In the 2000-01 school year, each State must have in place a Statewide assessment system that serves as the primary means for determining whether schools and districts receiving Title I funds are making adequate yearly progress toward educating all students to high standards. Statewide assessment systems must satisfy statutory requirements for technical quality, alignment, and disaggregated reporting of results (among other requirements). Assessment systems must also meet a set of "inclusion" requirements. Section 1111(b)(3)(F) of Title I says that State assessments shall provide for:
- the participation in such assessments of all students;
- the reasonable adaptations and accommodations for students with diverse learning needs, necessary to measure the achievement of such students relative to State content standards; and
- the inclusion of limited English proficient students who shall be assessed, to the extent practicable, in the language and form most likely to yield accurate and reliable information on what such students know and can do, to determine such students' mastery of skills in subjects other than English.
Section 1111(b)(3)(G) makes clear that the only category of students who are exempt from State assessments are students who have not attended schools in the local educational agency for a full academic year.
Inclusion of LEP students. The fundamental requirement is that each State must include in its assessment system all LEP students in the grades being assessed. Section 1111(b)(5) requires, as an initial step toward meeting this requirement, that "[e]ach State plan shall identify the languages other than English that are present in the participating student population and indicate the languages for which yearly student assessments are not available and are needed." Under section 1111(b)(5), States must "make every effort to develop such assessments and may request assistance from the Secretary if linguistically accessible assessment measures are needed." Similarly, section 1111(b)(3)(F) requires States to assess LEP students, to the extent practicable, in the language and form most likely to yield valid results. That section also requires States to provide reasonable accommodations and adaptations necessary to measure the achievement of LEP students relative to State content standards. Given these requirements, States must choose the most valid option for assessing each LEP student, keeping in mind that the purpose of assessment under Title I is to measure school and district performance, not to hold individual students accountable for their performance.
- In some instances, the State may assess an LEP student in English without accommodations or adaptations--i.e., administer the standard assessment. This may occur when a student is classified as "LEP" (by State or Federal definition) but is found to have adequate oral and written English proficiency such that the standard assessment would yield valid results. Moreover, this approach may be the most appropriate option for LEP students who receive instruction in English without accommodations.
- In other instances, the State may assess an LEP student in English with reasonable accommodations, if this would provide the most valid and reliable assessment of these students' achievement relative to State content standards. Accommodations might include extra time, small group administration, oral reading of questions in English, use of bilingual word lists or dictionaries.
- If native-language assessment is practicable, and if it is the form of assessment most likely to yield valid results, then a State must utilize such assessments.
In those rare instances where testing in a native language other than English is necessary to yield accurate and reliable results, but doing so is not practicable, States may use other measures to assess LEP students' progress, including classroom performance measures such as portfolios, teacher observation checklists, and student performance evaluations. A State may only use classroom performance measures if the State presents evidence that those measures are valid and reliable and hold LEP students to the same high standards as other students and that scores from those measures, like scores from any other assessment approach, will be included in the assessment system for purposes of public reporting and school and district accountability.
Inclusion of students with disabilities. Like LEP students, all students with disabilities must be included in the State assessment system. Individualized education program (IEP) teams or section 504 placement teams are responsible for determining whether a student is able to participate in the standard assessment, and if so, what (if any) accommodations are appropriate. The State's obligation is to provide reasonable accommodations necessary to validly measure the achievement of students with disabilities relative to State standards. In those infrequent cases when an IEP team or section 504 team determines that standard assessments, even with reasonable accommodations, do not provide a student with an opportunity to demonstrate her or his knowledge and skills, then the State or school district must provide an alternate assessment. Whatever assessment approach is taken, the scores of students with disabilities must be included in the assessment system for purposes of public reporting and school and district accountability.
State submissions of evidence. The inclusion requirement under Title I has significant implications for State assessment policies and practices. The following four points clarify the policies and practices that States are expected to demonstrate in their submissions of evidence in order to achieve compliance with the inclusion requirement:
- State policies must guarantee that each LEP student is included in the State assessment system. LEP students are to be provided an individualized determination of the most appropriate language and form of assessment for that student, based on English language proficiency, native language proficiency, language and format of their current instructional program, or other relevant factors. Whether an LEP student should be tested with the State assessment, the State assessment with accommodations, or (to the extent practicable) a native language assessment will depend on which assessment most validly and reliably measures her or his knowledge and skills. In no instance may a State assess an LEP student against content or performance standards less rigorous or less demanding than the standards applicable to all other students. Accordingly, a blanket State exemption policy for LEP students for Title I purposes, whether permissive or mandatory based on time in U.S. schools or time in English instruction, would not meet the Title I requirements.
- Each State must have a comprehensive policy governing the use of testing accommodations. While it is important that school and district officials have some flexibility in choosing accommodations, States must develop policies to ensure that local officials use accommodations appropriately and consistently, based on the needs of individual students. Moreover, States must ensure consistency and appropriateness in the use of accommodations through technical assistance, monitoring, and data collection. A comprehensive State policy is one that makes clear (a) the range of accommodations local officials may use, (b) for what type of student and under what conditions each accommodation may be used, (c) instructions for the proper use of each accommodation, and (d) reporting requirements to enable the State to track and evaluate the use of accommodations.
- For students with disabilities whose IEP or Section 504 placement teams have determined that the standard state assessment would not appropriately show what those students know and are able to do, each State must have a Statewide alternate assessment system or a comprehensive State policy governing locally developed alternate assessments. Alternate assessments must be valid, reliable, and, to the maximum extent appropriate, aligned to State content and performance standards. In addition, States must monitor and collect data from school districts to ensure the proper use of alternate assessments; they must publicly report the results of alternate assessments; and they must integrate the results of alternate assessments into their accountability systems.
- Each State must include in its accountability system all students in the grades being assessed. State assessment systems must assign a score, for accountability purposes, to every student who has attended school within a single school district for a full academic year. If a student has attended multiple schools within a district during a single academic year, the student's score shall be used only for purposes of district (not school) accountability. In their submissions of evidence, States must explain how scores from alternate assessments are integrated into their accountability systems. Furthermore, assessment results for LEP students and students with disabilities must be disaggregated and reported publicly.
These four points focus on areas that merit particular attention in light of current State policies and practices. Compliance with these four requirements will be deemed compliance with the Title I inclusion requirement. Of course, compliance with the inclusion requirement is only a necessary, not sufficient, condition for meeting the Title I final assessment requirements overall.
April 4, 2000