Spec. Ed. Is Theme of '04 Quality Counts
States are struggling to meet federal requirements that the vast majority of students with disabilities perform at the "proficient" level on state tests by 2013-14, an Education Week report set for release this week concludes.
Quality Counts 2004: Count Me in, Special Education Standards in an Era of Standards examines what the states and the District of Columbia are doing to test special education students, hold schools accountable for their performance, prepare teachers to educate such children, and pay for special education services. It also includes a state-by-state analysis of special education categories and placements by race and gender.
The newspaper's eighth annual state-by-state report card on public education found that, in general, the percentage of special education students performing at the proficient level or higher on state tests lagged 30 percentage points or more behind that of general education students.
The No Child Left Behind Act, signed into law two years ago this week, requires states to bring virtually all students to the proficient level on state tests within a decade. Nowhere is that challenge more evident than for the nearly 6 million children ages 6 to 21 receiving special education services.
"Students with disabilities have the same right as other children to be included in state standards, assessments, and accountability systems," said Virginia B. Edwards, the editor of Quality Counts 2004 and Education Week. "But how to do so in a way that's fair and appropriate remains one of the biggest challenges facing states."
The report, supported by the Philadelphia-based Pew Charitable Trusts, found that states increasingly are including students with disabilities in state testing and accountability systems.
Teachers Reject Mandates
For Quality Counts 2004, Education Week also commissioned a national poll of 800 special and general education teachers. The poll found that teachers reject many of the specifics embedded in federal law. For example, a striking 84 percent of teachers believe that most special education students should not be expected to meet the same set of academic-content standards as other students their age.
The report also updates Education Week's annual report cards on education in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. For the first time, it provides detailed explanations of each state's grades.
Vol. 23, Issue 16, Page 10