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:

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.

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.

         Figure 4.1  States and Outlying Areas Collecting Achievement                    Data on Students with Disabilities  Collected State-level information in 1992 and 1993 -------------------------------------------------- Alabama                   Maine                    Tennessee Alaska                    Maryland                 Texas Arizona                   Massachusetts            Utah Arkansas                  Michigan                 Vermont California                Mississippi              Virginia Connecticut               Nevada                   Washington Delaware                  New Hampshire            West Virginia Florida                   New Jersey               Wisconsin Georgia                   New Mexico               American Samoa Hawaii                    New York                 Bureau of Indian Idaho                     North Carolina              Affairs Illinois                  North Dakota             Northern Marianas Indiana                   Ohio                     Guam Iowa                      Oregon                   Palau Kansas                    Rhode Island             Puerto Rico Kentucky                  South Carolina           Marshall Islands Louisiana                 South Dakota             Virgin Islands   Collected State-level information in 1993 ----------------------------------------- District of Columbia      Oklahoma                 Pennsylvania   Does not collect State-level information ---------------------------------------- Colorado                  Missouri                 Nebraska Minnesota                 Montana                  Wyoming  Source: National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO)

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).

       Figure 4.2  States and Outlying Areas with Accessible                  Achievement Data on Students with Disabilities in 1993  States having accessible achievement data ----------------------------------------- Alabama                   Louisiana               Oregon Alaska                    Maine                   Rhode Island Arizona                   Maryland                South Carolina Arkansas                  Massachusetts           Tennessee California                Michigan                Texas Florida                   Mississippi             Utah Georgia                   Missouri                Virginia Hawaii                    Nevada                  Washington Idaho                     New Jersey              American Samoa Illinois                  New Mexico              Bureau of Indian Indiana                   New York                  Affairs Kansas                    North Carolina          Palau Kentucky                  North Dakota            Puerto Rico                                                   Marshall Islands   States not having accessible achievement data --------------------------------------------- Colorado                  Nebraska                West Virginia Connecticut               New Hampshire           Wisconsin Delaware                  Ohio                    Wyoming Dist. of Columbia         Oklahoma                Northern Marianas Iowa                      Pennsylvania            Guam Minnesota                 South Dakota            Virgin Islands Montana                   Vermont  Source: National Center of Educational Outcomes (NCEO)

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
Wisconsin             Columbia
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).

     Figure 4.3  States Outlying Areas with Written Guidelines for                 Inclusion of Students with Disabilities in Statewide                 Assessments in 1993 a/  Reporting Formal Written Guidelines ------------------------------------------ Arizona                Massachusetts          Rhode Island Arkansas               Michigan               South Dakota California             Mississippi            Texas   Connecticut            Missouri               Utah    Florida                Montana                Virginia Georgia                Nevada                 Washington Hawaii                 New Jersey             West Virginia  Idaho                  New York               Wisconsin  Indiana                North Carolina         Bureau of Indian   Kentucky               North Dakota              Affairs Louisiana              Ohio                   Dist. of Columbia  Maine                  Oregon                 Palau Maryland               Pennsylvania           Puerto Rico   Not Reporting Formal Written Guidelines ---------------------------------------------- Alabama                Minnesota              Vermont Alaska                 Nebraska               Wyoming Colorado               New Hampshire          American Samoa Delaware               New Mexico             Guam Illinois               Oklahoma               Marshall Islands Iowa                   South Carolina         Northern Marianas Kansas                 Tennessee              Virgin Islands  a/  Some States reporting written guidelines in the 1992 Annual Report     are not shaded this year because the guidelines are undergoing     revisions in those States.

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).


          Figure 4.4  Modifications Used in Statewide Assessments  Timing/Scheduling:     1991 - 22 States     1992 - 33 States     1993 - 35 States  Presentation Format:     1991 - 30 States     1992 - 43 States     1993 - 44 States  Setting:     1991 - 22 States     1992 - 34 States     1993 - 35 States  Response Format:     1991 - 16 States     1992 - 36 States     1993 - 37 States

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.

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
  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. State assessment programs are conducted for multiple purposes. There is a need to differentiate participation and accommodation decisions as a function of purpose.

  4. Accuracy and fairness should characterize State assessment programs.

  5. Assessment procedures should be sensitive to the needs of students with disabilities.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. Assessment should be characterized by practicality and cost effectiveness.

  9. 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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

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.

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.
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