Federal and State Laws Requiring Participation by Students with Disabilities
Several important laws require the participation of students with disabilities in standards-based instruction and assessment initiatives. These include federal laws such as No Child Left Behind 2001 (NCLB) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA).
No Child Left Behind Act of 2001
Stronger accountability for results is one of the four basic education reform principles contained in NCLB. This law complements the provisions in providing public accountability at the school, district, and state levels for all students with disabilities. NCLB explicitly calls for
…the participation in such assessments of all students [Sec. 1111 (3) (C) (i)]. (The term ‘such assessments' refers to a set of high-quality, yearly student academic assessments.) The reasonable adaptations and accommodations for students with disabilities—as defined under Section 602(3) of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act—necessary to measure the academic achievement of such students relative to state academic content and state student academic achievement standards [Sec. 1111 (3) (C)(ii)].
One of the basic reform principles of NCLB is stronger accountability for results for all students. Through this federal legislation, in addition to other state and local district initiatives, assessments aimed at increasing accountability provide important information with regard to
- how successful schools are including all students in standards-based education,
- how well students are achieving standards, and
- what needs to be improved upon for specific groups of students.
There are several critical elements in NCLB that hold schools accountable for educational results. Academic content standards (what students should learn) and academic achievement standards (how well they should learn) in reading/language arts and mathematics (with science added in 2007-08) form the basis of state accountability systems. State assessments are the mechanism for checking whether schools have been successful in students attaining the knowledge and skills defined by the content standards. By 2005-06, states must provide assessments in reading/language arts and mathematics for all students, including students with disabilities, in grades 3-8 and once in high school. By 2007-08, states must provide science assessments in at least one grade in each of three grade spans (3-5, 6-9, 10-12) each year. School, district, and state accountability is based on measuring success in educating all of its students and determining what needs to be improved for specific groups of students. The accountability system is defined in terms of adequate yearly progress (AYP), a way to measure the improvement in achieving standards for all students and designated subgroups each year. Schools, districts, and states are held accountable for improvements on an annual basis by public reporting2 and ultimately through consequences if AYP is not achieved.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004
IDEA specifically governs services provided to students with disabilities. Accountability at the individual level is provided through IEPs developed on the basis of each child's unique needs. IDEA requires the participation of students with disabilities in state and district-wide assessments. Specific IDEA requirements include:
Children with disabilities are included in general state and district-wide assessment programs, with appropriate accommodations, where necessary [Sec. 612 (a) (16) (A)]. The term ‘individualized education program' or ‘IEP' means a written statement for each child with a disability that is developed, reviewed, and revised in accordance with this section and that includes…a statement of any individual modifications in the administration of state or district-wide assessments of student achievement that are needed in order for the child to participate in such assessment; and if the IEP team determines that the child will not participate in a particular state or district-wide assessment of student achievement (or part of such an assessment), a statement of why that assessment is not appropriate for the child; and how the child will be assessed [Sec. 614 (d) (1) (A) (V) and VI)].
Based on current trends, the use of assessments for accountability purposes will likely increase in the future, supported by other legislative initiatives passed by states in their efforts to implement educational reform.
Including All Students with Disabilities in State Accountability Assessments
Both federal and state laws require that all students with disabilities be administered assessments intended to hold schools accountable for the academic performance of students. Individualized Education Program (IEP) team members must actively engage in a planning process that addresses:
- assurance of the provision of accommodations to facilitate student access to grade-level instruction and state assessments, and
- use of alternate assessments to assess the achievement of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities.
INSERT CURRENT STATE-SPECIFIC POLICIES ABOUT THE PARTICIPATION OF STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES IN STATE ASSESSTMENT.
INSERT CURRENT STATE WEBSITE FOR ALTERNATE ASSESSMENT INFORMATION.
Equal Access to Grade-level Content
With the focus of legislation aimed at accountability and the inclusion of all students comes the drive to ensure equal access to grade-level content standards. Academic content standards are educational targets for students to learn at each grade level. Teachers ensure that students work toward grade-level content standards by using a range of instructional strategies based on the varied strengths and needs of students. Providing accommodations during instruction and assessments may also promote equal access to grade-level content. To accomplish this goal of equal access,
- every IEP team member must be familiar with content standards and accountability systems at the state and district level;
- every IEP team member must know where to locate standards and updates; and
- collaboration between general and special educators must occur for successful student access.
All students with disabilities can work toward grade-level academic content standards and most of these students will be able to achieve these standards when the following three conditions are met:
- Instruction is provided by teachers who are qualified to teach in the content areas addressed by state standards and who know how to differentiate instruction for diverse learners.
- IEPs for students with disabilities are developed to ensure the provision of specialized instruction (e.g., specific reading skills, strategies for "learning how to learn").
- Appropriate accommodations are provided to help students access grade-level content.
The selection, administration, and evaluation of accommodations for instruction and assessment are the focus of the Accommodations Manual:How to Select, Administer, and Evaluate Use of Accommodations for Instruction and Assessment of Students with Disabilities. Since assessment and instructional accommodations must be the same for individual students, guidelines for selecting accommodations for instruction and assessment are the same. However, the Accommodations Manual: How to Select, Administer, and Evaluate Use of Accommodations for Instruction and Assessment of Students with Disabilities will provide complete guidelines only for administering and evaluating the effectiveness of assessment accommodations.
INSERT CURRENT STATE WEBSITE FOR ALL CONTENT STANDARDS.
INSERT CURRENT STATE REQUIREMENTS FOR STUDENTS TO MEET GRADE-LEVEL ACADEMIC CONTENT STANDARDS.
2 Each parent/guardian receives a report of their child's reading and mathematics assessment results. Also included in this report are district and state results.