Special Education

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

By Lynn Olson — September 20, 2005 2 min read

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


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.
Teaching Webinar
Meeting the Moment: Accelerating Equitable Recovery and Transformative Change
Educators are deciding how best to re-establish routines such as everyday attendance, rebuild the relationships for resilient school communities, and center teaching and learning to consciously prioritize protecting the health and overall well-being of students
Content provided by Campaign for Grade-Level Reading
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.
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Addressing Learning Loss: What Schools Need to Accelerate Reading Instruction in K-3
When K-3 students return to classrooms this fall, there will be huge gaps in foundational reading skills. Does your school or district need a plan to address learning loss and accelerate student growth? In this
Content provided by PDX Reading
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.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Culturally Relevant Pedagogy to Advance Educational Equity
Schools are welcoming students back into buildings for full-time in-person instruction in a few short weeks and now is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and systems to build
Content provided by PowerMyLearning

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 Opinion Five Teacher-Recommended Strategies to Support Students With Learning Differences
Four educators share strategies for supporting students with learning differences, including utilizing "wait time" and relationship building.
11 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
Special Education The Pandemic Made It Harder to Spot Students With Disabilities. Now Schools Must Catch Up
After more than a year of disruption for all students, the pressure's on to find those in need of special education and provide services.
13 min read
Aikin listens to her eight-year-old son, Carter, as he reads in the family’s home in Katy, TX, on Thursday, July 8, 2021. Carter has dyslexia and Aikin could not help but smile at the improvement in his fluency as he read out loud.
Kanisha Aikin listens to her 8-year-old son, Carter, who has dyslexia, as he reads aloud in the family’s home in Katy, Texas.
Annie Mulligan for Education Week
Special Education What Employers Can Teach Schools About Neurodiversity
The benefits of neurodiversity have gained traction in business, but college and career support for students with disabilities falls short.
8 min read
Special Education The Challenge of Teaching Students With Visual Disabilities From Afar
Teachers of students with visual disabilities struggle to provide 3-D instruction in a two-dimensional remote learning environment.
Katie Livingstone
5 min read
Neal McKenzie
Neal McKenzie, an assistive technology specialist, works with a student who has a visual impairment in Sonoma County, Calif.<br/>
Courtesy Photo