To the Editor:
This letter is in response to the increasing exclusion of students with disabilities from school-level accountability under the No Child Left Behind Act (“AYP Rules Miss Many in Spec.Ed.,” Sept. 21, 2005).
For the past few years, advocates for children with disabilities have been ringing alarm bells about the use of minimum subgroup size to omit such students from school, and sometimes district, adequate-yearly-progress calculations. Now a study has confirmed what we have known all along. This maneuvering is an abuse of a rule designed to prevent subgroups from being too small for statistical reliability, or for confidentiality purposes.
To add to the problem, states are now permitted to “increase the percent of students with disabilities deemed proficient” at certain schools or districts by “the equivalent of 2 percent of all students assessed” (“New Rules on Special Ed. Scores Help Schools Meet NCLB Targets,” Sept. 21, 2005). This increase in the proficiency rate, and the corresponding expansion in the number of schools making AYP, is not tied to any improvement in instruction or upswing in assessment scores. It is purely a matter of inflating the numbers.
The No Child Left Behind law was supposed to provide accountability for the education of all children. The increased exclusion of students with disabilities from school-level accountability sends the unacceptable message that the promise of the No Child Left Behind Act applies differently to them.
Silver Spring, Md.
A version of this article appeared in the October 19, 2005 edition of Education Week as Sending Wrong Message to Special-Needs Pupils