Inclusion is an important value. If a school district has an educational program, a curriculum or academic standards, we believe that all kids should be included as much as possible. That goes for assessments and tests as well. We think that, given the right support and accommodations, students with learning disabilities (LD) can achieve as much as other students academically.
Inclusion Means Ending the “Two Percent Rule”Because we believe so strongly in inclusion, we’re very happy that the US Department of Education (DOE) recently decided to phase out the so-called “Two Percent Rule.” This rule allowed states to give students with disabilities something called “Alternate Assessment Based on Modified Achievement Standards” (AA-MAS); this is a fancy way of saying these students took tests with low expectations that ended up taking them off the path to a regular diploma. Here’s what US Education Secretary Arne Duncan said about the DOE’s decision to end the Two Percent Rule:
We have to expect the very best from our students and tell the truth about student performance, to prepare them for college and career. That means no longer allowing the achievement of students with disabilities to be measured by these alternate assessments aligned to modified achievement standards. This prevents these students from reaching their full potential, and prevents our country from benefitting from that potential.
Thank you Secretary Duncan.
The End of the Two Percent Rule Is a Good Thing Now, in the coming school year, you may hear a lot of noise about how ending the Two Percent Rule is a travesty and how schools are going to give tests to kids who can’t handle them. That’s just not true. Ending the Two Percent Rule is a good thing and here’s why:
First, this is about including students with disabilities in the general curriculum with all other kids. If assessments are inaccessible, then universal design for learning should be incorporated so that kids can participate in the general curriculum. Additionally, teachers and others need the support to provide the very best instruction so that kids are taught the material they should be and we know if they understand it.
Second, we’re not talking about students with severe cognitive disabilities who, because of those disabilities may need certain modifications to the assessment format (i.e. portfolios including work samples and other items). There are assessments that are aligned to the general education standards for these students in every state that better fits their needs. The Two Percent Rule applies to a lot of smart and capable kids with LD who simply need the right supports to thrive academically.
Third, the Two Percent Rule is an idea that was tried and failed. Most states never signed up and no one was ever able to figure out exactly who should take it! That’s why only 16 states ever used the rule and 14 of those states have already been actively phasing it out or have eliminated it completely over the last two years. In practice, the DOE’s decision only impacts North Dakota and part of California.
We Need to Help Kids Transition From the Two PercentStill, according to Candace Cortiella of The Advocacy Institute, in the 2010-11 school year, around 400,000 students were taking AA-MAS in reading, math or both. The states that overused AA-MAS the most were Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, California and Connecticut. Oklahoma, for example, had 52 percent of students with disabilities taking AA-MAS in 2010-11. They ended it completely and this year no one there will take it. If you live in one of these states, your child might have been under the Two Percent Rule. But not any more.
Many of the kids who were under the Two Percent Rule are going to need help transitioning. We need to make sure that they get great instruction, understand what is expected of them. Parents and families will be a part of this process. We (as well as state level advocates) are going to be monitoring the 16 states that used AA-MAS to make sure schools provide good transition plans for these kids so they can reach their potential.
Say Thank You to the DOE and Tell Them to Help Kids in TransitionThe DOE is now asking for public comments on this decision. With our simple action form, you can thank the DOE for its decision to hold students with LD to the same high expectations for success as other students. We’ve also included some suggested comments for you to tell the DOE to make sure that support is provided for kids who have to transition. Please write the DOE now for all the kids that we know can succeed if given the chance. (Comments are open until October 7, 2013.)
Want more background on our efforts over the years to end the Two Percent Rule? Read a blog by Laura Kaloi, our former public policy director, about how we’ve been objecting to this practice since 2005.
Andrew M.I. Lee works as Web Editor for LD.org. He strives to make NCLD’s online content relevant, timely and compelling for all who seek to overcome challenges to learning. Andrew lives in New Jersey with his wife and two children.