A r c h i v e d I n f o r m a t i o n
To Assure the Free Appropriate Public Education of All Children with Disabilities
Data from State Assessment
Much research and reform activity is occurring in the field of State assessments. Nearly every State and Outlying Area now has some type of statewide assessment, or is considering implementing one. Each year, NCEO surveys the educational agencies of States and Outlying Areas that receive Federal special education funds concerning their assessments and other activities related to the results of education for students with disabilities. The surveys have two purposes:
- to create a tracking system that can collect data describing how States are assessing educational results, particularly those for students with disabilities; and
- to work with SEAs that have data that might be used to describe the educational results of students with disabilities nationally. In addition, NCEO is identifying persistent barriers to using the results derived from assessment efforts, with the goal of providing information that will help States overcome the barriers.
The NCEO report Special Education Outcomes 1993 provides updated findings concerning the status of statewide educational results assessment of students with disabilities. The major findings are described below.
Based on these findings, NCEO has concluded that States are making discernible progress in several aspects of the State-level assessment of educational results for students with disabilities. This progress is evident in three critical areas: identifying students with disabilities, developing guidelines for participation of students with disabilities, and developing guidelines for accommodations.
- States continue to focus on participation and exit data for students with disabilities.
- States are attempting to produce better information on the number of students with disabilities taking part in statewide assessments.
- Guidelines are being created that help define who participates in statewide assessments, with the apparent goal of increasing the number of students who participate.
- Guidelines on acceptable testing accommodations and adaptations are being created. The trend is to allow more types of modifications.
- States implementing non-traditional forms of assessment seem to retain the same approach as used in their traditional assessments for including students with disabilities.
- While it is still not possible to use State assessments to produce a composite of the educational results, several States are collecting some type of data and are willing to share them. The variability in measures, grades assessed, and content areas make it impossible to integrate the data in a meaningful way.
Identifying Students with Disabilities in State-level Assessments
State-level assessments continue to emphasize measurement of academic achievement. Of the 59 States and Outlying Areas surveyed in 1993, all but 6 included students with disabilities in their State-level achievement assessments or did not have a State-level assessment (see figure 4.1). In 1992, all but 9 included students with disabilities or did not have a State-level assessment.
However, the increase in the number of States and Outlying Areas in which students with disabilities are included in assessments is not accompanied by an increase in the number with accessible achievement data on these students. In 1993, the 20 States and Outlying Areas that could not produce this data in 1992 were again unable to produce it (see figure 4.2).
In States where students with disabilities do participate in assessments, the percentage of all students with disabilities participating ranges from less than 10 percent to more than90 percent, according to the States' own estimates (see table 4.1). Three States and the District of Columbia increased the percentage of students with disabilities participating in statewide assessments in 1993.
TABLE 4.1 State and Outlying Area Estimates of the Percentage of Students with Disabilities Participating in Statewide Assessments of Academic Achievement
under 10% 10-24% 25-49% 50-74% 75-90% more than 90%
------------------------------------------------------------------------ Colorado Kansas California Delaware Indiana Kentucky Florida Palau Connecticut Massach. Maine Maryland
Georgia Hawaii New Jersey N. Carolina Louisiana Idaho New York Amer. Samoa Michigan Illinoisb/ Rhode Is. Minnesotaa/ Iowa S. Carolina Missouri Oregon S. Dakota New Mexico Tennessee North Dakota Texas Washington District of
Guam CNMI Puerto Rico
a/ Minnesota has a voluntary assessment process and is therefore not shaded in Figure 4.1.
b/ In the 1992 survey, Illinois was unable to determine the percentage of students participating in its statewide assessment.
Note: States and Outlying Areas in bold increased the percentage of children with disabilities included in their statewide assessment in 1993. Of the 59 States and Outlying Areas surveyed, four do not include students with disabilities in their statewide assessments; 14 do not know what percentage are included in their assessments; and Wyoming and Nebraska do not have statewide assessments.
Source: National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO).
State Guidelines on Participation of Students with Disabilities in Assessments
As part of its annual survey, NCEO asks States and Outlying Areas to describe their guidelines for making decisions about who participates in statewide assessments. Results from the 1993 survey show that the number of States and Outlying Areas with written guidelines about inclusion of students with disabilities in statewide assessments continues to increase (see figure 4.3).
Thirty-four States and four Outlying Areas indicated that in 1993 they had written guidelines about the participation of students with disabilities in statewide assessments. In 1991, 28 States and Outlying Areas had such guidelines; in 1992, 35 did. The nature of the guidelines that are used to make decisions about participation is shown in table 4.2. Most States and Outlying Areas use more than one criterion to decide who should participate in statewide assessments. Decisions based on the characteristics of the student's program or curriculum or on a decision about participation previously written into the student's IEP were most common. Much less frequent were guidelines that allowed decisions to be influenced in part by a) the parent's or guardian's opinion, b) the effect of participation on the student, or c) the effect of participation on the overall assessment results.
TABLE 4.2 State and Outlying Area Criteria Included in Written Guidelines on Participation of Students with Disabilities in Statewide Assessments
Criterion Number Percentage of States of Statesa/
------------------------------------------------------------------- Characteristics of Student's Program /Curriculum 19 55.9 IEP Specification 17 50.0 Need for Appropriate Accommodations 11 32.4 Characteristics of Student 10 29.4 Parent/Guardian Opinion 7 20.6 Effect on Student 6 17.6 Effect on Test Results 5 14.7
a/ Percentage is based on the number of States and Outlying Areas that had written guidelines on participation of students with disabilities in assessments (n=34).
Source: National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO).
State Guidelines on Assessment Accommodations for Students with Disabilities
NCEO also surveyed States and Outlying Areas concerning the nature of their written guidelines for making decisions about the use of accommodations, adaptations, and other modifications in statewide assessments. Some typical accommodations are shown in table 4.3. In general, States have made increased use of each type of category (see figure 4.4). These increases have been noted in all of the four major categories of accommodations: timing/scheduling, presentation format, setting, and response format.
TABLE 4.3 Some Typical Types of Accommodations Used in Statewide Assessments
Type of Accommodation Examples
------------------------------------------------------------------- Timing/Scheduling Extended time Breaks during testing schedule Testing on certain days Presentation Format Braille edition Large-print version Tape record directions Sign language presentation of directions Setting In separate room In carrel In small group Response Format Computer-generated responses Scribe to write answers Point to answers Mark in test booklet Other Out-of-level testing
Source: National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO).
Twenty-five States and two Outlying Areas indicated that in 1993 they had written guidelines on the use of accommodations in assessments of students with disabilities. The nature of the guidelines is shown in table 4.4.
TABLE 4.4 Number of States and Outlying Areas Using Written Guidelines on Assessment Accommodations for Students with Disabilities
Type of Number Percentage Accommodation of States of Statesa/
------------------------------------------------------------- Presentation Format 22 88.0 Timing/Scheduling 20 80.0 Other 18 72.0 Response Format 17 68.0 Setting 16 64.0
a/ Percentage is based on the number of States that had written guidelines on accommodations for students with disabilities in assessments (n=25).
Source: National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO).
Most States and Outlying Areas that had written guidelines include more than one type of accommodation in those guidelines. Alterations in presentation format (88 percent) and in timing or scheduling (80 percent) are most frequent.
New Forms of Assessment: Performance Assessments
In a follow-up study of a survey of all 50 States conducted by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, NCEO surveyed State assessment personnel about their use of non-traditional assessments, including performance, authentic, portfolio, and other similar assessments. The purpose of the survey was to ascertain the extent to which accommodations are being made for students with disabilities participating in non-traditional assessments. Because non-traditional assessments are a recent development and are often still undergoing design, assessment personnel often have more freedom to consider how to include students with disabilities early in the assessment program development process. They can also plan to use accommodations and modifications that can increase the numbers of students with disabilities who participate in the assessment.
The results of the survey, which are presented in detail in State Special Education Outcomes 1993 (Shriner, Spande, & Thurlow, 1994), parallel most of the findings of similar studies of traditional forms of assessment, as shown below.
- Only 7 of the 21 States that were using a non-traditional form of assessment knew how many students with disabilities were participating.
- In eight States, accommodations and adaptations guidelines for non-traditional assessments were based on IEPs. In seven States, they were based on factors other than IEPs. Six States had no such guidelines.
- States vary greatly in the way traditional or non-traditional assessment data are reported for students with disabilities. Eight States combine the data on students with disabilities who took traditional and non-traditional assessments in their overall report. Three States present that data separately. Four States collect the data but do not include it in any report. Six States do not provide any data on assessments of students with disabilities.
Based on these findings, NCEO concluded that States implementing non-traditional forms of assessment use the same approach to including students with disabilities and making accommodations as in their traditional assessments.
NCEO's Recommendations for State Guidelines on Participation and Accommodations
In May 1994, the Center convened a group of State assessment program directors, State special education directors, and other individuals knowledgeable about assessment and students with disabilities to discuss how decisions about participation and accommodation might be made (Ysseldyke, Thurlow, McGrew, & Shriner, 1994). Before formulating a set of recommendations, NCEO felt that it was important that the group state explicitly the assumptions underlying the guidelines for making participation and accommodations decisions. These assumptions are presented in table 4.5.
TABLE 4.5 Assumptions Underlying NCEO's Recommendations for State Participation and Accommodation Decisions
- All students should be included in assessment programs. Any time data are collected for the purpose of making policy or accountability decisions, include all students. Not all students need to take the same test.
- The critical question to ask when considering the use of a different assessment is why the student is in a different curriculum. Inclusion in the curriculum is the first critical decision that is made for a student as an IEP is developed. If the student is not in the regular curriculum, it is important to ask why not. Then questions about the assessment can be asked.
- State assessment programs are conducted for multiple purposes. There is a need to differentiate participation and accommodation decisions as a function of purpose.
- Accuracy and fairness should characterize State assessment programs.
- Assessment procedures should be sensitive to the needs of students with disabilities.
- Accommodations are used for equity, not advantage. Students who use accommodations during an assessment do so to be able to take an assessment on an equal playing board as other students who do not need accommodations. Accommodations are not provided to help the student with a disability do better than other students.
- Assessment programs should make clear that the same high standards are expected of all students. State advisory boards should decide the range of performance permitted for each content standard.
- Assessment should be characterized by practicality and cost effectiveness.
- Assessment should be consistent with students' instructional programs and accommodations.
Source: Ysseldyke, J. E., Thurlow, M. L., McGrew, K. S., Shriner, J. C., (1994). Recommendations for making decisions about the participation of students with disabilities in statewide assessment programs. (Synthesis Report 15). Minneapolis, MN: NCEO
The group's recommendations for statewide assessment practices related to students with disabilities were made in three areas:participation, accommodations and adaptations, and implementation checks. The recommendations in each of these areas are summarized below.
Participation. Including students with disabilities in statewide assessments needs to occur at three points:instrument development, instrument administration, and reporting of results.
- Instrument Development: Include students with disabilities when testing assessment items in order to identify problems. In this way, instruments can be modified during the development phase to allow greater numbers of students with disabilities to participate meaningfully.
- Instrument Administration: Include all students with disabilities in some form of the assessment. When a sampling procedure is used for an assessment, the sample must be representative of all students. This can be accomplished by allowing partial participation and alternate assessments.
- Reporting of Results: Include students with disabilities in reports of results. Data on the performance of all students are needed. Therefore, scores must be reported for all students. Reports of results from students taking different assessments and from information provided by informed respondents should be included in these reports. If a student is excluded from testing for any reason, that student should still be included in the denominator used when calculating averages.
Accommodations and Adaptations. Not all students with disabilities will need modified assessments, but modifications should be used when needed. Accommodations and adaptations that teachers use with students during instruction, and that are accepted in work and community environments, should be used during assessments. It is recognized that some modifications may affect measurement validity. These modifications should still be used and the scores from them identified so that the impact of the modifications can be further analyzed. Also, research on the effects of various accommodations in statewide assessments is needed. Finally, as new technologies and procedures for accommodations and adaptations are developed, they should be included in the array of possible accommodations and adaptations for instruction and testing.
It is particularly important for States to examine conflicting guidelines. For example, some States use accommodations that other States specifically prohibit. Among these are, for example, reading items to a student, allowing extended time to finish tests, and out-of-level testing.
There are several ways States can increase student participation in assessment programs, as described below.
- Allow partial participation in an assessment. Some assessments have several components (e.g., reading, math, writing). When a student can participate in one component but not in others, the student should not be excluded from the entire assessment, but rather included in that component in which the student can participate. In other words, include students with disabilities in component(s) of an assessment even it they cannot take the entire assessment.
- Use a different assessment for some students (such as students in a functional skills curriculum). Students whose curriculum is significantly different from the content of the assessment should be assessed with a different instrument. It is very important to assess critically the student's participation in the regular curriculum at this point. There must be justification for a student being placed in a different curriculum.
- Allow an informed respondent to provide information on what the student can do (i.e., information on the student's current level of functioning).
Implementation Check. Assessment personnel should check on adherence to the intent of the recommendations by making sure that no student is excluded who could participate if accommodations and adaptations were used. This can be done by requiring a specific person in the district to approve the decision that a particular student not participate in the regular assessment. In addition, the actions described below can be taken.
- Conduct follow-up studies to verify that the students who were excluded could not participate in the assessment with reasonable modifications. Report the results of the follow-up studies.
- Conduct follow-up studies to determine what accommodations were used for students who were included.
- Remove incentives for exclusion, using either rewards or sanctions. For example, providing information through the media is often an effective way of promoting change. Another strategy for removing incentives is to assign the lowest possible proficiency level score to all who are excluded from assessments. The reporting of information on all students is a critical aspect of removing incentives for exclusion.
- Set up a panel to review requests for new forms of testing modifications. The panel would decide if the requested modifications are reasonable or if further research is needed before a decision can be made.
State personnel that participated in the meeting recognized that a State might not be able to implement all aspects of the recommended practice at once. However, it is possible to implement one or two aspects without implementing the others. The group also felt that SEAs would benefit from examining other States' guidelines (see Thurlow, Scott, & Ysseldyke, 1994a, 1994b) and talking with assessment personnel from other States.
The group convened by NCEO also recognized that guidelines for making decisions about inclusion and accommodations could vary as a function of the way the assessment affected the student. The changes in guidelines described above are for "low-stakes" assessment. However, States increasingly use "high-stakes" assessments. When they do, motivation to exclude those students who are perceived to bring average scores down increases. When students with disabilities participate in a "high-stakes" statewide assessment, such as a graduation exam, it is imperative that guidelines be considered. This does not mean that students with disabilities should be excluded from "high-stakes" assessments, but rather that appropriate accommodations must be made.
[Results for Students with Disabilities]
[Data From National Assessments]