Feds set to do away with 2 percent testing rule for SWD

Feds set to do away with 2 percent testing rule for SWD

(D.C.) States will no longer be allowed to assess students with disabilities using tests based on modified achievement standards under a new rule proposed by the U.S. Department of Education.

In effect, the new regulation – published Friday in the Federal Register – eliminates a policy that has allowed states to consider some students with disabilities as academically proficient even though they haven’t met grade-level standards. The new policy replaces current law that allows 2 percent of all students, or about 20 percent of students with disabilities, to take such assessments and be counted as proficient under the No Child Left Behind Act.

“We believe that the removal of the authority for States to define modified academic achievement standards and to administer assessments based on those standards is necessary to ensure that students with disabilities are held to the same high standards as their nondisabled peers, and that they benefit from high expectations, access to the general education curriculum based on a state’s academic content standards, and instruction that will prepare them for success in college and careers,” wrote agency officials – who are soliciting comments on the proposed change through Oct. 7.

The regulatory change was formally proposed in 2013 following an earlier pledge by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to do away with the so-called “2 percent rule.” The law, critics say, is unfair to students with disabilities who are capable of meeting general education standards with proper supports because it allows schools to avoid teaching them to the same academic standards as their general education peers.

Education department officials point out in the Register notice that use of these particular exams has already dropped significantly as states transition to new math and English standards along with aligned assessments. Some 41 states and District of Columbia – in return for federal ESEA flexibility waivers – agreed to phase out use of alternate assessments by the 2014-15 school year.

In issuing the new regulations, the feds cite new research findings that students with disabilities who struggle with reading and math can still achieve at grade-level standards if they receive appropriate instruction, services and supports. In addition, they note that nearly all states have new standardized tests “designed to facilitate the valid, reliable and fair assessment of most students, including students with disabilities who previously took an alternate assessment based on modified academic achievement standards.”

The new rule does not affect a separate regulation that allows one percent of students with the most severe cognitive disabilities to be tested on the alternate achievement standards.

“We have to expect the very best from our students and tell the truth about student performance, to prepare them for college and careers,” said Duncan in a statement. Alternate assessments prevent “these students from reaching their full potential, and prevents our country from benefitting from that potential.”

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