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Expert Q&A

To what extent should children with disabilities be included in the school-wide and state-wide assessments for No Child Left Behind?

Dear Mr. Cohen,

I am a concerned special education teacher here in the state of Texas. We’ve been told that, according to the No Child Left Behind Act, all students in special education program by 2011 will have to take the required state tests according to the grade level that they are enrolled in – not their ability level (basically all special education students must be on grade level by this time, that’s it, no exceptions). In our situation we had to administer benchmark tests this past nine weeks to our students, not at their ability level but at their enrolled grade level as per direction of our school district. In addition, for some of the students a small percentage of their overall grade for the nine weeks included these tests.

Is this legal? If it is, how is this backed up by IDEA, FAPE and is this legally following the students IEPs even with modifications. We work hard everyday to teach our students and we have high expectations for them. We want them to succeed and we push them to do more but they also learn differently and some at a different rate. Isn’t that the whole purpose of special education? We want to make sure that we are also legally doing what is right for our students.


Dear Daniella,

Your question addresses the extent to which children with disabilities must be included within school-wide and state-wide testing for No Child Left Behind. Your description suggests a requirement that all students with disabilities be tested under all circumstances. Under No Child Left Behind, children with disabilities are a specific targeted group for inclusion in state-wide testing in order to insure that school districts cannot artificially inflate their students’ performance on state-wide testing by excluding large numbers of children with disabilities.

However, students with disabilities are allowed to receive various accommodations while participating in the state-wide testing. In addition, limited number of students with disabilities may be waived out of the state-wide tests if they are provided with alternative assessments that have been approved for this purpose. In no event may a student be waived out of all assessments, but a limited number of students may be waived out of the regular testing.

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