The National Center for Learning Disabilities has prepared this brief overview of several key issues related to the new policy.
Must All Students with Disabilities Take the Assessments Required Under No Child Left Behind?
Yes. The new policy announced by ED does not exempt ANY students from the assessments required under NCLB, including those with disabilities. NCLB requires annual testing of all students in grades 3 through 8. In addition, high school students must be assessed once during grades 10-12. Students must be tested in reading/language arts and math. Beginning in school year 2007-2008, all students must also be assessed in science once during grades 3-5, once during grades 6-9, and once during grades 10-12.
What Does the New Regulation Provide?
The April 9, 2007 regulation provides states with the option to develop alternate assessments based on modified academic achievement standards for students who are eligible for services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In other words, the students who may be assessed using this alternate assessment option must already be students receiving special education services outlined in an Individualized Education Program (IEP).
According to ED, this new assessment option is for "a small group of students with disabilities who can make significant progress, but who may not reach grade-level achievement in the time frame covered by their IEP." (Source: U.S. Department of Education, Modified Academic Achievement Standards Non-Regulatory Guidance, April 2007, pg. 12) States are not required to develop such an assessment; however, states must ensure that all students with disabilities are included in assessments required by NCLB.
While the new regulation does not limit the number of IDEA students who can take alternate assessments based on modified achievement standards, it does cap the number of proficient and advanced scores from such assessments at 2 percent of all students in the grades assessed that can be counted for purpose of making adequate yearly progress (AYP) determinations at the district and state levels.
According to ED, 2 percent of the students in grades assessed translates to roughly 20 percent of students with disabilities nationally, although there is great variability among the states.
What Are Modified Academic Achievement Standards?
According to the new regulation, modified academic achievement standards must be aligned with a state's academic content standards for the grade in which a student is enrolled. The modified achievement standards must be challenging for those students who will be assessed in this manner, but may be less difficult than the grade-level achievement standards.