Our nation continues to face the challenge of finding ways to improve student performance levels, strengthen the skills that students have when they enter the workplace, and improve the standing of U.S. students relative to students in other nations. Legislation has been enacted reforming education in general (the Goals 2000: Educate America Act), school-to-work transitions (the School to Work Opportunities Act), and elementary and secondary education, particularly Title I programs (the Improving America's Schools Act). Each of these Acts reinforces the concept that educational reforms are meant to benefit all students, including students with disabilities. These Acts not only have the objective of producing improved student performance, but also require that the collection of data on the results of education of every student be improved, and that the data be more useful and descriptive. Improving the quality of the information on the results of education for students with disabilities has been a major focus of the work of the NCEO since it was established by OSEP in 1990.
Numerous factors have affected the quality of the information on the results of education for students with disabilities. Among them are excluding students with disabilities from assessment programs that collect data on students; resistance to using appropriate accommodations that enable students with disabilities to participate meaningfully in assessments; and failing to report data on those students with disabilities who do participate in assessments. These difficulties have affected both national data collection programs and State assessment programs. In the past year, significant progress has been made toward including students with disabilities in assessment programs and providing them with appropriate accommodations. It is likely that our national education data collections will soon provide more information on the performance of most students with disabilities in selected academic areas.
Several NCEO activities are related to assessing the results of education for students with disabilities. Among these are developing a conceptual model of outcomes that is appropriate for all students, annually surveying State assessment activities, and analyzing data on students with disabilities that currently exists in State and national data bases. This chapter describes NCEO's ongoing analyses of current State and national assessment practices for students with disabilities. First, recent developments in State assessments of students with disabilities are described. Then, the actions taken to include children with disabilities in the 1992 National Adult Literacy Survey (NALS) and the Early and Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS) are described.