May 10, 2005
Think of this new policy as a new equation: the principles of the law such as annual testing and reporting of subgroup data, plus student achievement and a narrowing of the achievement gap, plus overall sound state education policies, equals a new, common sense approach to implementation of No Child Left Behind.
Secretary Margaret Spellings, April 7, 2005, in announcing new policies regarding implementation of NCLB
Until the final regulation is in place that will set the standards and criteria for the use of modified achievement standards, we want to explain how we will continue to ensure accountability for students with disabilities: only those States meeting the above equation's criteria may take advantage of the interim flexibility described in Adequate Yearly Progress and Modified Achievement Standards: Interim State Policy Options (see the separate enclosure). This document provides details about those criteria and the process for providing the necessary information.
States only need to provide this information if they wish to take advantage of this interim flexibility; this is not a requirement of Title I. States that do not intend to develop modified achievement standards may not implement any of these interim adequate yearly progress (AYP) approaches.
I. Core Principles
Each State must meet Title I and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requirements that are directly related to achievement and instruction for the full range of students with disabilities. These core principles include each of the following:
- Statewide assessment participation rates for students with disabilities, for purposes of measuring AYP, must be at or above 95%;
- Alternate assessments in reading/language arts and mathematics must be available for students with disabilities who are unable to participate in the regular assessment even with accommodations, and (as required by IDEA) States must report results to the Secretary and the public based on these alternate assessments in reading/language arts and mathematics. States with IDEA Special Conditions may not be eligible if such conditions cannot be resolved by July 1, 2005;
- Appropriate accommodations are available for students with disabilities; and
- A State seeking to use this interim policy also must explain how students with disabilities are included in its accountability system. Specifically, a State's subgroup size for students with disabilities must be equal to that of the overall group size. Therefore, any State that previously received approval for a higher group size will need to lower it so that the group size for students with disabilities is no larger than the overall group size.
II. Student AchievementEach State must provide information on actions taken to raise achievement for students with disabilities or narrow the achievement gap and evidence that such efforts are improving student achievement (see Attachment A).
The Department will review available information relative to Sections I and II to determine if the State is eligible to take advantage of interim AYP flexibility with respect to students with disabilities. For most data elements, the Department has the necessary data and a State does not need to resubmit them. In Attachment A, we note which data have already been submitted to the Department through the
No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) Consolidated Performance Report and other data collections. However, even if the Department already has the necessary information, a State may wish to update or explain that information. States should submit this information by June 1, 2005. Upon receiving this information, the Department will contact the State to notify it of its eligibility for interim AYP flexibility. Each eligible State would then complete Section III: Sound State Education Policies.
III. Sound State Education Policies
Each eligible State must provide the Department with information and a time line for activities it will take to improve its assessments for the full range of students with disabilities, in particular alternate assessments based on modified achievement standards and those based on alternate achievement standards. The following activities and required information are described in greater detail in Section III of Attachment A.
The State must commit to have in place no later than 2006-07 reliable and valid alternate assessments based on modified achievement standards for a limited group of students with disabilities. Please note that, under both IDEA and NCLB, students with disabilities may not be exempted from State assessments, even while assessments based on modified achievement standards are being developed.
The State must commit to ensuring that it provides a wide variety of appropriate accommodations that improve the validity of assessment results for students with disabilities.
A State that has developed alternate achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities must provide assurance that those standards are aligned with the State's content standards, promote access to the general curriculum, and reflect professional judgment on the highest achievement standards possible, as required by 34 CFR §200.1(d).
The State must provide information and a time line with regard to how the State will work over the next two years to develop and ensure effective implementation of its alternate assessments.
The ideal deadline for submitting this information is June 15, 2005. However, States needing assistance in providing the information in Section III within this time frame should contact the Department; we will work with States to assist them in providing the required information. We will also use the information in this amendment process to direct States' technical assistance efforts.
Subject to the Secretary's review and approval, an eligible State that addresses the items in Section III as an addendum to its accountability plan would be permitted to adjust its AYP determination for its students with disabilities subgroup for the 2004-2005 school year using one of the options outlined in Adequate Yearly Progress and Modified Achievement Standards: Interim State Policy Options. The Secretary will also consider other options proposed by a State.
To be clear, an interim AYP adjustment is for the 2004-05 school year only and only for eligible States. These issues will be revisited while the Department is developing a regulation related to modified achievement standards. This regulation will deal with a number of issues related to modified achievement standards, including identifying the limited group of students with disabilities who need to take such an assessment, defining modified achievement standards, and determining how results from modified achievement standards should be used in AYP determinations. The interim AYP options are only intended to provide short-term flexibility that is similar in effect to the proposed regulation that we will be publishing in the near future.
The Department will post the completed attachment on its website as part of the approved State accountability plan: www.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/stateplans03/index.html. The State would also agree to provide brief, quarterly updates, beginning October 1, 2005, on the status of its efforts with regard to the time line associated with State education policies (see Section III). We will review this information to ensure each State is on track with these policies.
The Department will dedicate its technical assistance resources to helping States develop plans for assessments, professional development, IEP guidelines, means for involving parents of students with disabilities, and other issues.
For most data elements in Sections I and II, the Department has the necessary data and a State does not need to resubmit them. If a State wants to submit any updated or explanatory information, send it to the Department by email at AYPAmendments@ed.gov by June 1, 2005.
I. Core Principles
The Department has most of the following information available through the 2003-04 State Consolidated Performance Reports, Part I; Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) monitoring findings related to alternate assessments; and State accountability workbooks and supporting evidence. States should submit information regarding the availability of appropriate accommodations since the Department would only have information about accommodations (item 4) if it is posted on a State's website.
- Participation rates for students with disabilities
- Availability of alternate assessments
- Reporting of results from alternate assessments
- Availability of appropriate accommodations for students with disabilities
- Minimum group sizes for making AYP decisions
II. Student Achievement
The Department has this information available through the 2002-03 and 2003-04 State Consolidated Performance Reports, Part I.
- Student achievement in reading, for students with disabilities, 2002-03 school year
- Student achievement in mathematics, for students with disabilities, 2002-03 school year
- Student achievement in reading, for students with disabilities, 2003-04 school year
- Student achievement in mathematics, for students with disabilities, 2003-04 school year
III. Sound State Education Policies
A State should submit the information for Section III by email at AYPAmendments@ed.gov; the ideal deadline for submitting information in Section III is June 15, 2005. States needing assistance with Section III should contact the Department; we will work with States to provide the required information.
Please describe how the State intends to take these steps and provide estimated time lines for when these requirements will be completed.
- Document the technical quality of the alternate assessments for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, if not previously completed.
- Develop criteria and guidance for IEP teams regarding identification of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities and for setting appropriate proficiency expectations for those students.
- Demonstrate that policies are in place to ensure inclusion of all students in the assessment system, as required by IDEA and NCLB.
- Provide training to IEP teams on State assessment guidelines and policies, as required under IDEA and NCLB regulations.
- Train teachers on instructional interventions, including special education teachers and general education teachers with subject matter expertise, on how to work together, provide access to the general curriculum, and use data to improve student achievement.
- Conduct outreach to parents of students with disabilities to explain State testing policies. This outreach may take several forms, such as website documents; brochures for parent centers, schools, and districts; or training for parent liaisons.
- Incorporate appropriately the scores of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities into the State reporting and accountability system.
- Submit all alternate assessments for the Department's peer review process for standards and assessments.
In addition to the above steps, States should also commit to the following steps as part of the overall strategy to improve assessments for students with disabilities, in particular for the development of alternate assessments based on modified achievement standards. Please provide an assurance that the State will complete these steps.
Develop and formally approve or adopt modified academic achievement descriptors.
Build a framework, including purpose and scope of alternate assessments based on modified achievement standards, that addresses key questions and issues (e.g., portfolio or multiple choice) and is informed by stakeholder and technical advisory committee input.
Contract for the development of valid alternate assessments based on modified achievement standards for students with disabilities who need to take a modified assessment (as well as students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, if applicable).
Establish (with diverse stakeholder involvement) and formally approve or adopt modified achievement standards with "cut scores" that differentiate among achievement levels and are aligned with State content standards.
Document the technical quality of the alternate assessments based on modified achievement standards.
Demonstrate that policies are in place to ensure inclusion of all students in the assessment system, as required by IDEA and NCLB.