Special Education Testing Standards May Soon Be Tightened
The U.S. Department of Education wants to do away with a rule that allows states to count some students with disabilities as academically proficient even if they do not meet grade-level standards.
In a proposal published in the Federal Register late last week, the Education Department formally signaled its intention to end what’s known as the “2 percent rule.”
Under the current policy, some students with disabilities are tested under modified academic achievement standards. States are allowed to count as many as 2 percent of all students as proficient under the No Child Left Behind Act for taking such alternate assessments.
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Now, the Education Department is looking to transition away from that approach. Under the agency’s proposal, schools would no longer be able to rely on the modified standards after this school year. Instead, they would be expected to have students take general assessments meeting college and career ready standards.
“We have to expect the very best from our students and tell the truth about student performance, to prepare them for college and career,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement. “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.”
Even under the proposed change, students with the most significant cognitive disabilities — as many as 1 percent of all students — would still be allowed to take tests based on “alternate academic achievement standards,” according to the proposal. Rather, the shift away from modified standards is intended to raise expectations for students who can make academic progress when provided with the appropriate supports and instruction, the Education Department said.
The proposal follows through on a pledge Duncan made more than two years ago when he told disability advocates that he wanted to move away from the 2 percent rule.
It’s also a plan that’s been widely favored by disability advocacy organizations. Just last month a coalition of more than 100 groups wrote to President Barack Obama to urge the administration to end the 2 percent rule.
The Education Department is seeking public comment on the proposed rule change through Oct. 7.
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