ESSA and Special Education
This is Part Five in a nine part series of a conversation between NPE Action President Diane Ravitch and Senator Lamar Alexander’s Chief of Staff, David P. Cleary. You can access the entire series here.
How does the law affect the testing of students with disabilities? I have heard that there is a limit of 1% of students who may be given alternative assessments due to their disabilities, but far more than 1% of students have IEPs. What does the law say?
The law allows students with the most significant cognitive disabilities to take alternate assessments aligned with alternate academic achievement standards.
The new law includes a cap on the total number of students that can take an alternate assessment aligned with alternate achievement standards. The cap is set at one percent of all students in the state, which equates to roughly 10 percent of students with disabilities. This is the same as the regulation under NCLB that has been in effect since January 8, 2004.
It’s important to remember that the overwhelming majority of students with Individualized Education Plans (IEP) take regular assessments, and do not take an alternate assessment aligned to alternate academic achievement standards.
The new law reaffirms and makes clear that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act law requires that the IEP team determine when a child with a significant cognitive disability should take an alternate assessment aligned with alternate achievement standards.
The new law also prohibits the federal government or the state from imposing a cap on a school district regarding the percentage of students who may be administered an alternate assessment. Therefore, a school district or school could administer an alternate assessment to more than 1 percent of students.