Most Standards Equal For Spec. Ed. Students

By Lisa Goldstein — January 28, 2004 3 min read
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Nearly all states have established the same content standards in mathematics and reading for students with and without disabilities, according to early findings from a federal report on the state and local implementation of the main federal special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

The data tables are scheduled to be available Jan. 28 from the Study of State and Local Implementation and Impact of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

The findings for the 2002-03 school year show an increase from 1999-2000, when just nine out of 10 states had the same content standards in math and reading. Both the IDEA and the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 require that students with disabilities have access to the same content and standards as students without disabilities.

Sponsored by the office of special education programs in the U.S. Department of Education, the study was conducted by the policy research firm Abt Associates Inc.'s Bethesda, Md., office. A full draft report will be presented to the Education Department in April, said Ellen Schiller, a spokeswoman for Abt.

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View the accompanying chart, “Standards and Students With Disabilities.”

The organization did not provide exact numbers of states, only percentages.

The researchers based the findings on surveys collected from all 50 states, and a nationally representative sample of districts and schools. The group surveyed 959 districts, with an 87 percent response rate, and 4,448 schools, with a 74 percent response rate, Ms. Schiller said.

“We can see states and districts have made clear progress to include students with disabilities in content standards, to ensure access to opportunities,” Ms. Schiller said last week.

The findings also show 90 percent of states had the same performance standards in math and reading for students with and without disabilities in the 2002-03 school year, up from 78 percent in 1999- 2000.

Rachel Quenemoen, a senior fellow at the National Center on Educational Outcomes, located in Minneapolis at the University of Minnesota, said the results show that most states are falling in line with legal requirements that students with disabilities have access to the same educational content.

“It’s been pretty clear the expectation has been that all kids worked on the same content to the same standards,” Ms. Quenemoen said. “A message is becoming clear that from a federal-law perspective, states couldn’t defend having different standards for students with disabilities.”

Rewards and Sanctions

The survey also looked at how states reward and penalize districts or schools on the basis of test performance. Only a small number of states offered rewards and sanctions based on the scores of students with disabilities.

In the 2002-03 school year, 58 percent of states penalized districts or schools based on student test performance, but only 10 percent penalized schools on the basis of data about students in special education. Meanwhile, 39 percent of states offered rewards to districts and schools for test performance, with only 4 percent of states using separate data on the test scores of students with disabilities for that purpose, according to the findings.

States and districts face challenges in compiling the information to publicly report data on test scores, the researchers found, especially in breaking out information for subgroups of students, such as those with disabilities. Such breakdowns by subgroup are required under the No Child Left Behind law. Seventy-three percent of school districts publicly report on aggregated test scores of students with disabilities, and 46 percent break out the information on students with disabilities, according to the study.

A version of this article appeared in the January 28, 2004 edition of Education Week as Most Standards Equal For Spec. Ed. Students


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