Students with disabilities perform poorly in TUDA

December 23rd, 2013

December saw the release of the results of the 2013 TUDA – the Trial Urban District Assessment – part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) conducted by the U.S. Dept. of Education. (We blogged about the release of the NAEP at the state and national levels earlier.)

The TUDA reports the achievement of public school students in 21 urban districts in reading and math at grades 4 and 8. Results are broken down by racial/ethnic groups as well as special populations, such as students with disabilities and students eligible for free/reduced-price lunch meals. More info on TUDA is available here.

The achievement of students with disabilities (including both IDEA and 504 eligible students) varied substantially across the TUDAs. However, few districts achieved at a level equal to or better than the nationwide level for students with disabilities.

While most participating districts performed below the nationwide rate on all measures, some districts stand out as exceedingly poor performers. Only one district achieved exceptionally good performance when compared to the nation as a whole. These are:

EXCEEDINGLY POOR (in alphabetical order): Cleveland, Detroit, Fresno, Los Angeles, Milwaukee

EXCEPTIONALLY GOOD: Hillsborough County (FL)

Hillsborough County in Florida was the only district participating in TUDA that outperformed the nation on all four measures (4th/8th Reading and Math). Hillsborough’s TUDA results were reported in the Tampa Bay Newswire.

The performance of students with disabilities compared to those without disabilities is shown below.

MATH – Grade 4

2013 TUDA Math 4th

 MATH – Grade 8

2013 TUDA Math 8th Grade

READING – Grade 4

2013 TUDA Reading 4th Grade

READING – Grade 8

2013 TUDA Reading Grade 8

NAEP and Students with Disabilities: No where to go but up!

November 7th, 2013

The results of the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in Reading and Math were released today. Details are available here. User-friendly digital tools let you display results by state and student groups such as students with disabilities.

Sadly, the performance of students with disabilities has shown little if any improvement over the last three administrations (2009-2011-2013) and the gaps between students with disabilities and those without disabilities continue to be substantial.

However, there has been a substantial improvement in the rate of exclusion of students with disabilities, i.e., the percentage of students with disabilities selected to participate in the sample who were not tested. This practice was addressed by a resolution of the National Assessment Governing Board in 2010. The resolution sought to have students with disabilities participating at a rate of at least 85% in every state. As a result, exclusion rates have plummeted, as shown in the table below. This high rate of participation makes the NAEP results for students with disabilities more representative of the group as a whole. However, high exclusion rates still exist in some states, such as California, Georgia and Maryland. Details on exclusion rates by state on each NAEP assessment are available here.

NAEP exclusion of SDs

Turning to achievement, students with disabilities continue to perform poorly on all NAEP measures.

READING – 4TH GRADE:

NAEP 2013 Reading 4th grade

 

READING – 8TH GRADE:

NAEP 2013 Reading 8th

MATH – 4TH GRADE:

NAEP 2013 Math 4th

MATH – 8TH GRADE:

NAEP 2013 Math 8th

 

No Small Task: Phasing Out the Alternate Assessment on Modified Achievement Standards

August 14th, 2013

For purposes of accountability under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), states were allowed to develop Alternate Assessments based on Modified Academic Achievement Standards (AA-MAS) beginning back in 2005, despite serious objections from disability rights groups like the Center for Law and Education.

While most states did not develop this assessment, those that did are now faced with the need to discontinue its use.

The Obama administration signaled its intent to do away with the AA-MAS back in March 2011 when Ed Secretary Arne Duncan said …

“I want to say here and now for the record that we are moving away from the 2% rule. We will not issue another policy that allows districts to disguise the educational performance of 2% of students. That’s unacceptable, and that must change. We have to expect the very best from our students and to tell the truth about student performance so that we can give all students the supports and the services they need.”

Recently the Education Taskforce of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities called for an end to the policy authorizing the AA-MAS in a letter to the White House.

And, for states to receive approval for ED’s ESEA Flexibility (aka “waivers”), they needed to commit to phasing out the AA-MAS by 2014-2015.

Most recently, the US Dept. of Education released a proposed federal regulation that will require all states using the AA-MAS to stop its use (for NCLB accountability purposes) by the start of the 2014-2015 school year. Comments to the proposed regulation must be submitted by October 7, 2013. (See Huffington Post article here.)

So things would appear to be pretty rosy, yes?

NOT SO FAST.

– In school year 2010-2011, more than 400,000 students with disabilities were assigned to take an AA-MAS in reading, math, or both. Despite provisions in the federal regulations designed to prevent overuse, some states have put way too many students into the AA-MAS. Here are the top offenders:

1st Place: OKLAHOMA – 52% in Reading, 49% in Math
2nd Place: TENNESSEE – 42% in Reading and Math
3rd Place: TEXAS -38% in Reading, 40% in Math
4th Place: CALIFORNIA – 39% in Reading, 27% in Math (See more about CA here.)
5th Place: CONNECTICUT – 30% in Reading, 25% in Math

Our complete report on states’ use of the AA-MAS is available here.

– An analysis by the National Center on Educational Outcomes uncovered lots of shortcomings in states’ plans to phase out the AA-MAS.

So, the road ahead for more than 400,000 students with disabilities could be very rocky. Students unprepared to move from an alternate assessment to the regular assessment are highly likely to fail.

Advocates in states are currently administering an AA-MAS  (CA, CT, GA, IN, LA, MD, MI, MN, NC, ND, OK, TN, TX and VA). Advocates in these states should press state and local school districts to provide a sound transition plan for these students.

See also: ESEA Flexibility: Issues for Students with Disabilities

The Ills of H.R. 5

July 22nd, 2013

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, currently known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

The House bill, H.R. 5, the “Student Success Act,” strips out most of the key provisions of NCLB and established some dangerous new provisions that will have a serious impact on students with disabilities.

Here are some of H.R. 5’s most dangerous ills:

  • eliminates current system of school accountability – known as Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) – to be replaced by state-developed accountability systems (This is similar to what states have been allowed to do under ED’s ESEA Flexibility program – aka “waivers.” We’ve reported on many issues regarding students with disabilities under these state-developed systems);
  • requires assessments to be administered to not less than 95 percent of all students and every student subgroup – including students with disabilities – but requires no action if schools fail to meet this requirement (as required by NCLB);
  • requires schools to report on graduation rates – using the Four-Year Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate – as part of school report cards, but requires no action for high schools with low graduation rates for all students or any student subgroup (read about the graduation rate of students with disabilities);
  • eliminates all requirements regarding actions and interventions for persistently poor performing schools;
  • eliminates all restrictions on use of Alternate Assessments on Alternate Academic Achievement Standards (AA-AAS) for students with disabilities (known as the “1% rule” – this alternate assessment is intended only for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, estimated to be about 1/2 of one percent of all students. Current ESEA regulation limits the proficient/advanced scores on the AA-AAS that can be counted for school accountability purposes at one percent of all students assessed);
  • allows high schools to count students taking the AA-AAS as having received a regular high school diploma;
  • allows states to develop computer-based adaptive tests (CAT) and to use results from such assessments – including items below the student’s grade level – as a measure of both growth and proficiency in the accountability system. (For information on CAT and concerns regarding its use for students with disabilities, see this statement by the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities’ Education Task Force);
  • eliminates provision that teachers be “highly qualified” and makes use of teacher evaluation systems that include student performance optional for states;
  • allows Title I money to follow students to the school of their choice, including charter schools. (Charter schools have been found to under enroll students with disabilities);
  • requires states to set aside 3 percent of Title I money to provide competitive grants to school districts
    that wish to offer tutoring or public school choice to their students, under a new program called “direct student services” – despite a long history of school districts not using Title I funds required for supplemental educational services under NCLB;
  • locks in post-sequestration funding levels (Title I lost $725 million in federal funds);

While H.R. 5 maintains the provision in NCLB that requires states to report on the performance of students, including by student subgroups, such as students with disabilities, poor and persistent performance of any or all of these groups has no consequences.

H.R. 5 was opposed by all Democrats in the House, who offered their own substitute bill. Twelve Republicans also opposed the bill  (see vote here). Here is a long list of organizations that opposed the bill.

Keep up to date on all Congressional activities to reauthorize ESEA.

 

Most States Get Passing Grade for IDEA Implementation

July 9th, 2013

The U.S. Dept. of Education (ED) has released the latest round of determinations regarding states’ implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). These determinations, based on data for fiscal year 2011, found 38 states to be meeting the requirements of IDEA while a handful of states (12 plus DC) were found to need assistance or intervention.

The determinations by state are as follows (details available here):

– MEETS REQUIREMENTS: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Republic of Palau, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming

– NEEDS ASSISTANCE (one year): Colorado, Delaware, Maine,

– NEEDS ASSISTANCE (two or more consecutive years):  Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, New York

– NEEDS INTERVENTION (seven consecutive years): District of Columbia

NEW! ED has also released – for the first time – a comprehensive profile of every state. Called a “Data Display,” these new profiles provide “certain State-reported data in a transparent, user-friendly manner” according to ED. Be sure to check out your state’s Data Display by clicking on the link below.

Alabama Kentucky North Dakota
Alaska Louisiana Ohio
Arizona Maine Oklahoma
Arkansas Maryland Oregon
California Massachusetts Pennsylvania
Colorado Michigan Puerto Rico
Connecticut Minnesota Rhode Island
Delaware Mississippi South Carolina
District of Columbia Missouri South Dakota
Florida Montana Tennessee
Georgia Nebraska Texas
Hawaii Nevada Utah
Idaho New Hampshire Vermont
Illinois New Jersey Virginia
Indiana New Mexico Washington
Iowa New York West Virginia
Kansas North Carolina Wisconsin
Wyoming

Action Needed to Protect Children in Virginia from the Use of Restraint, Seclusion and Aversives

May 16th, 2013

UPDATE: We are pleased to report a successful outcome on this issue. Thanks to the quick work by parents and advocates in objection to the first proposed regulations, the VDOE solicited additional comments and revised the proposed regs to reflect the concerns expressed by the public. The resulting regulations are available here. The VBOE approved the revised regulations at its July 27, 2013 meeting.

A great example of advocacy at work!

“““““““““““““`

The Virginia State Board of Education is considering proposed Regulations Governing the Operation of Private Schools for Students with Disabilities.   These regulations would govern the use of restraint, seclusion, and aversives with children with disabilities.

As currently drafted, they would permit practices that can injure, traumatize, and even kill students.  They would permit dangerous and cruel aversives that harm students.  They would allow prone restraint and other restraints that impede breathing.  They do not fully protect parent’s right to know or to be able to have a debriefing where they work with the school to make changes.  Children have died and been injured in restraint and seclusion.  They are so dangerous that they must be limited to emergencies where they are absolutely necessary to protect someone from physical harm.  But the proposed regulations have ambiguities that would permit their use in other situations.

The Virginia Coalition of Students with Disabilities is urging people with disabilities, family members and other advocates to share their views with the Virginia Board of Education. The Coalition has developed public comment on the proposed Regulations.

>> Listen to an interview on this topic with Emily Drefus on Charlottesville Right Now. 5-14-13

ACTION NEEDED!

INDIVIDUALS:
We are asking individuals to write to the Board of Education at BOE@doe.virginia.gov and send the one paragraph email below to them.  Or write your own letter sharing your concerns with the Board of Education.

I support the comments of the Virginia Coalition of Students with Disabilities regarding the Virginia Department of Education’s proposed Regulations Governing the Operation of Private Schools for Students with Disabilities.  As currently drafted, the proposed regulations could allow dangerous restraint, seclusion, and aversive practices that can injure, traumatize, and even kill children with disabilities. The GAO has documented the deaths of 20 children from restraint; other children have died and been injured in seclusion.  The regulations should ban restraints that threaten life or impede breathing, including prone restraint.  Restraint and seclusion should be used only in emergencies where they are absolutely necessary to prevent physical injury to someone.  They should never be part of student’s behavioral plans.  Parents should receive oral and written notice of their use, and be part of a debriefing process.  Restraints should never stop children from communicating medical distress.  VDOE should restore the initial proposal to ban aversive stimuli—such as chemical sprays, electric shock, placing children in freezing cold, and excessively loud noises.  Aversives are painful, inhumane, and should never be used.  Please protect children with disabilities from these dangerous practices and adopt the Coalition’s comments.

ORGANIZATIONS:
We are asking organizations (state, national, or local), to write a letter to VDOE and to also sign the Coalition’s comments.  Our comments will be going to the members of the Board of Education and the Superintendent.  We would like to have a number of organizations signed on to show the strong support for our comments.  Please go http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Y55KKLQ to sign on to the Coalition comments. This site allows us to download sign-ons into an Excel spreadsheet.  Please sign on an organization only if you are authorized to do so.  Your organization will be included with the Coalition’s comments if we receive your response by Tuesday, May 21, 5pm. This survey Monkey sign-on is only for organizations. It is very important for individuals to send an email directly to the Board of Education.  Your views as constituents are important and they need to hear directly from you.

Thank you for your action on this important issue.

Maureen Hollowell
Virginia Coalition for Students with Disabilities
Ph: 757-351-1584
mhollowell@endependence.org

UPDATE: How Safe Is The Schoolhouse?

April 9th, 2013

The updated version of How Safe Is The Schoolhouse? An Analysis of State Seclusion and Restraint Laws and Policies, written by Jessica Butler, has been published by the Autism National Committee.  The report is dated 3/30/2013 and is available at
http://www.autcom.org/pdf/ HowSafeSchoolhouse.pdf

The report finds that:

  • Only 12 states by law limit restraint of all children to emergencies threatening physical danger for all children; 17, limit restraint of children with disabilities in this way.  Only 9 states protect all children from non-emergency seclusion (1 by banning it entirely); only 15 protect children with disabilities from non-emergency seclusion. 33 states lack laws requiring that parents of all children be informed of restraint/seclusion; 22, lack them for children with disabilities.
  • Restraints that impede breathing and threaten life are forbidden by law in only 18 states for all children; 25 states, for children with disabilities.  Children locked in closets and rooms unobserved have been killed and injured, when staff are not watching them.  But 29 states allow schools to seclude children with disabilities without requiring staff to continuously watch them; the number rises to 39 for all children. Mechanical restraints include chairs and other devices that children are locked into; duct tape and bungee cords, ties, rope, and other things used to restrain children; and other devices.  Only 14 states ban mechanical restraint for all children; 18, for all children.  Only 13 states ban dangerous chemical restraints for all children.
  • In general, 17 states have statutes or regulations providing meaningful protections against restraint and seclusion for all children, 30 for children with disabilities.  These have the force of law and must be obeyed.  Even these states offer varying protections, with key safeguards present in some states and missing in others.  In addition, 2 states have laws protecting against one procedure but not the other.  8 have very weak laws (e.g., Nebraska’s regulation instructs school districts to adopt any policy they choose and imposes no requirements whatsoever); and 12 have nonbinding, suggested guidelines that have no legal force and that are more easily changed by the State Department of Education.
  • In December 2009, Congressman George Miller introduced the first national  restraint/seclusion bill, and in 2011, Senator Harkin introduced a similar bill.  Together, the Miller and Harkin bills have had a substantial impact, causing states to adopt and strengthen restraint/seclusion laws to incorporate several of their features.  14 states have either adopted new laws (statutes/regulations) or substantially overhauled existing laws to incorporate their requirements.  For example, 11 incorporate the requirement that physical restraint may not be used unless there is an imminent danger of physical injury for children with disabilities, and 9 for all children.  Since the Harkin bill was introduced, 3 states have added requirements that restraints not prevent a child from communicating that he/she is in medical distress (e.g. cannot breathe).   Of the 20 students who died in the GAO report, at least 4 verbal children told staff that they could not breathe.  Many children have disabilities that prevent them from verbally communicating.

Since the report was finished, two states acted last week.  Arizona passed a law permitting seclusion for any reason as long as parents consent or for emergencies threatening physical harm without consent.  A handful of states have such unlimited consent laws.  AZ does not limit restraint.  Oregon banned free-standing seclusion cells (boxes).  It already has a comprehensive statute in place.  Neither new action affects the findings above.

Seclusion and restraint are highly dangerous interventions that have led to death, injury, and trauma in children.  The GAO collected at least 20 stories of children who died in restraint.  Neither practice should be allowed when there is no emergency posing a danger to physical safety.  With no single federal seclusion or restraint law, America’s 55 million school children are covered by a patchwork of state laws, regulations, nonbinding guidelines, and even utter silence.

Legislation on seclusion and restraint – the Keeping All Students Safe Act – is expected to be introduced in the 113th Congress by Representative George Miller (D-CA). Congressman Miller’s bill will protect all American schoolchildren from dangerous restraint and seclusion.

Maryland Advocate Speaks Out on Burden of Proof

March 20th, 2013

Lift a Burden from Special Ed Parents

The welcome lifting of the federal consent decree on Baltimore City Public Schools does not mean that all is well for students with disabilities in Baltimore and Maryland — far from it. Yet the General Assembly rarely pays any attention to the fact that special education isn’t nearly special enough. Hopefully that will change. Pending legislation gives lawmakers a chance to at least take a small step to improve the education of students with disabilities.

As things now stand, students across the range of disabilities – from intellectual limitations to language impairments to dyslexia – are denied the opportunity to meet academic standards because they are not provided services to which they are entitled under federal and state laws. There are many complex reasons for this.

Money is one of them. Under the federal Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), services are supposed to provide the “specially designed instruction” that meets the needs of students with disabilities. But in practice, the services of dedicated educators are almost always limited by school budgets.

At the same time, money plays another more pernicious and ultimately more decisive role in the shortcomings of special education: most parents lack the means to assert their rights under IDEA and Maryland law and to challenge the system’s failures. This parental powerlessness is obscured by media stories highlighting lawyers representing well-to-do parents who seek expensive private school placements at public expense, usually for students with the most severe disabilities.

But such challenges are a tiny fraction of instances in which parents are dissatisfied and frustrated. Students with disabilities in Maryland and nationwide come from significantly poorer families than the general student population, and lack the wherewithal to confront the superior resources of the school district. This includes their inability to pursue “due process” administrative appeal hearings if they disagree with the school system.

Such parental powerlessness is the backdrop to bills pending in the General Assembly that would place the burden of proof in administrative hearings on school systems rather than on parents. The bills stem from the divided U.S. Supreme Court opinion in 2005, Schaffer v. Weast. The court held that under federal law, the burden rested on the parent, but the ruling made clear that states were individually free to impose the burden on school systems, and numerous states do.

Maryland, to its discredit, is not one of them, perhaps because the Schaffer case involved the Montgomery County school system. But that is no excuse. Rather the General Assembly has not acted because of the muscular opposition of local school systems who want to preserve their substantial advantage in administrative hearings.

The Supreme Court decision siding with school districts was partially grounded in Justice John Paul Stevens’ concurring opinion that “we should presume that public school officials are properly performing their difficult responsibilities” under special education laws. But this presumption is totally out of touch with the realities of special education, and it ignores the imbalance in power between parents and schools.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in dissent pointed out that school districts are resistant to challenge, and command huge advantages: “the school has better access to relevant information, greater control over the potentially more persuasive witnesses (those who have been directly involved with the child’s education), and greater overall education expertise than the parents.” Further, the costs of administrative appeals – lawyers and expert witnesses – are trivial to school system budgets, while beyond the purse of the overwhelming majority of parents. And pro bono lawyers for parents in appeal cases are almost never available.

The burden of proof – to present sufficient evidence and to convince the administrative judge of the validity of the appeal – sounds like a minor legalistic matter. But it has the power to tip the scales of justice one way or the other. Often the evidence relies on subjective judgments, and administrative judges are already predisposed to defer to the supposed knowledge and experience of educators.

But as Justice Ginsburg noted, “school districts striving to balance their budgets…will favor educational options that enable them to conserve resources.” In other words, in violation of their legal responsibilities, schools will balance their budgets in part on the backs of vulnerable students with disabilities.

The burden-of-proof legislation in the General Assembly is only a small reform. But it will help to balance the scales of justice in administrative hearings, and will send a larger message that school districts must do more to bear the overall burden of improving special education. At the least, the legislation will take one burden off the backs of parents and students with disabilities.

This opinion piece appeared in the Baltimore Sun, March 4, 2013. The writer is Kalman R. Hettleman. He can be reached at  khettleman@gmail.com

Submit comments to PARCC’s Writing Access Accommodations Policy – Here’s how…

February 19th, 2013

PARCC – the 22-state consortium working together to develop next-generation K-12 assessments in English and math – has released draft policies regarding writing accommodations policies for your comments until February 20, 2013.

States in the PARCC consortium are: Arizona, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Tennessee.

To submit your comments go to the survey form.

The Collaboration to Promote Self-Determination suggests the following comments.

****Click on NO for all questions re supporting the PARCC policies****

Writing Access Accommodation Policy: Scribe

6. I support the draft scribe accommodation policy for students with physical disabilities that impede the motor process of writing.

  • Yes
  • Yes, with edits
  •  No

Explain why you do not support the policy. You may reference such topics as construct validity, impact on instruction, impact on reporting results, grade span for which the accommodation is allowed, etc.

The draft policy applies only to those students who are found eligible under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). However, under the ESEA students covered by both IDEA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 must be provided with appropriate accommodations.

Terms such as “students with a physical disability” should not be used as doing so risks making determination of need for accommodations contingent upon the disability categories used to determine eligibility for IDEA.  PARCC states that the use of a scribe will not invalidate constructs measured on the PARCC ELA/literacy assessments. The accommodation shouldn’t be limited to ELA/literacy assessments because it is unlikely to invalidate constructs measured on the math assessment either.

The IEP team is charged with making accommodations decisions for all IDEA-eligible students every year, as part of the annual IEP process. Therefore, to attempt to limit “a priori” which students are “eligible” for a particular accommodation impedes the IEP team’s responsibility and would likely be considered a violation of IDEA for this reason

Placing similar eligibility limitations on the Section 504 team would also likely be considered a violation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Students who do not meet the PARCC scribe criteria may still need the accommodation in order to demonstrate the full extent of their knowledge through written expression.

It is PARCC’s overarching responsibility- as a test developer- to individually review each test item to show with undisputed evidence that use of such accommodation(s) will fundamentally alter the test construct. This is a key element of a universally designed assessment. We believe all access features should be available without restriction until there is consistent evidence that a particular test item is fundamentally altered by use of such feature.  We encourage PARCC to work with the disability and assistive technology experts to revise this policy.

Writing Access Accommodation Policy: Scribe

7. I support the draft scribe accommodation policy for students with disabilities that significantly impact the area of written expression.

  • Yes
  • Yes, with edits
  •  No

Explain why you do not support the policy. You may reference such topics as construct validity, impact on instruction, impact on reporting results, grade span for which the accommodation is allowed, etc.

The draft policy applies only to those students who are found eligible under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). However, under the ESEA students covered by both IDEA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 must be provided with appropriate accommodations.

Terms such as “disabilities that significantly impact the area of written expression” should not be used as doing so risks making determination of need for accommodations contingent upon the degree of disability, as opposed to whether the accommodation would allow a student to demonstrate their knowledge more fully. PARCC states that the use of a scribe will not invalidate constructs measured on the PARCC ELA/literacy assessments. The accommodation shouldn’t be limited to ELA/literacy assessments because it is unlikely to invalidate constructs measured on the math assessment either.

The IEP team is charged with making accommodations decisions for all IDEA-eligible students every year, as part of the annual IEP process. Therefore, to attempt to limit “a priori” which students are “eligible” for a particular accommodation impedes the IEP team’s responsibility and would likely be considered a violation of IDEA for this reason

Providing specific “conditions” related to instructional interventions or IEP goals that must be met in order for a student to be provided the needed accommodation would violate the student’s rights under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. A student with a disability who is eligible under IDEA and/or Section 504 cannot have his/her right to participate meaningfully in an assessment provided to all other students conditioned upon actions of the student’s IEP Teams and/or Section 504 Team. Failure to ensure that such a student has an opportunity to demonstrate his/her knowledge and skills of the Common Core Standards as all other students would deprive the student of comparable benefits and services under 34 C.F.R. §104.4. While the particular items addressed in these conditions are certainly desirable, a student’s rights cannot be limited by their existence, particularly when the student has no control of these.

It is PARCC’s overarching responsibility- as a test developer- to individually review each test item to show with undisputed evidence that use of such accommodation(s) will fundamentally alter the test construct. This is a key element of a universally designed assessment. We believe all access features should be available without restriction until there is consistent evidence that a particular test item is fundamentally altered by use of such feature.  We encourage PARCC to work with the disability and assistive technology  experts to revise this policy.

Writing Access Accommodation Policy: Scribe

8. The proposed scribe accommodation policy is consistent with the policy my state currently offers.

  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure

    Other:  N/A for National coalition

Writing Access Accommodation Policy: Word Prediction

9. I support the draft word prediction accommodation for students with disabilities who have difficulty producing text due to the speed with which they are able to enter keystrokes.

  • Yes
  • Yes, with edits
  • No

Explain why you do not support the policy. You may reference such topics as construct validity, impact on instruction, impact on reporting results, grade span for which the accommodation is allowed, etc.

The draft word prediction policy is overly restrictive. Accommodations must be made available to both IDEA and Section 504 eligible students. A term such as “student with a specific disability” should not be used as doing so risks making determination of need for accommodations contingent upon the disability categories used to determine eligibility for IDEA.  The IEP team is charged with making accommodations decisions for all IDEA-eligible students every year, as part of the annual IEP process. Therefore, to attempt to limit “a priori” which students are “eligible” for a particular accommodation impedes the IEP team’s responsibility and would likely be considered a violation of IDEA for this reason. Placing similar eligibility limitations on the Section 504 team would also likely be considered a violation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

It is PARCC’s overarching responsibility- as a test developer- to individually review each test item to show with undisputed evidence that use of such accommodation(s) will fundamentally alter the test construct. This is a key element of a universally designed assessment. We believe all access features should be available without restriction until there is consistent evidence that a particular test item is fundamentally altered by use of such feature. Since the PARCC assessment is in an online form, the motor skills required for written expression have already been changed from “handwriting” to “keyboarding.”  Assuming there would be very few if any test items that were intended to solely measure keyboarding speed/skill, there should be no restriction on students using any kind of alternative computer input device to support keyboarding efficiency.

We encourage PARCC to work with the disability and assistive technology experts to revise this policy.  Word prediction interventions are now a common feature within most computer-based systems, software applications, as well as routinely found in search technologies, text messaging, etc. Given its common “real world” usage, it should be considered as a widely allowable if not universal accommodation on assessments.

Word prediction software varies considerably. Students who have access to robust programs such as Co-Writer by Don Johnston for use in their class work and teacher-made tests would need to be provided with the same software for use in assessments. Providing Word Prediction software with which the student is not familiar would actually hinder the student’s performance, lead to frustration and diminished equity.

Writing Access Accommodation Policy: Word Prediction

10. I support the draft word prediction accommodation policy for students with disabilities that impede language processing and/or recall.

  • Yes
  • Yes, with edits
  • No

Explain why you do not support the policy. You may reference such topics as construct validity, impact on instruction, impact on reporting results, grade span for which the accommodation is allowed, etc.

The draft word prediction policy is overly restrictive. Accommodations must be made available to both IDEA and Section 504 eligible students. A term such as “student with a significant disability” should not be used, as doing so risks making determination of need for accommodations contingent upon the disability categories used to determine eligibility for IDEA.  The IEP team is charged with making accommodations decisions for all IDEA-eligible students every year, as part of the annual IEP process. Therefore, to attempt to limit “a priori” which students are “eligible” for a particular accommodation impedes the IEP team’s responsibility and would likely be considered a violation of IDEA for this reason. Placing similar eligibility limitations on the Section 504 team would also likely be considered a violation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Providing specific “conditions” related to instructional interventions or IEP goals that must be met in order for a student to be provided the needed accommodation would violate the student’s rights under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. A student with a disability who is eligible under IDEA and/or Section 504 cannot have his/her right to participate meaningfully in an assessment provided to all other students conditioned upon actions of the student’s IEP Teams and/or Section 504 Team. Failure to ensure that such a student has an opportunity to demonstrate his/her knowledge and skills of the Common Core Standards as all other students would deprive the student of comparable benefits and services under 34 C.F.R. §104.4. While the particular items addressed in these conditions are certainly desirable, a student’s rights cannot be limited by their existence, particularly when the student has no control of these.

It is PARCC’s overarching responsibility- as a test developer- to individually review each test item to show with undisputed evidence that use of such accommodation(s) will fundamentally alter the test construct. This is a key element of a universally designed assessment. We believe all access features should be available without restriction until there is consistent evidence that a particular test item is fundamentally altered by use of such feature. Since the PARCC assessment is in an online form, the motor skills required for written expression have already been changed from “handwriting” to “keyboarding.”  Assuming there would be very few if any test items that were intended to solely measure keyboarding speed/skill, there should be no restriction on students using any kind of alternative computer input device to support keyboarding efficiency.

We encourage PARCC to work with the disability and assistive technology experts to revise this policy.  Word prediction interventions are now a common feature within most computer-based systems, software applications, as well as routinely found in search technologies, text messaging, etc. Given its common “real world” usage, it should be considered as a widely allowable if not universal accommodation on assessments.

Word prediction software varies considerably. Students who have access to robust programs such as Co-Writer by Don Johnston for use in their class work and teacher-made tests would need to be provided with the same software for use in assessments. Providing Word Prediction software with which the student is not familiar would actually hinder the student’s performance, lead to frustration and diminished equity.

Writing Access Accommodation Policy: Word Prediction

11. The proposed word prediction accommodation policy is consistent with the policy my state currently offers.

  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure There is no choice for “other” as there usually is for the question about state policy so just put “unsure

Final Comments
Please use this space to provide any other comments not addressed in previous questions.

The PARCC Accommodations Manual should be developed so as to have applicability for both through-course and summative assessments. Students must be assured of the consistent availability and application of accommodations on all aspects of assessments designed to measure College and Career Readiness.

Many States Lack Compliance with Grad Rate Regulation in ESEA Waiver Plans!

February 13th, 2013

A new report from the Alliance for Excellent Education (AEE) show that only a few states that have received ESEA waivers from the U.S. Dept. of Education are fully implementing the 2008 graduation rate regulations for accountability purposes.

Among the important elements of the 2008 regulations that are being lost is accountability for graduation rates of student subgroups – including students with disabilities. According to the AEE report, eleven states have weak or no subgroup graduation rate accountability. Details for each of these states are below and also found in Appendix B of the AEE report. The state’s 4-year adjusted cohort rate for graduation with a regular diploma for students with disabilities appears in RED (all states available here).

See if your state is on this list!

No Subgroup Graduation Rate Accountability

1. In Arizona, a low subgroup graduation rate, or gap, does not trigger priority or focus school identification. Additionally, subgroup graduation rates are not included in the state’s accountability index (Arizona Department of Education, “ESEA Flexibility Request,” 43, 50–51). 67%

2. In Kentucky, a low subgroup graduation rate, or gap, does not trigger priority or focus school identification. Additionally, subgroup graduation rates are not included in the state’s accountability index (Kentucky Department of Education, “ESEA Flexibility Request,” 42, 76–77). (Not available)

3. In New Jersey, a low subgroup graduation rate, or gap, does not trigger priority or focus school identification. Subgroup graduation rates are included in School Performance Reports; however, these reports do not trigger improvement requirements (New Jersey Department of Education, “ESEA Flexibility Request,” 34–36, 38, 52). 73%

4. In New Mexico, a low subgroup graduation rate, or gap, does not trigger priority or focus school identification. Additionally, subgroup graduation rates are not included in the state’s accountability index (New Mexico Public Education Department, “ESEA Flexibility Request,” 42, 45). 47%

5. In North Carolina, a low subgroup graduation rate, or gap, does not trigger priority or focus school identification (North Carolina Department of Public Instruction email message to Alliance for Excellent Education, November 19, 2012). 57%

6. In Rhode Island, a low subgroup graduation rate, or gap, does not trigger priority or focus school identification. Additionally, subgroup graduation rates are not included in the state’s accountability index (Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, “ESEA Flexibility Request,” 49). 58%

Weak Subgroup Graduation Rate Accountability

7. In Michigan, a low subgroup graduation rate, or gap, does not trigger priority or focus school identification. Although subgroup graduation rates are included within the accountability system, the graduation rate for a single subgroup does not carry sufficient weight to trigger improvement interventions (Michigan Department of Education, “ESEA Flexibility Request,” 57–58, 60–61, 130–33). 52%

8. In Minnesota, a low subgroup graduation rate, or gap, does not trigger priority or focus school identification. Although subgroup graduation rates are included within the accountability index, the graduation rate for a single subgroup does not carry sufficient weight to trigger improvement interventions (Minnesota Department of Education, “ESEA Flexibility Request,” 89, 120–21). 56%

9. Nevada limits subgroup accountability to (1) students with an Individualized Education Plan, (2) students with limited English proficiency, and (3) students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunch; Nevada’s approved waiver application does not include subgroups based on race or ethnicity (Nevada Department of Education, “ESEA Flexibility Request,” 63, 118). 23%

10. In Oklahoma, focus school identification is limited to two subgroups and subgroup graduation rate accountability is not included in the state’s accountability index (Oklahoma State Department of Education, “ESEA Flexibility Request,” 34, 80). (Not available)

11. In South Carolina, a low subgroup graduation rate, or gap, does not trigger priority or focus school identification. Although subgroup graduation rates are included within the accountability index, the graduation rate for a single subgroup does not carry sufficient weight to trigger improvement interventions (South Carolina Department of Education, “ESEA Flexibility Request,” 57–58, 119). 39%

Note: Page numbers refer to the location within the approved waiver application that would likely include information on subgroup graduation rate accountability if the state were to include subgroup graduation rates in the accountability system.

Get the full AEE report, The Effect of ESEA Waiver Plans on High School Graduation Rate Accountability (PDF).