U.S. Department of Education

What do the feds have to say?

The U.S. Department of Education has a document on their web site entitled "Alternate Achievement Standards for Students with the Most Significant Cognitive Disabilities" (see sidebar, left).

Note that this is a direct cut and paste from the document, the words in red are mine.

From page 8:

Why should students with disabilities, including those with the most significant cognitive disabilities, be included in State assessment and accountability systems?

There are three basic reasons why including students with disabilities in State assessment and accountability systems is critical. First, it is established law. [In other words, because we say so.] The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Title I of the ESEA each require inclusion of all students with disabilities in the State assessment system. Title I further requires that the assessment results for all students (and students in specified subgroups, including students with disabilities) who have been enrolled in a school for a full academic year be used in calculating AYP for the school, and that the assessment results of students who have been in an LEA for a full academic year be used in calculating AYP for the LEA and the State. Under the IDEA, States must ensure that all students with disabilities participate in State and district-wide assessment programs, if necessary with appropriate accommodations, or take an alternate assessment, and that the assessment results for all students with disabilities are publicly reported, regardless of length of enrollment. [Footnote 1: IDEA requires students with disabilities to participate in all State assessments. If a State has a more comprehensive assessment program than required by NCLB, IDEA requires that students with disabilities participate in those assessments.]

Second, students with disabilities, including those with the most significant cognitive disabilities, benefit instructionally from such participation. [It is good for your child to be tested. He or she will benefit? Instructionally?] One State explains the instructional benefits of including students with the most significant cognitive disabilities in its assessment system: “Some students with disabilities have never been taught academic skills and concepts, for example, reading, mathematics, science, and social studies, even at very basic levels. Yet all students are capable of learning at a level that engages and challenges them. [Patently untrue! To say that "all students" are capable of learning at any level such subjects as reading, mathematics, science and social studies, which is what we are talking about, is plainly not true. I will agree that potentially all students may be capable of learning something at a level of engagement, but not in those subjects.] Teachers who have incorporated learning standards into their instruction cite unanticipated gains in students’ performance and understanding. Furthermore, some individualized social, communication, motor, and self-help skills can be practiced during activities based on the learning standards.” (Concerns and Questions about Alternate Assessment. www.doe.mass.edu/mcas/alt/QandC.doc January 2005). [Note that it is very convenient that this link no longer exists and I cannot find the document.]

Third, to ensure that appropriate resources are dedicated to helping these students succeed, appropriate measurement of their achievement needs to be part of the accountability system. [Define appropriate, please] Further, when students with disabilities are part of the accountability system, educators’ expectations for these students are more likely to increase. [According to what study?] In such a system, educators realize that students with disabilities count and can learn to high levels, just like students who do not have disabilities. [Or, more realistically they realize that some students are not capable of showing what abilities they may have and most likely do not have the ability to even conceive of a number system, let alone count.] Only by including all students in accountability measures will certain unintended negative consequences be avoided. For example, research suggests that excluding students with disabilities from school accountability measures may lead to dramatically increased rates of referral of students for special education. (See National Center for Educational Outcomes Synthesis 26: http://education.umn.edu/nceo/OnlinePubs/Synthesis26.htm) [Note that the first line in that document reads: "This document has been archived by NCEO because some of the information it contains is out of date."]

I ask once again, "Why must my daughter take this exam?"