States Pressured to Curb Test Exemptions for Students With Disabilities

Posted on August 08, 2011

Pressure from the U.S. Department of Education has led some states to curb a testing exemption that applies to only the 1 percent of students with the most severe disabilities, cure but districts that have long used that flexibility to win some breathing room in their accountability systems are bristling.

Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, search states are allowed to administer exams based on alternate standards to students with severe cognitive impairments and then count those scores toward their adequate yearly progress, or AYP, ratings—provided the number of scores counted as passing doesn’t exceed 1 percent of the total number of students tested. When more than 1 percent of students take the alternate tests, states or districts must count the scores from exams that exceed the cap as failing. But, for years, the Education Department allowed a handful of states to overstep the 1 percent cap.

A cap was used—rather than a strict definition of who should qualify for alternate tests—so that school districts could use their own judgment in determining which students should take the tests, which are not intended for children with moderate disabilities, said Ricki Sabia, the associate director of the policy center for the National Down Syndrome Society, based in New York City. When originally proposed, the cap was one-half of a percent, a proportion she said some research shows is much closer to the actual share of students who might be in need of tests that may hardly resemble current standardized exams. Read more of this discussion HERE>

Author: Nirvi Shah, Education Week