielded information as to the characteristics of these types of subjects. This information may be used to develop proflles of students who are likely to experience difficulty in passing competency exams. Aggregated data from the New Mexico State Department of Education showed that speCial education students who took this exam were not very likely to score above the cut-off point. During the years that the exam has been used, the Testing and Evaluation Unit of the New Mexico State Department of Education has collected data in regard to performance by students on the exam. Of the students receiving special education services who have taken the exam every year, close to 60% have scored below
16 the cut-off criterion. The Education Appraisal and Review Committee (EA&R) at each school is responsible for determining whether a student receiving special education services should take the exam. Students with moderate to severe handicapping conditions generally have not participated in taking the exam. It seems that educators who have to make decisions as to whether a student should take such an exam would welcome more information on which to base their decisions. Organization of the Dissertation The dissertation has been organized in the following manner. Chapter I presents an introduction, a statement of the problem, questions to be answered, hypotheses, limitations of the study, definition of terms, the significance of the study, and the organization of the dissertation. Chapter II contains a review of related llterature. Chapter III contains a descrIption of the methods used in selectIng the sltes, the sample, how data were gathered, how the instrument was developed, and the procedures used to analyze the data. Chapter IV presents an analysis of the data. This chapter is comprised of two major sections. The first section provldes a description of the sample based on the data provided by the school districts. The second section of the chapter is concerned with comparisons of
the subjects a of Finally, V a of the findings, conclusions, and 17
CHAPTER II REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE Minimum competency testing offers a popular solution to restoring valIdity to the high school diploma. The lIterature presented here provides a background and overview of major issues in minimum competency testing and identifies imp'l ications for handicapped students who have earned the right to a free and appropriate education in the least restrictIve environment. Current efforts to bring about reform in education have been accompanied by the widespread use of minimum competency tests. McCarthy (1986) reports that "as of November 1985, 40 states had laws or resolutions establIshing Minimum Competence Testing programs with high school graduation tied to passage of an MCT In approximately half of these states" (p. 235). According to Hall and others, MCT has been popular with both conservatives and liberals for different reasons. ConservatIves viewed such measures as a means to hold educators responsible in terms of how dollars are spent for education. Liberals, on the other hand, supported
19 MCT because they that such will the quality of education all students (Hall, et al., 1985). Most seemed to that the of competency tests has also grown the of outside of education who have felt that a need existed to make schools accountable. A number of events have to these perceptions: a declIne In exam the high of youth unemployment, on the part of parents that schools not as "good" as they used to be, cost to support education when facing declining and that many applicants do not have the skills needed to at This sentiment was clearly echoed in 1981 by James Popham when he wrote: U. S. citizens believe that a high school diploma means little today. They believe that too many students are to because of tIme spent In school, not because of they have In short, U. S. citizens view school promotion with skepticism. This has not always been the case. Most of us can recall a time when a high school diploma represented a Significant accomplishment. Students who diplomas in those days had them. Now U. S. citizens are demanding that honesty be to public school Minimum competency testing is designed to do just that. (p. 89), Competency test use varies the country. In some states, students must of identified skills to be eligible promotion
20 one to the next. states that students pass an exam to be eligible to a high school diploma. The establishing competency testing at levels is to identify students who are having difficulty and provlde States that competency testing also vary in the amount of flexibility they allow school districts. Some states specify the test to be used and establish the cut-off score. Other states specify the test to be used but allow school districts to set their own passing criteria
21 They all some which have to the use of competency tests; they have In both and objectives students specified. Is based on what the student needs, and tests used to what a student has and when it is time the student to move onto the next objective. Both of these use testing which is as an essential of teaching and Individualized is with establishing objectives individual students based on needs. The goal Is to help students potential. Minimum competency testing, on the hand, assumes that minimums can be identified and at stages In a child's education. Simply stated, this means that all students should be able to attain these minimums. The notion that most should achieve levels of skills has been the psychology of The that most able to skills at given stages In education 1980).
The New Mexico High School Proficiency Exam 22 The New Mexico High School Proficiency Exam is a part of the Basic Skills Plan which was Instituted by the New Mexico State Board of Education in 1977. It purports to measure the ability of students to apply basic skills to problems that they might encounter at some point in their lives. Under the plan, for stUdents receiving special education services, it was the responsibility of the Education Appraisal and Review Committee to recommend whether a student should participate in taking the exam. Since instituting the high school proficiency exam, students had to obtain a standard score of 523 on the exam in order to be eligIble to receive a high school diploma bearing the state board of education's seal. Students who did not pass the exam and students who did not take the exam were not eligible to receive the diploma with the state seal. Each spring, the exam was offered to all tenth-grade stUdents as well as eleventh-grade and twelfth-grade students who had failed on previous attempts or had not taken it before. The exam consists of approximately 200 multiple choice items and is composed of two major sections. One section covers the areas of community resources, consumer economics, government and law, health. and occupational knowledge. The second section covers the skills areas of
23 language mathematics, reading, science, and social studies. on students' on the exam from 1977 to 1987 showed that the proportion of students passing the exam each year increased over the years. As in other states, competency tests or exams are In place, the lowest of students passing the exam was the first time the exam was school year 1977-1978, 76% of the students who took the exam attained a passing score. These same data showed that by school year 1984-1985, 91% of all students were passing the exam. Since the time the exam was Anglo students have Hispanic, Black, and Native American stUdents. The of students passing the exam school year 1977-1978 by ethnicity were: Anglo, 91%; Hispanic, 67%; Black, 53%; and Native American, 42%. By school year 1984-1985 the Anglo, 98%; Hispanic, 89%; Black, 84%; and Native 74%. Although the of students passing the exam each year was the between special education students and non-special education students passing the exam relatively large. example, in school 1984-1985, data by the New Mexico State of Education showed that 91% of all students who took the exam passed. Statistics
24 on the performance by special education students on the exam for that same school year showed that only 44% of these students passed the exam. In terms of ethnicity, these data showed that during the years the exam has been in place, Anglo students have been the most successful at passing the exam, and Native Americans have been the least successful. However, students recelving special education services have been the group of students least likely to pass the high school proficiency exam. CompetencY Testing. Handicapped Students. and the Courts The absence of clear policy on the application of minimum competency requirements where handicapped students are concerned has resulted in a dlversity of practices. Application of competency test requirements vary from state to state and even school districts where state policy is not clear. In some states, handicapped students receive a regular diploma for completing an individualized education plan (IEP). In other states, the type of diploma that is awarded is determined by the type of curriculum offered. Yet, in other states, categories of handlcapped children are awarded certificates of attendance rather than diplomas (McCarthy, 1986).
25 Handicapped students the of students most punitively affected by minimum competency tests that tied to high school diplomas. The of handicapped students on competency tests has in cases filed on behalf. At least cases cited in the which seem to set a The of these. even though it did not inv'olve handicapped students. established the of state policy and to institute competency testing as a legitimate to quality in education. In 1978. the P. v. case was filed in on behalf of black students who had failed would fail the state's exam. The exam had been times. and on each occasion a of black students had failed. the time the exam was 77 of the black students failed.) Eventually, this placed a until 1982-83 school on the use of the exam as a diploma This was issued because it was the opinion that since blacks had attended schools until 1971. they had not benefited equal educational However. the court that the exam itself satisfied as to and content validity 1981).
Furthermore, the court determined that the diploma sanction would work to remedy past inequalities in education by requiring students to pay closer attention to skills acquisition. 26 A second case that deserves mention, Board of Education of Northport-East Northport Union Free School District v. Ambach, was filed in New York on behalf of two handicapped students (one neurologically impaired; the other mentally retarded) whose diplomas were invalidated by the commissioner of education after they had failed to pass the state/s competency exam. At issue was the test/s validity. Since the competency test was designed so that the average ninth-grade student could answer 80 percent of the questions, the court rejected the plaintiff/s claim that the test was invalid. The court found that the three years of prior notice regarding the graduation requirement was adequate. Furthermore, the court ruled that a property right had not been denied since there was no evidence that these students had a legitimate claim of entItlement to benefit. Simply stated, the court ruled that the denial of a diploma based on competency test performance does not discriminate against handicapped students who are unable to meet standards (Hammes, 1983; Thomas, 1985). Brookhart v. IllInois State Board of Education was filed on behalf of handicapped students. In this
27 case, the Seventh Circult Court of Appeals found that 18 months' notice of competency test requirement was constitutionally inadequate because it did not allow enough time for test objectives to be incorporated into the students' IEPs. The court held that under the due process clause, the students in need of special education should be given sufficient notice of a minimum competency testing requirement to enable them to have adequate opportunity to prepare to meet the requlrement. EvIdence that as much as 90 percent of the tested material was not included in the students' individualized educational plans was qulte compelling. The court ruled that the 11 students who had already completed credit requirements for graduation should be issued diplomas (Hammes, 1983; McCarthy, 1983). The three cases described here have by no means addressed all the issues that can be raised on the subject at hand. However, when viewed collectively, these cases have indeed provided a clearer perspective on some issues. First, it appears that the courts prefer to allow educators and policy makers to set educational policy as long as such policy does not" violate individual statutory or constitutional rights. Federal and state courts have overwhelmingly concluded that states have the right to establish reasonable means to determine the effectiveness of their educational programs with respect
to all students to whom they issue a diploma (Hammes. 1983; McCarthy. 1983; Pullin. 1985; Thomas. 1985). 28 Second. it appears that denial of diplomas to students who fail minimum competency tests does not violate either due process or equal protection. Students who fail competency tests do not have a legitimate claim to a diploma. The Brookhart Court opinioned that altering the test to enable students to pass and be eligible for a dipioma should not be the solution to the problem. The Brookhart Court. however. made one important distinction. It stated that handicapped persons who were qualified and unable to disclose their degree of competence because of test format or testing setting would be discriminated against if proper provisions were not made. However. such provisions should not provide an unfair advantage (Hammes. 1983; McCarthy. 1986; Pullin. 1985). Third. the courts have not specified the length of notice necessary before a handicapped high school diploma could be conditioned on competency test performance. The Debra P. Court found that 13 notice was not sufficient. On the other hand. in the New York State Court. Ambach. it was determined that three years did provide for adequate notice and adequate changes in IEPs (McCarthy. 1986; Thomas. 1985).
29 It is very likely that this issue will also resurface in future litigation. Fourth. test valldity seems to be the issue for which less direction has been provided by previous cases. For a test to be valid. it must measure what it purports to measure. Test results should not be a reflectlon of a student's identified handicapping condition. In order for the test to be valid. there must be evidence that students were indeed exposed to competencies measured by the test and that efforts were made to impart such knowledge. In the Debra P. v. Turlington Court. without formal proof. the court was unwilling to assume that a relationship existed between that which was taught and that which was tested (McCarthy. 1986; McClung. 1978; Thomas. 1985)-. It appears that thls issue could be the center of focus in future litigation. Efforts to ensure instructional validity when handicapped students are concerned can be a delicate process. The Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 required that students be provided a free and appropriate public education In the least restrictive educational environment. Handicapped students could conceivably spend more time of the instructional day receiving remedial help in special education programs because of efforts on the part of educators to ensure instructional validity.
CompetencY Testing and Handicapped Students The assumptions competency and the academic 30 achievement of mildly handicapped students indicate that this sub-population of students could account a sizeable of the student population that is affected by this component of the movement. Competency testing a from social policy which based on the notion that it was society's responsibility to provide minimum levels of goods and individuals in need. the state establishes the minimums and it is the individual's to achieve such minimums with without help (Cohen & Haney, 1980). Minimum competency testing assumes that minimum levels of skills, knowledge, and can be identified at levels of education and that these minimum levels can be achieved by all students. The of the mildly handicapped have significantly below-average academic achievement & 1986). studies, which have examined the academic achievement of high school mildly handicapped students, show that while levels of achievement 1n and math not exactly
. identical studies, the level of achievement in these students is level and achievement in math is about one level (Hall, et al., 1985; 1984; Zigmond & 1985). In light of this evidence, it is not that some would to mildly handicapped students as difficult-to-teach who the of the education system (Semmel, 1986). The of negative impact competency even ominous ethnic students low socio-economic status involved. to Macmillan and (1988), have been unsuccessful in teaching a of mi i ty ch i economl ca y of what they called and they taught. Educational attainment is a plaguing schools the as well. Data on educational attainment in to that of cities. While some exceptions, the is more evident where of poverty. In both central cities and high of with low levels of education and poverty (Sher, 1977). Generally, rural school students do not score as well as urban students on
32 of educational achievement, and the statistics are even lower for students. It Is generally accepted that a student/s performance In school is highly associated wIth the socio-economic status of the family (Baca & Hobbs, 1981). EducatIonal Attainment Recently, the educational attainment of mildly handicapped students has become a matter of concern. (1982) that handicapped students could account 50% of all the publlc schools. Although Porter did not evidence to support his claim, a look at on the of suggests that his claim Is at least tenable. The academic achievement level by mildly handicapped students is well below the average achIeved by non-handIcapped students. In fact, in for an identified handicapped person to qualify for special education it must be established that the handicapping condition does exist and that it with the student/s academic achievement. An examination of the on dropouts shows that while there are many for droppIng out, poor academic performance is a strong of out. (Ekstrom, et al., 1987; Lichtenstein, 1988; McDill, et al., 1987; U.S. Department of Education, 1984).
33 Since the methods used the of students who leave school not uniform, it is difficult to establish the rate. In estimating the number of mildly handicapped students who drop out, one encounters the same problems as is the case with non-handicapped students. There are few studies that provide reliable data on the dropout for mildly handicapped students in this country. Two studies which and information on this subject appeared in 1985. The first study by Levin and others (1985) was a follow-up of 52 learning disabled students who entered ninth grade In one school system during school year 1977-1978. Of the 52 subjects in the sample, 47% were known to have left school prematurely. The majority of those who had dropped out reported that they had been encouraged to drop out because of behavior problems, attendance problems. and academic performance. For those who dropped out, school had been a frustrating experience. A second study by Zigmond and Thornton (1985) provides further evidence of a high dropout rate among mildly handicapped students. This study examined the dropout rate at one large urban school district and found that the dropout rate among learning disabled students (54%) was significantly higher than for non-handicapped students (33%). Furthermore, this study found there was
34 no significant between disabled students and non-handicapped students in terms of employment leaving hIgh school. However, was a significant difference in terms of employment between disabled and learning disabled Eighty of the learning disabled graduates employed, and 54% of dropouts unemployed. The studies by Levin and Others (1985) and Zigmond and (1985) showed a strong relationship between high school completion and employment status after leaving high school. Students who fared much better, in of employment, than students who dropped out. However, the level of academic achievement attained by mildly handicapped graduates and mildly handicapped dropouts was well below the norm. Summary of Review of LIterature The New Mexico High School Proficiency Exam has been in place since 1978. The exam is by no means perfect. The intent of the exam was noble in that those who supported its implementation regarded such a measure as a means of providing at least a base quality education for all students and also as a means of making schools more accountable. The ramifications of this reform are addressed in the chapters that follow.
35 the courts have upheld the rights of states to students to demonstrate given levels of competencies in order to be eligible to a high school diploma. However, students must be provided with sufficient time to to meet such and they must be exposed to which addresses the objectives by the exams. Politicians and others who advocate the use of tests to make grade-to-grade promotion decisions and the of high school dIplomas have the advice of experts in who caution against the use of tests to make such decisions. Measurement have not the level of sophistication which may use them. The consequences resulting misuse of these may outweigh any potential benefit. The assumptions competency testing not in agreement with the used providing special education In students to be eligible to special education a handicapping condition must be present which the student handicapped in an academic Minimum competency testing, on the other hand, assumes that all students can achieve the specified minimums. It quite that under such conditions is a against mildly handicapped students.
CHAPTER III METHODOLOGY This study was an ex post facto study. The aim of this study was to examine the relationships among variables thought to be associated with performance on the New Mexico High School Proficiency Exam. Since this was not an experiment, the variables could not be manipulated. A strength of this method of research is that it identifies variables that appear to be related. One major limitation of this method of study is that causal links are not revealed. Question # 1 examined the relationship between the independent variable, performance on the New Mexico High School ProficiencY EXam by mildly handicapped students in New Mexico rural schools. and the variable, status of high school completion. The categories of high school completion were: (a) graduated with the state seal of endorsement on their diploma. (b) graduated without the state seal of endorsement, (c) graduated with a certificate of completion, and (d) dropped out.
Question # 2 examined the relationship among the following 13 independent variables: reading achievement scores, math achievement scores, number of mainstream courses failed. number of special education courses failed, handicapping condition. number of days absent from school, years in special education, verbal IQ score, performance IQ score, parents' level of education, parents' level of income, sex, ethnicity, and the dependent variable, performance by mildly handicapped students in New Mexico rural schools on the New Mexico High School ProficiencY Exam. Question # 3 examined the relationship between the independent variable, performance on the New Mexico High School Proficiency Exam, and occupational status since leaving high school. The categories of occupational status were: employed full time, student, employed less than full time, and unemployed. Question # 4 examined the relationship between the independent variable, status of high school completion, and the dependent variable, occupational status since leaving high school. The categories for occupational status were the same used in Question # 3. Site Selection New Mexico was selected as the site for this study because of the researcher's previous experience as
38 an educator in the rural schools In that state. Educators in rural schools. like educators elsewhere. strive to provlde the best possible education for their students. However. rural school dlstricts very often do not have either the financial or the personnel to conduct which is directly applicable to their unique circumstances. Sample Selection Mildly handicapped students who were enrolled in "ninth grade during school year 1981-1982 and who services from special education resource during the time they we["e in high school were the focus of this study. In ordei to be included in this study. students must have attended one of the high schools in rural school districts with average daily memberships between 300 and 1,000. Rega["dless of the label used in describing a handicap, students with mild handicapping conditions comprise the largest category of handicapped students served in schools. Furthermore, special education resource ["oom services ["epresent a popular approach for meeting the special needs of handicapped high school stUdents. New Mexico school districts provide services for students with various categories of handicaps and varying
39 of handIcapping condltions. special education mildly handicapped students at the level. Handicapped students who services from rooms spend most of the instructional day in classrooms. in rooms is limited to not more than two instructional periods of the instructional day. Handicapped students whose needs more extensive special education from either Level-C Level-D special education Twenty seven of New 88 school districts met the criteria for inclusion in this study. Initially, a selection of school had been planned. However, through a pilot study effort, it WaS determined that some of the school districts would not have any students who met the criteria inclusion. Consequently, school district that met the criteria of average daily membership and of being rural was contacted and invited to participate in the study. Every district responded. Of the 27 school districts, six dld not have any students who met the criteria for grade durIng school year 1981-1982 and who were served in resource rooms while in high school. Three districts were to be involved in program monitoring by the state department of education at about the same
40 time that the study would be taking place; hence. these belIeved that the additional involved with this study would an additional on staffs. Two did not that they could data because of inefficiencies in Finally. 16 school the actual data for the study; all available schools meeting the criteria used. The success of .this study was largely dependent upon the of district superintendents and their staffs. In to obtain a high level of made to meet each personally and share about the study before any was mailed out to them. This was made feasible since many superintendents attend the annual New Mexico school meetings held for one week during the Most of the superintendents or from the school who in this study were met at that time and provided with the study.
41 Data Gathering This study was made possible through the cooperative efforts of school district superintendents who agreed with the need to conduct this study and were willing to allow persons employed in their districts to provide the data. Persons involved in providing data from the school districts included superintendents, directors of instruction, principals, school counselors, special education teachers, and high school secretaries. Superintendents were assured that the data to be collected from their districts would not lead to the identificatiun of students or their parents. In return for their cooperation in the study, superintendents received a report on the results of the study. Data were collected throughout the fall term of school year 1987-1988. In late August, arrangements were made to conduct a pilot study in seven centrally located school districts with educators who had offered to provide data for the study. Information regarding the study had been shared with educators from these districts at the annual administrators' meetings which had been held during the previous month. The first task for school district personnel was to determine whether they had students who met the criteria. for inclusion. Since the focus of this study was on handicapped students who
42 entered ninth grade during school year 1981-1982 and who were served in resource rooms during their high school career, persons providing the data were cautioned not to exclude students who transferred into the district at grades la, 11, or 12. Furthermore, information on students who left school before graduating was also to be included. The fact that every school district involved had a total enrollment of under 1,000 and that the average number of cases per district was less than five made the task of identifying cases relatively sImple. ThIs was especially true where the person providing the information had been with the dIstrict for a number of years. Of the seven districts contacted for carryIng out the pilot study, four districts had students who met the specified criteria. Arrangements were made to visit each of these districts to clear any ambiguities that might arise regarding the study, as well as provide assistance with collecting and recording data. These visits proved to be extremely valuable in that information about students was obtained and the suggestions for improving the student information form were made by persons In the field. Following the pilot study, the revised instrument was mailed to 20 superintendents along with an abstract of the study (see Appendix A).
43 who the student and an to an enclosed post with the name and of a in who would be the actual data. Eight responded by returning the post within two weeks. On the third week, 12 superintendents, who had not the post card as previously were contacted by telephone. To avoid delays, these superintendents were asked if they had the abstract and if they still in participating in the study. superintendents indicated that they agreed with the need the study but would not be able to provide the data due to scheduled visits by the state department of education. at the remaining school districts indicated that they were still interested and the names of persons in who would be responsible the actual data. Once the superintendents had indicated their willingness to include school in the study, persons designated at each district contacted by telephone and by Each contact was sent a letter explaining the nature and of the study along with a copy of the stUdent information As had been done in the pilot study, the first task of the
44 contact persons at each district was to determine whether their district had students who met the criteria for inclusion and report this back to the (see Appendix B). During the months of October and November, 15 districts were visited by the researcher to assist with the data collection. Contact persons at 12 of these districts had previously indicated that they had reviewed their records and identified students who met the criteria for inclusion. Persons assigned to assist with the study at two of the districts were new in their positions and could not readily determine whether they had cases to include in the study. A visit to these two districts by the researcher helped to confirm the absence of subjects who met the criteria. Another district could not provide data on students due to record-keeping problems. School districts in which the contact person stated that they did not have any cases which met the specified criteria were not visited. These visits enabled educators at each district to clarify misconceptions regarding the study and enabled the researcher to assist with data collection and recording. Instrumentation Data were collected on a student information form that had been developed by the researcher with input from
45 university professors and from New Mexico rural school educators. During the development stages, the instrument was reviewed by members of the dissertation committee and a research specialist from the Center for Educational Research at the University of Colorado. These reviewers were familiar with the purpose of the study and the hypothesis to be tested. Their role was to evaluate whether the instrument could accomplish the objectives of the study. Following their recommendations, modifications were made and the revised instrument was then reviewed by a group of educators from rural school districts. Educators from the districts who participated in validating the instrument represented a cross section of people with varying levels of direct involvement with special education stUdents. They included two special education teachers, two special education directors, two high school principals, one guidance counselor, and one superintendent. This diversity in representation attempted to include persons who would be most likely to provide the data from the local district level. Following a presentation on the intent and purposes of the study, the educators were asked to review the data collection instrument for clarity and fairness. In addition, they were asked to judge whether the information requested should be available. Following their recommendations, modifications were made to the
46 data collection instrument. Data Analysis The nature of the questions addressed in this study, coupled with the nature of the data to be analyzed, created the need to employ parametric and nonparametric procedures of data analysis. For descriptive purposes, the data were organized into frequency distributions, and measures of central tendency were calculated for each variable using Statgraphics, (1986) statistical program. Chi-square analysis of categorical data were performed using the contingency table procedure in Statgraphlcs. One-way analyses of variance were carried out using the ANOVA procedure also in Statgraphics. The chi-square test of association was applied to the data which related to Question # 1 of the study. Question # 1 had addressed the relationship between performance on the New Mexico High School Proficiency Exam and status of high school completion. The three categories for performance on the exam were: (a) passed the exam, (b) failed the exam, and (c) dld not take the exam. Categories for status of high school completion were: (a) graduated with an endorsed diploma, (b) graduated without an endorsed diploma, (c) graduated with a certificate of completion, and (d) dropout. In this
47 case, both the dependent and the Independent Each subject could fall only in one The null hypothesis was that and status not This hypothesis was tested at the .10 level of significance. the level of signifIcance from the conventional .05 to .10 has the effect of the of finding a when one exists. Testing for signifIcance at :10 than .05 .001 was deemed most In this study because statistics less sensitive than statistics in uncovering such when the sample size is small. Question # 2 examined the relationship between performance on the exam (three categories) and 13 independent variables. Some of the independent variables were categorical and others of a continuous variables tested using chi-square test of association at .10. In to assess the effects of the continuous independent on performance on the exam, one-way analyses of variance were ANOVA was at .05 level of significance. In addition, multIple comparison procedures were used in cases the null hypothesis was not held tenable. Question # 3 of the study assessed the between the three categories of performance
on the exam and four categories of occupational status The four categories of occupational status were: employed full time, student, employed less than full time, and unemployed. Chi-square test of association was again used to test for significance. Finally, Question 4 examined the relationship between status of high school completion and occupational status since leaving high school. The categories for high school completion were: graduated with endorsed diploma, graduated without endorsed diploma, and dropout. Four categories for occupational status were used. They were as follows: employed full time, student, employed less than full time, and unemployed. As in Question # 3, chi-square test of association was used to test for Significance. Chi-square and ANOVA are widely used in the social sciences. AN OVA is a parametric statistic and chi-square is nonparametric. The variables in a chi-square analysis are always categorical. Parametric statIstics cannot be computed on nominal or ordinal scales of measurement. Chi-square is used whenever data are frequency counts, such as the number of individuals falling into a particular category.
CHAPTER IV ANALYSIS OF THE DATA This chapter presents an analysis of the data using the previously described statistical procedures. Section provides a complete description of the sample from data provided by school district educators. Section II is a presentation and discussion of both parametric and nonparametric techniques applied to the variables under examination. Data for this study were provided by 16 New Mexico rural school districts. Seventy one subjects, who were 1n ninth grade during school year 1981-1982 and were served in special education resource rooms during the time they were In high school, were the focus of this study. Section Variables The variables were: (a) performance on the high school proficiency examination, (b) status of high school completion, (c) reading achievement, (d) math achievement, (e) verbal la, performance ra, (g) mainstream courses failed. (h) absences, (1) years in
50 special education, special education courses failed, parents' levels of education, (1) parents' levels of income, (m) handicapping condltlon, (n) sex, ethnicity, and (p) occupational status. The subjects included 43 (60.56%) males and 28 (39.44%) females. Learning disabilities was the predominant handicapping condition. More than 73% of the subjects in the sample were identified as learning disabled; 16.90% were communication disordered; 5.63% were educable mentally handicapped; 2.82% were behavior disordered, and 1.41% were physically impaired. The majority (71.83%) of the subjects were Hispanic; 26.76% were Anglo, and 1.41% were Native American. These data are displayed in Table 1. Test scores. The IQ scores reported were the scores each subject had received the last time the student was administered an individualized intelligence test. The most often administered intelligence tests were the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised and the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale. In a few cases, the Leiter International Performance Scale was cited as the instrument used to assess intelligence. Where the WISC-R or the WAIS were used, both verbal and performance IQ scores were reported for each subject. When the Leiter was used, the derived score was entered
51 Table 1 Number and Percent of SYbJects on the Variables: Sex. Race/Ethnicity. and Handicap Sex Males 43 60.56 Females 28 39.44 Total 71 100.00 Race/Ethniclty Hispanic 51 71.83 Native American 1 1.41 Anglo 19 26.76 Total 71 100.00 Handicap Learning Disabled 52 73.24 Communication Disorder 12 16.90 Educable Mentally Handicapped 4 5.63 Behavior Disorder 2 2.82 Physically Impaired 1 1. 41 Total 71 100.00
52 as a score since that score has been found to correlate more highly with the WISC-R Performance Scale than the Verbal Scale (Salvia & Ysseldyke, 1985). Verbal 10 scores were available for 55 of the 71 subjects. The mean verbal 10 score for the group was 78 and the standard deviation was 9.02. Verbal scores for the group ranged from a minimum of 58 to a maximum of 100. On the other hand, performance 10 scores were available for 62 of the 71 subjects. The mean performance IQ score for the group was 91.24 with a standard deviation of 12.61. Performance 10 scores for the group ranged from a minimum of 57 to a maximum of 129. As in the case with 10 scores, reading and math achievement levels reported for each subject were the last student scores available from an individually administered achievement test. Grade equivalent scores and national percentile ranks were the most frequently reported scores. Standard scores which are more amenable to arithmetical calculations were seldom reported. Four standardized tests were used by educational diagnosticians at the various school districts to assess students' academIc The standardized tests used were Kev Math, Peabody Individual Achievement Test, Wide Range Achievement Test, and Woodcock-Johnson Psychoeducational Battery. Reading scores in the form of grade equivalents were reported on 65 of the 71 subjects.
53 Grade equivalent scores ranged from 2.2 to 12.9 with a mean of 5.44 and a standard deviation of 2.11. Grade equivalent scores for math ranged from 2.5 to 9.4 with a mean of 5.44 and a standard deviation of 1.62. These data are displayed in Table 2. Absences. Data on total absences per school year while in high school were reported for 54 (76.06%) of the 71 subjects. The total number of days absent for each subject by school year were then divided by the years a subject was enrolled in high school. Thus, absences recorded for each case represents the average number of days absent per year wh1le enrolled 1n high school. Number of days absent from school ranged from zero days absent to 58.7 days absent per school year. The average number of days absent per year for 54 cases was 13.46 days. Fifty percent of the subjects had been absent slightly less than eleven (10.7%) days per year. Mainstream courses failed. Information regardlng the number of h"igh school mainstream courses failed was provlded for all the subjects 1n the study. Number of courses failed were recorded by semester. The number of semester courses failed by the subjects while in high school ranged from zero to 20. The most frequently cited number of semester courses failed by subjects was one.
54 Table 2 Test Scores on the Variables: Verbal lQ. Performance la. Reading Achievement. and Math AchIevement Variables SD Range Verbal lQ 55 78.00 9.02 58 100 Performance lQ 62 91.24 12.61 57 -129 Reading GE 65 5.44 2.11 2.2 -12.9 Math GE 65 5.44 1.62 2.5 9.4
Fifty (76.06%) of the subjects had failed two high school 55 in special education. on the each subject special education was all the subjects also. one-half of the subjects had been in special education classes at least five The least of in whIch they special education was one, and the most was 12 The of the was 5.46, and the devIatIon was 2.56. These data shown in Table 3. In special education. of In speclal education while In high school is actually the of The time each subject spent special education services one to the next. In some was a real by EA&R committees to move students receiving special education services somewhat placements to least restrictive. In some instances, a subject would be special education for three periods of the school day nInth grade and only one eleventh These data calculated for all subjects in the study. The of special education services by subjects, while in high school. from less than one hour to
56 Table 3 Record of the Subjects on the Variables: Mainstream Courses Failed. Absences. and Years in Special Education Variables N Absences 54 Mainstream courses failed 71 Years in speCial education 71 Mean 13.46 3.66 5.46 11.37 4.56 2.56 Range o -58.7 o 20.0 1
57 day. Fifty of the subjects in special education while in high schpol. The the sample was 1.4 and the deviation was .6. Special education courses failed. Failing to obtain special education was not common the mildly handicapped subjects in this sample. Almost 89% (88.73%) finished high school without failing a single special education Seven of the eight subjects who the had failed once. and one subject had failed special education retained. than one (35.21%) of the sample involved had been held back by at some polnt schooling. The of times a subject was no to one subject. While 64.79% of the sample had not the 25 subjects who had been held back a total of 33 times. one and to be the most difficult to get through, at least for the subjects in this study. Nine credited to grade one and seven to four. Retentions in more evenly
58 Attempts to pass the high school proficiency The high school proficiency exam was administered once every school year. The majority (88.73%) of the subjects in this study took the exam at least once. Students could take the exam for the first time during their sophomore year and, if they failed, retakes were permissible each year thereafter. Most students who failed on their first try took the exam again the following year. Since the exam was not offered until tenth grade, students who dropped out before the exam was administered left without attempting to prove their levels. of proficiency. In this study, two subjects left school before they could take the exam. Six other subjects did not take the exam, although they were still students during the first time the exam was administered. Sixty three of the 71 subjects took the proficiency exam at least once. Twenty eight (44.44%) passed on their first attempt. Six of the 35 who failed on the first try never took the exam again. These six subjects either dropped out or they simply did not retake the exam. During the eleventh grade, 29 students took the exam for the second time and 12 passed. Of the 17 who failed, one dropped out soon after failing. For the final year of high school, 16 subjects were still attempting to pass the exam and five more succeeded. Thus, 11 subjects failed to achieve a passing score after
59 attempts. Of the 18 subjects who passed the exam, one only once, fIve out of school the one the second and the These data displayed in Table 4. The of subiects. Data on the educational attainment level of both collected each subject. The highest level of education achieved by was used as the level of education the The highest level of education attained by either parent ranged less than eighth grade to education beyond high school. Seventeen of the subjects (23.94%) were parents the highest level of education attained was eighth less. The of subjects (33.80%) had at least one whose highest level of education was high school attendance but not high school Twenty subjects (28.17%) had at least one who was a high school and seven (9.86%) subjects had at least one with education beyond hIgh school. The education level attained by parent was unavailable three (4.23%) of the subjects in this study. These data are shown in Table 5. about the level of income was derived by determining a subject was eligible
Table 4 Attempts to Pass the High School ProficiencY Exam Grades Ten Eleven Twelve Total Took exam 63 29 16 Pass 28 12 5 Fai I 17b lle 60 Note. a Five of these subjects dropped school after the first attempt to pass the exam, and one remained in school but did not take the exam again. b = One of these subjects dropped school after the second attempt. e = One of these subjects school after the third attempt.
61 Table 5 Number and Percentage of Parents Based on Education Level level of education Eighth grade less High school but not High school graduate Beyond high school Unknown Total 17 24 20 3 71 % 23.94 33.80 28.17 9.86 4.23 100.00
62 lunch, lunch, had to pay full school lunch while in high school. income levels established using this Subjects who qualified school lunches the time they in high school were as being from low income families. The subjects who qualified school lunches were as being middle income families, and those not qualifying or price school lunch were as being from high income families. Subjects low income families the majority of the sample. (61.97%) subjects were low income families, nine (12.68%) middle income families, and 18 (25.35%) from high income families. These data are shown in Table 6. High school completion status. Four of high school completion identified in this study. Subjects who passed the New Mexico High Schoo) Proficiency Exam and fulfilled all academic requirements were eligible to receive a high school diploma with a state seal of one (57.75%) of the 71 subjects involved endorsed diplomas. Subjects who failed the high school proficiency exam but completed all other academic could receive a diploma without the state
63 Table 6 Number and Percent of Parents Based on Income Level Parents'" level of income % 18 25.35 Mlddle 9 12.68 Low 44 61.97 Total 71 100.00
64 seal of Twelve (16.90%) subjects without diplomas. Subjects who failed the exam and did not meet all the academic could a of completion. One (1.41%) subject with a of completlon. the second of high school completion status. Seventeen (23.94%) subjects out completIng high school. These data displayed in Table 7. Occupational status. At the beginning of this study, most of the subjects had been out of school at least two Their age was 21 Subjects who had out of school had been out of school the longest. Due to small in the school involved in the study, less than stUdents, the occupational status since leaving high school for most (88.73%) of the subjects was known by at the local level. The occupational status for 63 of the 71 subjects in the study (a) nineteen (30.16%) employed full-time, (b) nine (14.29%) continuing education by attending vocational schools postinstitutions, (c) ten (15.87%) employed seasonally employed, (d)
Table 7 Number and Percent of Subjects on the Variable High School Completion Status High school completion status Graduated with endorsed diploma Graduated without endorsed diploma Graduated with certificate of completion Dropped out Total 41 12 17 71 65 57.75 16.90 1.41 23.94 100.00
66 two <3.17%) were currently serving in the armed forces, and
Table 8 Status of Subjects Since Leaving High School Status Emplqyed ful I time Student Employed less than full time Serving in the Armed Forces Deceased Unemployed Total 19 9 10 2 22 63 30.16% 14.29% 15.87% 3.17% 1.59% 34.92% 100.00%
68 graduated without an endorsed diploma. and three (6.67%) who passed the exam dropped out of school before graduating. As stated earlier in this study, students whose total score on the proficiency exam fell below the cut-off criterion were ineligible to receive a diploma with the state seal of endorsement. Students who did not take the exam were also not eligible to receive an endorsed diploma upon graduation. Eighteen (28.57%) of the 63 subjects who took the exam before graduating never scored above the minimum scoie required. Slightly over one half (55.56%) of the subjects who failed the exam remained in school to fulfill other academic requirements and graduated without the endorsed diplomas. Seven (38.89%) of the 18 subjects who failed the exam dropped out, and one was awarded a certificate of completion upon graduation. Eight (11.27%) of the 71 subjects left school before ever taking the high school proficiency exam. Seven of these subjects dropped out and one remained in schoo) and graduated without the endorsed diploma. These data are shown in Table 9. Research Question # 2 The null hypothesis in Question 2 stated that there were no significant differences among subjects who passed, subjects who failed, and subjects who did not take the high school proficiency exam on the variables:
Table 9 Performance on the High School Proficiency Exam and Status of High School Completion Endorsed Non-endorsed Certificate of 69 Perf diploma diploma completion Dropout Pass 41 1 0 3 Fai I 0 10 1 7 Did not take 0 1 0 7 Total 41 12 1 17 Note. Cell entries are frequencies. X2 (6, = 71) = 63.97, 2. < .001
70 (a) reading achievement scores, (b) math achievement scores, (c) number of mainstream courses failed, (d) number of special education courses failed, (e) handicapping condition, (f) number of days absent from school, (g) years in special education, (h) verbal lQ score, (i) performance lQ score, (j) parents' level of education, (k) parents' level of income, <1) sex, and (m) ethnicity. Differences among the three groups on the variables reading achievement, math achIevement, absences, verbal IQ, performance IQ, and years in special education were analyzed by conductlng one-way analysis of variance. Differences among the groups on the variables, mainstream courses failed, special education courses failed, handicapping condition, parents' level of education, parents' level of income, sex, and race/ethniclty were analyzed by chi-square test association. The next section addresses these findings. Parents' level of education. A significant relationship was found between performance on the high school proficiency exam and parents' level of education. Of the 68 (95.77%) subjects for whom the highest level of education was known for either parent, the majority (60.29%) came from parents where the highest level of education was less than high school graduate. The proportion of subjects passing the exam ascends
71 cOLLespondingly with paLents' level of education. Less than one half (47.06%) of the subjects whose paLents had completed eighth gLade OL less passed the exam; 14 (58.33%) subjects whose paLents had attended high school but not gLaduated passed the exam; 16 (80%) of the subjects whose paLents weLe high school gLaduates passed the exam; six (85.71%) of the subjects whose paLents had education levels beyond high school passed the exam. FULtheLmoLe. subjects who did not take the pLoflciency exam weLe all fLom paLents with the lowest levels of education. Five (71.43%) of the subjects who did not take the exam weLe fLom paLents wheLe the highest level of education was eighth gLade OL less. and the LemaindeL of the subjects weLe fLom paLents who had attended high school but had not gLaduated. These data aLe shown in Table 10. Using chi-squaLe methods of analysis. statistically significant Lelationships weLe not found between peLfoLmance on the pLoficiency exam and the vaLiables (a) mainstLeam COULses failed. (b) special education COULses failed. (c) paLents' level of income. (d) handicapping condition. (e) sex. and (f) ethnlclty.
72 Table 10 Subjects' Performance on High School Proficiency Exam and Parents' Levels of Education Perf Pass Fail Did not take Total X2 (6, Education levels Eighth Attended High school or less high school graduate 8 4 8 4 5 2 a 17 24 20 N2tc.. = Cell entries are ftequencles. 68) = 12.28,. 2 .10 Beyond high school 1 a 7
73 Mainstream courses failed. The relationship between performance on the high school profl.ciency exam and high school mainstream courses failed was analyzed as a 3 x 4 contingency table. The four categories for semester courses failed were: (a) no courses fal led, (b) one to two courses failed, (c) three to four courses failed, and(d) five or more courses failed. Although there were no statistically significant relationships between performance on the exam and number of courses failed, patterns in the number of courses failed by subjects in each group were noticeable. Of the 45 subjects who passed the high school proficiency exam, 64.44% failed either no courses or less than two mainstream courses. In contrast, of the 18 subjects who failed the exam, 61.11% failed three or more courses. Also, six of the eight students who did not take the proficiency exam were evenly divided between the two categories of subjects who failed three to four courses and five or more courses. These data are displayed in Table 11. Special education courses failed. Data for these variables were analyzed in a 3 x 2 contingency table. Sixty three of the 71 (88.73%) subjects had not failed any special education courses. Less than 10% of the subjects had failed one speCial education course and only
Table 11 Performance on the High School ProficIency Exam and Mainstream Courses Failed Semester Courses Fai ed Perf none 1 -2 3 -4 5 or more Pass 13 16 8 8 Fall 2 5 5 6 Old not take 2 3 3 Total 17 21 16 17 Note. Cell entries are frequencies. 74
75 one subject had failed more than once. More than 93% (93.33%) of the subjects who passed the high school proficiency exam had not failed any special education courses. Subjects who failed and subjects who did not take the high school proficiency exam were not significantly different regarding this variable when compared to subjects who had passed. Eighty-eight percent of the subjects who did not take the proficiency exam had not failed any special education courses, and 82% of those who failed the exam did not fail any special education courses. Parents' level of income. Income levels reported for each subject reflect each family's income level while 'the subject was a high school student. This information was based on whether subjects had to pay full-priced lunches or if they qualified for free or reduced-priced lunches. Subjects who did not qualify for free or reduced-priced lunches were regarded as being from high-income families. This means that parents regarded as having high incomes could range from slightly over the poverty level to very high income. There may also be very little difference in the actual family income levels among subjects who qua1ified for-'fr-ee lunches and those who qualified for reduced-priced lunches. Although statistically significant r-elationships were not found to
76 exist between level of income and peLfoLmance on the proficiency exam. one can haLdly ignore a tLend that exists. The pLoportion of subjects who passed the exam moved in the same diLection as level of income. Subjects fLom middle and high-income families were most likely to pass the high school proficiency exam. For example. 83% of the subjects fLam high-income families and 78% from middleincome families passed the exam. On the otheL hand. 52% of the subjects fLom low-income families passed the high school pr6ficiency exam. FurtheLmoLe. seven of the eight subjects who did not take the exam weLe from low-income families. These data are shown in Table 12. Handicapping condition. Two primaLY handicapping conditions weLe most pLevalent among the subjects in this study. LeaLning disabilities accounted for 73.24% of the subjects and communication disoLdeLs accounted for another 16.90%. The remaining 9.86% of the sample was comprised of educable mentally handicapped (5.63%>. behaviordisoLdeLed (2.82%). and physically handicapped (1.41%). To test the relationship between peLfoLmance on the exam and the handicapping condition of subjects, three categoLies were used instead of five. The thLee categories weLe: (a) learning disabled. (b) communic 'ation disordered. and (c) other. Subjects identified as
77 Table 12 Performance on the ProficiencY Exam and Parents' Level of Income Levels of income Perf High Middle Low Pass 15 7 23 Fai 2 2 14 Did not take 1 0 7 Total 18 44 Note. Ce 11 entries ar-e fr-equencies.
78 mentally handicapped, physically handicapped Since few subjects who educable mentally handicapped, physically handicapped, a each could be cause It would be to attempt to about a of student when the sample consisted of only one two subjects. Even though does not to be a significant between on the exam and handicapping condition, the only of subjects .who did not take the exam disabled. Eight <15.38%) of the LD subjects did not take the exam. Since at the local school level recommending whether each handicapped student should take the exam, one might assume the educational of all subjects in the study were aimed at helping students pass the high school proficiency exam. Sex. The of subjects who passed, failed, did not take the high school exam was evenly distributed to the sex of the subjects. Twenty-seven (62.79%) males and eighteen (64.29%) females passed the exam. to attain a passing was almost evenly between males
79 and females also. Eleven (25.58%) of the and seven (25%) of the latter failed to pass the exam. In addition. the proportion of male and female subjects who did not take the exam was Five (11.63%) males did not take the exam. and 10.71% of the females in the same Ethnicity. This variable was analyzed in the form of a 3 x 2 contingency table. Since the majority (98.59%) of the subjects in this study were either Hispanic or Anglo. the test of association was done using these two of subjects. While on the exam was not significantly related to ethnicity. the of HispaniCS (58.82%) attaining a passing on the exam was lower than that of Anglo subjects (78.95%). Because of the of Hispanic students in this study. as well as the state's student population, lack of statistical significance should not be as lack of educational significance. Analysis of Variance Subjects who passed. subjects who failed. and subjects who did not take the high school proficiency exam were compared on the variables (a) reading achievement scores. (b) math achievement (c) absences. (d) verbal IQ score. (e) performance IQ score. and (f) years in special education. among
the of subjects analyzed by conductIng one-way ANOVAs. These analyses show that at least one of the of subjects was significantly in two of the six tested. Subjects who passed, subjects who failed, and subjects who did not take the exam statistically in 10 and achievement Table 13 shows these data. Multiple Since the null hypothesis the achievement and 10 in the analysis of techniques to which significantly each needed. Techniques of multiple used to this need. Reading achievement. The Tukey method of multiple was used to which of the means significantly each This method of analysis showed that the significant F-Ratio obtained the achievement was due to the significant between subjects who passed the high school exam and the two of subjects. The means achieved this by subjects who failed and subjects who did not take the high school exam 4.32 and 4.00
81 Table 13 Comparisons by Performance on High School Proficiency Exam and Selected Variables Variable dfB dfW F-Ratio e. Bartlett e. Reading achievement 65 2 62 6.91 .002* .103 Math achievement 65 2 62 1.88 .161 .990 Absences 54 2 51 1.35 .270 .001 Verbal IQ 54 2 52 6.47 .003* .768 Performance IQ 61 2 59 .53 .591 .720 Years in spec. educ. 71 2 68 .12 .890 .846 *e. .01
82 These two means not significantly each the mean achieved by subjects who passed the exam was significantly the means achieved by subjects who failed and subjects who did not take the exam. These data displayed in Table 14. 10. The Tukey method of multiple was also used to which of the means Significantly each in the 10. This method of analysis indicated that the significant F-Ratio obtained the lQ was due to the in means between subjects who passed and subjects who failed the high school exam. The means these two 80.57 and 71.29 The mean the subjects who did not take the exam was 77.75. These data displayed in Table 15. Consequently, abIlity as by the WISC Scale, subjects who passed the exam not significantly subjects who did not take the high school exam. due to the small size of the sample of students who did not take the exam, these findings should be with caution. Multiple not used with the (a) math achievement, (b) absences, (c)
Table 14 Comparison of Subjects by Performance on High School Proficiency Exam and Reading Achievement 95 Percent Tukey 83 Perf SD Mean intervals for mean Pass 42 2.15 6.10 .331 5.59 -6.60 Fai 17 1.32 4.32 .319 3.53 -5.12 Did not take 6 1.79 4.00 .730 2.66 -5.34
Table 15 Comparison of Subjects by Performance on High Scbool Proficiency Exam and Verbal 1Q 95 Percent Tukey 84 Perf SD Mean SE intervals for mean Pass 37 8.50 80.57 1.40 78.26 -82.88 Fai 14 7.86 71.29 2.10 67.54 75.04 Did not take 4 6.13 77.75 3.07 70.73 -84.77
85 years in special education. and (d) performance lQ. Since the analysis of variance did not find a statistically signIficant difference among the three groups on these variables. multiple comparisons were unnecessary. The null hypothesis was maintained. Subjects who passed, subjects who failed, and subjects who did not take the high school proficiency exam were not significantly different on the variables mathematlcs achievement, number of days absent while in hIgh school, years in special education, and performance lQ. Research Question # 3 The null hypothesis in Question # 3 stated there was no relationship between performance. on the high school proficiency exam by mildly handicapped students from New Mexico,rural schools and occupational status two years after leaving high school. These data were analyzed in the form of a 3 x 4 contingency table, and chi-square test of association was applied to test for significance. in this chapter, it was stated that information on status was available for 63 of the 71 subjects in this study. For purposes of analysis, some of the original categories (employed full time, serving in the armed forces, employed part time, seasonally employed, attending vocational training, and pursuing further education) were combined. Subjects who were
86 in the and subjects who employed full time combined into one called employed full" time. Subjects who attending vocational tLaining pULsuing education in post high school institutions combined into one called students. Subjects who weLe as. being seasonally employed OL employed time also combined into a categoLY called employed less than full time. The categoLY called unemployed unchanged. one subject who was deceased was omitted in this analysis. A significant Lelationship was found between on the high school pLoflciency exam and occupational status. Of the 62 subjects whom the data known, 42 had passed the exam, 14 had failed. and six had not taken the exam. The majoLity of the subjects weLe undeL two of the fouL of occupational status. 35% (35.48%) of the subjects unemployed and 33.87% weLeemployed full time. Subjects education 14.52% of the sample and 16.13% weLe employed less than full time. The only subjects who pULsuing education weLe subjects who had passed the hIgh school exam. 80.95% of the subjects who employed full time had passed the pLoficiency exam as compaLed to 14.29% of the subjects who had failed
87 and 4.76% of the subjects who had left school without taking the exam. These data displayed in Table 16. Since the single of subjects <35.48%> was unemployed. a look at this seems Subjects who passed the high school exam less likely to be unemployed when to subjects who had failed and subjects who had left school without taking the exam. one <26.19%) of the subjects who had passed the high school exam unemployed. Subjects who had failed and subjects who had not taken the exam among the unemployed. The of these two subjects among the unemployed 57.14% and 50% Question # 4 The null hypothesis in Question # 4 stated that was no relationship between high school completion status of mildly handicapped subjects New Mexico schools and occupational status two years after leaving high school. The relationship between these variables was analyzed in a 3 x 4 contingency table. Categories used for high school completion status (a) with endorsed diploma. (b) without diploma. and
Table 16 Performance on the High School Proficiency Exam and Occupational Status Occupational status Employed Employed less 88 Perf fu time Student than fu I ) time Unemployed Pass 17 5 11 Fai I 3 0 3 8 Did not take 1 0 2 3 Total 21 10 22 Ce entries are frequencies. K2 (6, = 62) = 11. 03, .10
89 employed full time, (b) student, (c) employed less than full time, and (d) unemployed. Using test of association, a signiflcant was found among these the subjects in this sample, occupational status leaving high school to be to the in which subjects ended high school A in the of subjects who employed full time education is obvious. Subjects who diplomas upon most likely to be employed full time by education. Seventeen of the 40 (42.5%) subjects who with diplomas employed full time and an additional eight (20%) education. Thus, 62.5%of the subjects who had ieceived an diploma employed full time education. On the hand, subjects who without diplomas and subjects who had out of high school in the two than full time employed and unemployed. Seven of 12 subjects (58.33%) who had out of high school unemployed and two (16.67%) employed less than full time. Only one was education. of the subjects who had
90 graduated without endorsed diplomas were unemployed and an equal proportion were employed less than full time. None of these subjects were pursuing further education. Subjects who had graduated without endorsed diplomas and subjects who had dropped out of high school were under-represented in the ful I time employed column. Twenty percent of the former and 16.67% of the latter were employed full time. These data are presented in Table 17. Summary of Data Analysis In this study of factors related to performance on theNew Mexico High School Proficiency Exam for mildly handicapped students from New Mexico rural schools, four research questions were addressed. The questions were: 1. Is there a relationship between performance on the exam and status of high school completion? 2. Is there a relationship between reading achievement scores, math achievement scores, number of mainstream courses failed, number of special education courses failed, handicapping condition, number of days absent from school. years In special education, verbal 10 score, performance 10 score, parents/ level of education, parents' level of income, sex, ethniclty, and performance on the NMHSPE for mildly handicapped students from New Mexico rural schools?
Table 17 High School Completion and Occupational Status H.S. comple-Employed t ion fu lIt ime Endorsed Diploma 17 Non-endorsed Diploma 2 Dropout 2 Total 21 Occupational status Employed less than Student full time 8 4 o 4 1 2 10 Cell entries are frequencies. X2 (6, = 62) = 12.10, 2 < .10 91 Unemployed 11 4 22
3. Is there a relationship between performance on the NMHSPE and occupational status two years after leaving high school for mildly handicapped students from New Mexico rural schools? 92 4. Is there a relationship between high school completion status and occupational status two years after leaving high school for mildly handicapped students from New Mexico rural schools? A significant relationship was found between performance on the high school proficiency exam and status of high school comp let on <. 001), Forty two (93.33%) of the subjects who passed the exam remained in school and graduated. Slightly over 61% of the subjects who failed the exam remained in school to fulfill other academic 'requirements and graduated without the endorsed diplomas. The remaining 38.89% of the subjects who failed the exam left school without .graduating. Also, almost 88% (87.5%) of the subjects who did not take the exam dropped out of high school. In Question # 2 a significant relationship was found between the variables reading achievement, verbal lQ score, parents' level of education, and performance on the high school proficiency exam. The significant F-Ratio obtained for the variable verbal IQ was due to the difference in means between subjects who passed the high school proficiency exam and subjects who failed.
93 The means for these two groups were 80.57 and 71.29 respectively. The mean for the group who did not take the exam was 77.75. With regard to verbal lQ, subjects who did not take the exam were not significantly different from those who passed or those who failed the high school proficiency exam. Regarding reading, the mean score (6.10) achieved in reading by subjects who passed the exam was significantly higher than the means achieved by subjects who failed and subjects who dId not take the high school proficiency exam. The mean score achieved by subjects who failed was 4.32 and the mean score for subjects who did not take the exam was 4.00. Among the categorical variables tested for significant relationships in Question # 2, parents' level of education was the only variable Significantly related to performance on the proficiency exam. The subjects whose parents had graduated from high school or attended post high school institutions were the most likely to pass the proficiency exam. The proportions of these two groups of subjects passing the exam were, 80% and 86% respectively. Subjects whose parents had attended high school but not graduated or completed eighth grade or less education were the least likely to pass the proficiency exam. The proportions of these two groups of subjects passing the exam were. 58% and 47% respectlvely.
In addition, subjects who did not take the exam all with the lowest levels of educatIon. 94 A signIficant was found between on the NMHSPE and occupational status two leaving high school. The of the subjects fell two of the of occupational status. of the subjects unemployed and 34% employed full time. Eighty-one of the subjects who employed ful) time had passed the exam as to 21% of the subjects who had failed and 17% of the subjects who had not taken the exam. Subjects who had failed and subjects who had not taken the exam among the unemployed. The each of these two of subjects among the unemployed 57.14% and 50% Finally, a statistically signiflcant was also found between status of high school completion and occupational status. of the subjects who diplomas employed full time by education. The majority of the subjects who without diplomas and those who out of high school employed less than full time unemployed. of the subjects
95 who had graduated without endorsed diplomas were unemployed and an equal proportion were employed less than full time. None of the subjects who received non-endorsed diplomas were pursuing further education. Subjects who dropped out of high school had the highest proportion among the unemployed. Fifty-eight percent of the dropouts were unemployed and 17% were employed less than full time. Only one was pursuing further education.
CHAPTER V SUMMARY OF FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS The intent of this study was to examine the relationship among selected variables identified as being related to performance on the high school proficiency exam. Mildly handicapped students who were in ninth grade during school .year 1981-1982 and who were served in resource rooms while in high school were the focus of the study. Data were provIded by 16 New Mexico rural school districts whose total enrollments were between 300 and 1,000 students. Given the lack of uniformity that exists in competency or proficiency testing and the diversity that exists among mildly handicapped students, the results of this study should be interpreted with caution. At best, the results of this study should contribute to the dialogue of policy making, provide valuable information for practitioners, and make a much needed contrIbution to the literature. Only by examining the experiences of different regions and different years of operation can a national picture be portrayed as to the effects of minimum competency testing on specific groups of students.
97 Summary of Findings Of the 71 subjects in the sample, 57.8% graduated with endorsed diplomas, 16.9% graduated with non-endorsed diplomas, 1.4% graduated with certificates of completion, and 23.9% dropped out of school. There was a significant relationship between the manner in which subjects ended their high school careers arid their performance on the high school proficiency exam. Sixty-three percent (63.3%) of the subjects passed the high school proficiency exam, 25.4% failed, and 11.3% not take the exam. Subjects who passed the proficiency exam were the most likely to remain in school and graduate. Forty one (91%) of the subjects who passed the exam graduated with an endorsed diploma, one subject graduated without an endorsed diploma, and three (7%) dropped out. Subjects who did not pass or did not take the exam were not eligible to receive the endorsed diploma if they remained in school and graduated. Of the 18 subjects who failed the exam, 10 (55.5%) graduated with non-endorsed diplomas, one (5.6%) graduated with a certificate of completion, and seven (38.9%) dropped out. Two of the eight subjects who did not take the exam dropped out of school before the exam was offered, and five more dropped after they could have taken the exam. Only one of these
98 eight subjects remained in school and graduated with a non-endorsed diploma. There was a significant relationship between on the high school exam and the (a) reading achievement scores, (b) 10 (c) level of education, and (d) occupational status. Status of high school completion was also significantly associated with occupational status. Subjects who passed the high school proficiency exam were significantly subjects who failed and subjects who did not take the exam in terms of achievement as by individual achievement tests. The mean in for each group of subjects 6.1, 4.3, and 4.0 Subjects who failed the exam not significantly from subjects who did not take the exam on this variable. 10 for the sample ranged 58 to 100. In to verbal lQ, subjects whose on the exam fell below the proficiency significantly subjects who passed. The means for these two of subjects 71.3 and 80.6 Subjects who did not take the exam were not significantly different subjects who passed or subjects who failed the exam. The mean this was 77.8.
level of education was also significantly associated with the by subjects on the high school exam. The of subjects passing the exam to levels of education. The of subjects passing the exam by levels of education (a) 47% with education less, (b) 58% who had attended high school but not (c) 80% who had high school, (d) 86% who had education levels beyond high school. In addition, all the subjects who did not take the exam had with the lowest levels of education. on the high school exam was associated with the occupational status of subjects leaving high school. of the subjects who had passed the exam employed full time, 21% education, 12% employed less than full time. and 26% unemployed. On the hand, the (57%) of the subjects who had failed the exam unemployed. The 43% evenly between employed full time and employed less than full time. Fifty of the subjects who had not taken the exam also unemployed and, like the subjects who had failed the exam, none education. Although unemployment was high (35%)
100 the subjects in the sample, subjects who had passed the exam had the lowest of in this It is disappointing, of that such a of the subjects who failed and the subjects who did not take the exam unemployed, but what Is even is the fact that none of these subjects to status by education. Occupational status was also associated with the in which subjects ended high school Subjects who had fulfilled al I the and diplomas 58% of the sample. They also composed 81% of those who employed full time and 89% of the who education. Subjects who had the diplomas the most part, unemployed employed less than full time. Only 20% were employed full time and none were further education. among the unemployed also. Fifty-eight were unemployed, 17% employed less than full ,time, 17% employed full time, and eight were pursuing education. The between subjects' on the exam and level of income was not statistically significant, but a dominant was
obvious. Subjects high-income families had the highest success on the exam. Subjects middle-income families followed, and subjects 101 owincome fami lies he d the last posi on. The passing the exam each in 83.3%, 77.8%, and 52.3%. In addition, 88% of the subjects who did not take the exam low-income families. that thought to be to on the high school exam (a) math achievement scores, (b) of failed, (c) of special education failed, (d) of days absent school, (e) handicapping condition, (f) lQ scores, (g) years in special education, (h) sex, and (i) ethniclty. None of these variables were significantly associated with on the high school proficiency exam by mildly handicapped students from New Mexico schools. Conclusions The following conclusions the impact of the New Mexico High School Exam on a sample of mildly handicapped students from New Mexico schools:
1. The high school proficiency exam prevented a high percentage of mildly handicapped students from receiving a regular diploma. Proponents had argued that competency testing would motivate stUdents. The findIngs from this study refuted such arguments. Not only was the proportion of students who failed high, but also, once students failed the exam, the probability of failing on subsequent attempts increased. The findings from the study supported the conclusions of a previous study by Hall, et ale which indicated that the best predictor of performance on subsequent attempts was performance on the first exam. 2. Performance on the high school proficiency exam was strongly associated with the manner in which mildly handicapped students ended their hIgh school careers. Students who passed the exam generally remained in school and received the endorsed diploma. Most of the students who dropped out of school were either students who failed the exam or students who did not take the exam. The findings from this study supported an earlier study by Wright (1984) which found that the best predictor of high school completion status was performance on the high school proficiency exam. 3. The manner in which mildly handicapped students ended their high school careers was significantly associated with occupational status after
leaving high school. Students who graduated and received the endorsed comprised the majority of subjects who were employed full time and the subjects who were pursuing further education. Students who received the inferior diplomas and students who dropped out were mostly employed less than full time or unemployed. The findings from this study were in agreement with the findings by Levine and Others (1985) and Zigmond and Thornton (1985) which also showed a relationship between high school completion and employment status. 4. The children of poor parents with the least education are the least likely to pass the high school proficiency exam. The majority of the students who faIled or did not take the exam were from low-income families in which the parents had very little education. Findings from this study were in agreement with the premise that poverty and achievement were related (Kennedy, et al., 1986). 5. Mildly handicapped students who passed the high school proficiency exam were reading significantly below grade-level placement. Although students who passed had a higher average reading level than students who failed and students who did not take the exam, the average in each case was below the norm. The findings from this sample of children from rural schools were similar to the findings reported by other researchers
104 (Zigmond and 1985; Hall, et al., 1985; 1984). 6. Lack of intellectual ability, as by individual intelligence tests, was not a associated with students not taking the high school exam. Students who did not take the exam not significantly students who passed in of 10 10. achieved by students on intelligence tests not good on the exam. Recommendations Recommendations to School and Policy 1. should and new educational at helping mildly handicapped students achieve levels of academic and higher-level thinking skills. New should focus on of academic than 2. Superintendents should establish with businesses which job training for high school mildly handicapped students. Such should foster the high school to the of
3. School district instructional leaders should strive to assume a leadership role in setting standards of excellence for all students. A focus of concern should be the documentation of individual student growth rather than identical standards for all students. 4. School principals should search for creative alternatives and implement educational programs that have the effect of holding mildly handicapped students in school until graduation and raising their level of academic achievement. Such programs must be sensitive to the home environment of the targeted students. 5. Pollcy makers should encourage and support the implementation of exemplary educational which increase the number of high school graduates and raise the academic achievement of mildly handicapped students. 6. Policy makers should seek alternatives to competency or proficiency testing as a means to restore the value of the high school diploma. The achievement level of mildly handicapped students who pass such exams is not commensurate with grade-level placement. Moreover, the consequences associated with practices which serve to deny students a hlgh school diploma have been documented by Wehlage and Rutter (1987) and Wright (1984) and are supported by the findings of this study.
106 Recommendations for Research 1. This study included only rural schools in one state. Consequently. it would be valuable to replicate this study in other regions with rural and non-rural populations. 2. Students in New Mexico schools are now required to demonstrate competency in identified skills starting in the lower grades. Given the findings of this study. it is very likely that an increase the number of grade retentions could result from this requirement. A study which addresses the relationship between competency testing and grade retention practices would make a valuable contribution. 3. Efforts to provide assistance to mildly handicapped students who fail competency tests could result in more restrictive educational placement. A study should be undertaken to identify exemplary practices for providing remediation for students who fail competency tests. 4. The increased use of competency or proficiency tests does not prevent an increase in the dropout rate among mildly handicapped students. Consequently. a study which examines dropout rates before and after the implementation of competency tests would also be of importance.
107 5. a study should be conducted to examine changes in the types of in-service training provided for teachers and administrators before and after the implementation of legislation which make grade-to-grade promotions and high school diplomas contingent upon passing a competency test.
REFERENCES Cohen. D. K & Haney. W. (1980). Minimums. competency testing. and social policy. In R. M. Jaeger & C. K. Tittle (Eds.). Minimum competency achievement testIng motives. models. measures and consequences (pp. 5-22). Berkeley: McCutchen Publishing Corporation. Baca. L. M .. Cervantes, H.T. (1984>' The bilingual special education interface. St. Louis, MO: Times Mirror/Mosby College Publishing. Ekstrom, R. B Goertz, M. E Pollack. J. M., & Rock, D. A. (1987). Who drops out of high school and why? FindIngs from a national study. In G. Notriello (Ed.). School dropouts. patterns and policies (pp. 52-69). New York: Columbia University. Teachers College Press. Educational standards for New Mexico schools. (1986) Santa Fe. NM: State Department of Education. Glass. G. V. (1978). Minimum competence and incompetence in Florida. Phi Delta Kappan, 59(9), .602-605. Hall. J., Griffin, H Cronin. M & Thompson, B. (1985). Factors related to competency test performance for high school learning disabled Educational Eyaluation and Policy Analysis. 2(2) Halpern, R. (1982). SpeCial education in rural America. Educational Forum, 491-501. Hammes, R. R. (1983). Legal implications of competency testing. Oshkosh. WI: Wisconsin University. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 250 335) Helge. D. (1980). A national comparative study regarding rural speCial education delivery systems before and after passage of PL 94-142. Murray. KY: Murray State University. Center for Innovation and (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 190 292) Helge. D. (1981). Problems in implementing comprehensive special education programs in rural schools. Exceptional Children. 514-520.
Hobbs. D. (1981). Rural education: The problems and potential of smallness. The High School Journal. 292-298. Kennedy. M. M Jung. R. K., & Orland. M. E. (1986). 109 Poverty achievement and the distribution of compensatory education services. Washington. DC: U.S. Department of Education. Kirmer. K Lockwood, L Mickler, W., & Sweeny. P. (1984). Rural special education programs. Exceptional Ch i ldren, 50 (4). 306-311. Lazarus. M. (1981). Goodbye to excellence. Boulder: Westview Press. Levin. E. K Zigmond. N & Birch, J. W. (1985). A follow-up study of 52 learning disabled adolescents. Journal of Learning Disabiliti"es. ll!(1), 2-7. Lichtenstein." Stephen (1988). Dropouts. A secondary special education perspective. Counterpoint, ft(3). 13. Macmillan. D Hendrick, I. G & Watkins. A. V. (1988). Impact of Diana. Larry P and P.L. 94-142 on minority stUdents. Exceptional Children, 426-432. Madaus, G. F & Greaney. V. (1985). The Irish experience in competency testing: Implications for American education. American Journal of Education. 93(2), 268-294. McCarthy. M. M. (1983). The application of competency testing mandates to handicapped children. Harvard Educational Review. 146-164. McCarthy. M. M. (1986). Competency testing and handicapped students: A legal view. Journal of Educational Equity and Leadership. (3). 235-243. McClung. M. S. (1978). Are competency testing programs fair? Legal? Ph.i Delta Kappan, Q.2.(6), 397-400. McDill. E. L., Natriello. G Pallas. A. M. (1987). A population at risk: Potential consequences of tougher school standards for student dropouts. In G. Natriello (Ed.), School dropouts. patterns and policies (pp. 106-147). New York: Columbia University. Teachers College Press.
110 Nash, T. E. (1983, to young handicapped children in rural areas: A review of issues and practices. presented at the annual conference of the association for the severely handicapped, San Francisco, CA. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 245 454) Popham, W. J. (1978). The standardized test flap flop. Phi Delta Kappan, 22(7), 470-471. Popham, W. J. (1981). The case for minimum competency testing. Phi Delta Kappan, 63(2), 89-91. Pull in, D. (1985), Minimum competency testing: A of the case law. Topeka. KS: National Organization on Legal Problems of Education. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 268 679) Resnick. D. P. (1980). Minimum competency testing historically considered. Review of Research in Education, ft(l), 3-29. Salvia, J., & Ysseldyke, J. E. (1985). Assessment in special and education. (3rd ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Santilli, F. G. (1985). A study of of handicapped students who have not passed the reading and mathematics minimum competency test (Doctoral dissertation, George Washington 1984). Dissertation Abstracts International, 45(8), 2488-A. Semmel, M.I. (1986, May). Special education in the year 2000 and beyond: A proposed action agenda for addressing selected Paper presented at the Council for Exceptional Children symposium, Lake Geneva. WI. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 279 147) Serow, R. C., & O'Brien, K. (1983). Performance of handicapped students in a competency testing program. The Journal of Special Education, 11(2), 149-155. Shepard. L. (1980). Technical issues in minimum competency testing. Reyiew of Research in Education, Sher, J. P. (1977). Education in rural America. a reassessment of conventional wisdom. Westview Press.
111 Sher. J. P. (1978). A proposal to end federal neglect of rural schools. Phi Delta Kappan. Statgraphics (1986). [Computer program). Version 2.1. Rockvil Ie, MD: STSC, Inc. Thomas. S. B. (1985). Legal issues in special education. Topeka, KS: National on Legal Problems of Education. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 254 942) u.S. Department of Education. (1984). The condition of education. a statistical report. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Wright, E. B. (1984). A study of the relationship between competency test performance and high school completion by mildly handicapped students. (Doctoral dissertation, University of North at Chapel Hill, 1983). Dissertation Abstracts International, 45, 152-A. Wehlage, G. G., & Rutter, R. A. (1987). Dropping out: How much do schools contribute to the problem? In G. Natrlello (Ed.), School dropouts, patterns and pollcies (pp. 70-88). New York: .Columbia University, Teachers College Press. Zigmond, N., & Thornton, H. (1985). Follow-up of postsecondary drop-outs. Learning Disabilities Research. 1(1). 50-55.
APPENDIX A LETTER TO SUPERINTENDENTS
Seplember 8, 1987 Mr. Joe R. Atencio, Superintendent Chama Valley Independent Schools P.O. Dra .... er 10 Tierra Amarilla, NM 87575 Dear Colleague: A few days ago I had the pleasure of sharing with you a study aimed at identifying factors related to performance on the New Mexico High School Proficiency Exam by mildly handicapped students. At that time, demonstrated interest In such a study cnd expressed your desire to have your school district participate. As I stated to you at that time, motivation on my part to conduct this study stems from a goal I share with you to search for better means of providing more meaningful educational experiences for mi Idly handicapped students in .New Mexico rural schools. Furthermore. I am a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Colorado. and I intend to make this study part of a dissertation. I have attached a brief abstract of the study. As you will see on the UStudent Information Form,most of the data to be collected will come from student records. There will be no contact with students on my part. and information collected from each district will not allow for the personal identification of students or their parents. Names of students or their parents will not be used. On the enclosed post card, please specify the name and telephone number of the special education contact person in your district. I will contact the person designated by you for providing the Information needed and schedule a visit to your district. Please return the enclosed post card as soon .as possible. Thanks for your cooperation. Ruben A. Cordova Telephone: (303) 786-2799 (H) 492-5416 (0)
ABSTRACT In recent years student achIevement has been a focus of national concern in education. Concern over the lack of basic skills on the part of many high school graduates has brought the requirement that students demonstrate proficiency in basic skills in order to be eligible to receIve a regular high school dIploma. Rural schools have not been the focus of attention by many researchers. Much concern has been expressed about the problems generated by condItions in the large cities and their environments. This concern is real and deserves much attention. the corresponding concern has not appeared to any great extent for the problems of education in sparsely populated areas. Efforts to restore credibility to the high school diploma through the use of and pencil tests have given rise to many issues handicapped students are involved. In Mexico, an endorsed high school diploma Is contIngent upon performance on the Mexico High School Proficiency Exam. As you may be the performance of special education students on this exam has not been very successful. What makes this significant Is the fact that Education Appraisal and committees at the district level are responsible for deciding these students should take the exam. The purposes of this study are: (a) to determine the high school completion status of a group of mIldly handicapped students In MeXico rural schools. (b) to determine the relationshIps between mIldly handicapped students' performance on the NHHSPE and their status of high school completion, (c) to compare on selected variables. mildly handicapped students from Mexico rural schools passed the NMHSPE mildly handicapped students in Nexico rural schools failed Cd) to determine the occupational status of a group of mildly handicapped students from New Mexico rural schools two years after leaving high school, and (e) to determine the relationships performance on the NMHSPE and the occupational status of mildly handicapped students years after leaving high school. the completion of this study, a report on the findIngs wIll be submitted to'you in appreciation for your cooperation in this study. 114
STUDENT INFORMATIOH FORM School : ______________________ __ Student: ______________ __ 1. Sex: 1. Male 2. Female 2. D.O.B. ____ 3. Race/Ethnlclty: 1. Asian 2. Black 4. Native American 3. Hispanic 5. White" 6. Other 4. Parenta I Educa t i on: Fa ther____ 110ther __ __ 1. Eighth grade or less 2. High school. but not graduate 3. Hi2gh school graduate 4. Education beyond high school 5. Parents' Occupation: Father ________________ Mother ________________ 6. Family's Income Level (based on school lunch application): Full prlce ____ Reduced ____ Free lunch __ __ 7. Special education program level services provided student: 1. 2. Level-B 3. Ancillary ________________ __ 8. Average number of hours in special education per day: Ni nth____ 2. Tenth____ 3. EI eventh ____ 4. T .... e I fth ____ 9. Major handicapping condition (circle one): 1. LD 2. CD 3. EMH 4. BD 5. Physically Impaired 6. Visually Impaired 7. Hearing Impaired 8. Other ____________ 10. Most recent IQ score: Verbal Perf. F.S. Da e : ____ __ Test used: ______________ __ 11. Date of Initial school enrollment in this district: ________ 12. Total years enrolled in this hIgh school: 13. Total years In special educatlon: ____ 14. Number of years retained: _____ Grades repeated: ________________ 15. Number of general courses failed in grades 9-12: ____________ 16. Number of special education courses failed in grades 9-12: ____ __ 17. Number of days absent per school year in grades 9-12: 1. Nlnth____ 2. Tenth 3. Eleventh ____ 4. T .... elfth ____ 5. Fifth year (if applicable) ____
18. Mathematics Achievement--Most recent score on standardized test: PIAT-----Test date NP ____ GE ____ 55 __ __ WRAT-----Test date NP ____ GE ____ 55 __ __ Other Tests: Name of test Test date NP ____ GE ____ 55 __ __ 19. Reading Achlevement--Most recent score on standardized test: PIAT----Test date NP ____ GE ____ 55 ____ (Read. Comp.) NP ____ GE ____ 55 ____ (Read. Recog.> WRAT-----Test date NP ____ GE ____ 5S __ __ Other Tests: Name of test Test date NP ____ GE ____ S5 __ __ 20. Performance on the NMH5PE Date/s exam taken and score: Date Scale Score __________ Pass ____ Fai 1 __ __ Date Scale Score __________ Pass ____ Fall __ Date Scale Score __________ Pass ____ Fall __ __ Date Scale Score __________ Pass ____ Fai 1 __ __ COmIT'ents: ______________________________________________________ 21. Soeclal Provisions for Testing Explain: ________________________________ ____________________ __ 22. HiohSchool Comoletion Status 1. Graduated endorsed diploma ...... Date ________ __ 2. Graduated unendorsed diploma ....... Date ________ __ 3. Graduated certificate of completion .. Date ________ __ 4. from school ........ Date ________ __ Reason given: ______________________________________________ 5. High school completion status __________________ __ 23. Current Occupational Status of the most clearlY describes the current status of the former student? (Circle one) 1. Subject is employed full-time. 2. Subject is employed part-time. 3. Subject is seasonally employed. 4. Subject is unemployed. 5. Subject is receiving vocational training. 6. Subject is continuing her/his education. 7. Subject's status Is 8. Subject Is serving In the armed forces. 9. Other ____________________________________ __
APPENDIX B LETTER TO SPECIAL EDUCATION CONTACT PERSONS
September 16, 1987 Mr. J. Delfinio TruJillo, Director of Instruction Chama Valley Independent Schools P.O. Dra .... er 10 erra Amari II a, NH 87575 Dear Hr. Trujillo, A fe .... days ago I had the pleasure of shar i ng .... ith you a study aimed at identifying factors related to performance on the New Mexico High School Proficiency Exam by mildly handicapped students. The identification of such factors could help educators improve the quality of educational services provided to this population of students. To accomplish this effort, data .... ill be collected on a select group of students. In order to be eligible to be included in this study, students must have been served in resource rooms during the time they .... ere enrolled in high school. Furthermore, these students should have been in ninth grade during school year 1981-1982 and graduated or should have graduated in school year 1984-1985. Students .... ho left school before graduating should also be included. The enclosed Student Information Form" is intended to provide you .... ith a more accurate descrIption as to the nature of the data being requested. !-lost of the data .... 111 come from students' records. There .... 111 be no contact with students on my part, and information collected from each district will not allow for personal identification of students or their parents. Names of students or their parents will not be used. In a few days I .... 111 be contacting you by telephone to obtain an est imate as to the number of students from your distr ct who meet the criteria and to arrange a visit to your district. Thank you for your cooperation. Sincerely, Ruben A. Cordova Telephone: (303) 786-2799 (H) 492-5416 (0)
STUDENT INFORI1ATIDN FORM School: ____________________ ___ Student: ______________ 1. Sex: 1. Male 2. Female 2. D.O.B. _____ 3. Race/Ethniclty: 1. Asian 2. Black 4. Native American 3. Hispanic 5. 6. Other 4. Parental Education: Father____ Mother __ __ 1. Eighth grade or less 2. High school, but not graduate 3. High school graduate 4. Education beyond high school 5. Parents' Occupation: Father ______________ __ Mother ______________ __ 6. Family's Income Level (based on school lunch application): Full prlce ____ Reduced ____ Free lunch __ __ 7. Special education program level services provided student: 1. Level-A 2. Level-B 3. Ancillary ________________ 8. Average number of hours in special education per day: 1. Nlnth__ 2. Tenth ____ 3. Eleventh ____ 4. Twelfth ___ 9. Major handicapping condition
lB. Mathematics Achlevement--Most recent score on standardized test: PIAT-----Test date NP ____ GE ____ 55 __ __ WRAT-----Test date NP ____ GE ____ 55 __ __ Other Tests: Name of test Test date NP ____ GE ____ 55 __ __ 19. Reading Achlevement--Most recent score on standardized test: PlAT----Test date __________ N? ____ GE ____ 55 ____ (Read. Comp.) NP ____ GE ____ S5 ___ (Read. Recog.) WRhT-----Test date ___________ ,NP ___ GE ___ 55 ___ OtherTests: Nnme of test ________ Test date __________ NP __ GE __ 55 __ 20. 00 tbe NMHSPE Date/s exam \Jas taken and score: Date Scale Score Pass ____ Fall Date Scale Score Pass ____ Fai I Date Scale Scor-e Pass _____ Fall Date Scale Score Pass _____ Fail ___ Com.'nents: 21fQC: e12t 109 Explain: 22. Hich School ComcletjQn Status 1. Graduated \Jlth endorsed diploma Date ________ 2. Graduated with unendorsed diploma ... Date ________ __ 3. Graduated with certificate of completion Date ________ 4. Withdrew from school ....... Date ________ __ Reason given: ________________________________________________ 5. High school completion status unkno\Jn: __________________ __ 23. Cur-rent Occupational Status Which of the follo\Jlng most clearly describes the current status.of the former student? (Cir-cle one) 1. Subject Is employed 2. Subject is employed par-t-time. 3. Subject is seasonally employed. 4. Subject is unemployed 5. Subject is r-eceivlng vocational training. 6. Subject is continuing her/his education. 7. Subject's status is unkno\Jn. 8. Subject Is serving in. the ar-med for-ces. 9. Other _________________________________ __