Special Education

New Rules on Special Ed. Scores Help Schools Meet NCLB Targets

By Lynn Olson — September 20, 2005 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Since the federal No Child Left Behind Act became law in early 2002, the U.S. Department of Education has acknowledged that at least some special education students may not be able to reach proficiency on grade-level tests.

In 2003, federal regulations permitted states to develop alternative achievement standards to measure the progress of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. At least some scores from such tests can be counted as “proficient” when calculating adequate yearly progress, or AYP, as long as they do not exceed 1 percent of all students in the grades tested.

But states complained that the rule did not address students with moderate disabilities who also may be unable to reach grade-level standards, even with intensive instruction. So in May of this year, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings unveiled what is known as the “2 percent” rule.

For 2005 only, it permits eligible states to identify schools or districts that did not make adequate progress based solely on the scores of their students with disabilities. Using a so-called proxy method, states can then increase the percent of students with disabilities deemed proficient in those schools or districts by the equivalent of 2 percent of all students assessed.

The additional flexibility has helped a substantial number of schools make AYP this year, at least in some states. In California, of the 699 schools that had a special education subgroup, only about 25 percent would have met their targets without the added flexibility, said Bill Padia, the director of the policy and evaluation division for the California Department of Education.

Instead, about 39 percent met their reading targets, and 40 percent met their math targets.

“So that made a massive difference,” Mr. Padia said.

‘Rife With Problems’

In Florida, 150 additional schools made adequate progress after applying the 2 percent rule. In Virginia, 54 more schools made AYP. In Georgia, the flexibility helped 65 more schools make AYP of 146 that initially did not meet their targets solely because of the performance of their special education subgroup.

Some observers worry that the federal government has set its estimates for the proportion of students with disabilities who cannot be expected to perform at grade level too high, excluding some 30 percent of all special education students from having to meet grade-level standards.

“By the time you’re up to 30 percent of all special education kids, you’ve really excluded a very high percentage, including a lot of students who ought to be able to make it with good instruction,” said Jay P. Heubert, a professor of law and education at Teachers College, Columbia University.

The real problem, added Daniel J. Losen, a senior associate with the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University, is the “fundamentally flawed” nature of the accountability provisions under the No Child Left Behind Act.

“I think everybody agrees we need subgroup accountability,” he said, “so we’re concerned about letting any particular subgroup off the hook. But we need to come to grips with the fact that the entire mechanism is rife with problems.”

A version of this article appeared in the September 21, 2005 edition of Education Week as New Rules on Special Ed. Scores Help Schools Meet NCLB Targets

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attend to the Whole Child: Non-Academic Factors within MTSS
Learn strategies for proactively identifying and addressing non-academic barriers to student success within an MTSS framework.
Content provided by Renaissance
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum How to Teach Digital & Media Literacy in the Age of AI
Join this free event to dig into crucial questions about how to help students build a foundation of digital literacy.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Special Education Special Ed. Policies Can Change Fast. Districts Can Help Families Navigate Them
States have raised the maximum age of eligibility for special education services. But policies often change quickly.
4 min read
Special education teacher Chris Simley, left, places a coffee order at a table staffed by student Jon Hahn, volunteer Phil Tegeler, student Brianna Dewater and student Mykala Robinson at Common Grounds coffee shop at Lincoln High in Lincoln, Neb., on Oct. 26, 2018. Down a hallway lined with Lincoln High School's signature red lockers, through the doors of Room 123, teachers can find a little early-morning salvation: a caffeine oasis open for business each Friday morning.
Special education teacher Chris Simley, left, places a coffee order at a table staffed by student Jon Hahn, volunteer Phil Tegeler, student Brianna Dewater, and student Mykala Robinson at Common Grounds coffee shop at Lincoln High in Lincoln, Neb., on Oct. 26, 2018. Policies regarding the maximum age at which students are eligible for special education services have changed quickly in recent years, providing a potential lifeline for families but a challenge for districts in keeping families abreast of the changes.
Gwyneth Roberts/Lincoln Journal Star via AP
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Special Education Whitepaper
Inside IEP: Actionable Insights and Innovations for Student Support
Our research looks at recent challenges reported by superintendents, teachers, and parents and explores innovative opportunities, includi...
Content provided by Huddle Up
Special Education Can AI Help With Special Ed.? There's Promise—and Reason to Be Cautious
Some special education professionals are experimenting with the technology.
3 min read
Photo collage of woman using tablet computer and AI icon.
iStock / Getty Images Plus
Special Education Many Students Can Get Special Ed. Until Age 22. What Districts Should Do
School districts' responsibilities under federal special education law aren't always clear-cut.
4 min read
Instructor working with adult special needs student.
iStock