Special Education

Study: States Including Special Education Students in Tests

By Christina A. Samuels — March 14, 2006 3 min read

States and school districts appear to be making good progress toward including students with disabilities in statewide assessments and reporting accountability statistics for such students, but they still need to work on reducing dropout rates and preparing general education teachers to work with students with special needs, a federally sponsored study says.

Read interim reports from the Study of State and Local Implementation and Impact of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act .

Known as the Study of State and Local Implementation and Impact of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the 6- year research project was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education’s office of special education programs and conducted by the Bethesda, Md., office of Abt Associates, a policy-research firm.

The final report is under review by the Education Department. The firm released a preview of the findings, however, during a March 3 presentation in Washington.

The researchers examined nine areas as mandated by Congress in the 1997 reauthorization of the IDEA, the federal law that governs the education of 6.8 million children with disabilities. Among the issues examined were: progress among the states in establishing accountability systems, the placement of special education students in the least restrictive environment, as the federal law requires, and the dropout rates for such students.

The study included four surveys of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as three surveys of a national sample of districts and schools.

The study was useful for the Education Department as a measurement tool, said Louis Danielson, the director of the research-to-practice division of the special education programs office. “What it’s really providing is a gauge for us to make some judgments on whether or not we’re making progress,” he said.

One of the major themes uncovered is that states appear to be making progress in aligning their academic standards for students with and without disabilities. The vast majority reported that they had the same content standards for students with and without an individualized education program under the IDEA in the four core subjects of mathematics, English, science, and social studies.

Most states are also providing resources to schools and districts to improve the participation and performance of students with disabilities on state tests. The mandates and sanctions under the federal No Child Left Behind Act appeared to be a driving force in moving states toward improving their accountability, said Ellen Schiller, the study project director at Abt Associates.

Lagging Progress

Where states and districts appeared to lag was in the capacity of general education teachers to teach students with disabilities. For instance, a national survey of principals in the 2004-05 school year showed that 74 percent believed their special education teachers were prepared to help students gain access to the general education curriculum, but only 41 percent of principals thought their general education teachers were prepared.

Beverly McCoun, the director of student services for the 2,200-student Mount Horeb school district outside Madison, Wis., helped provide technical assistance to the researchers. She said she was not surprised that the findings seemed to show that mandates were generally being followed.

“Compliance issues that we can do from the office are not nearly as hard as changing people’s perceptions,” Ms. McCoun said. And, she said, a perception still exists among many general education teachers that they don’t have enough knowledge to work with students in special education.

Margaret J. McLaughlin, another member of the technical-assistance group, said the Abt study, like others, shows that standards-based improvement efforts have made a big impact on the education of students with disabilities. Even though the IDEA has long required certain actions by the states, the 4-year-old No Child Left Behind law prompted new attention to the issue, she said. Districts are now evaluated on how well subgroups of students, including students with disabilities, perform on standardized tests.

“It says something to me that it wasn’t until these kids mattered to general education that states stood up and took notice,” said Ms. McLaughlin, a professor of special education at the University of Maryland College Park.

A version of this article appeared in the March 15, 2006 edition of Education Week as Study: States Including Special Education Students in Tests

Events

Jobs The EdWeek Top School Jobs Virtual Career Fair
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
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
Curriculum Webinar
How to Power Your Curriculum With Digital Books
Register for this can’t miss session looking at best practices for utilizing digital books to support their curriculum.
Content provided by OverDrive
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
Embracing Student Engagement: The Pathway to Post-Pandemic Learning
As schools emerge from remote learning, educators are understandably worried about content and skills that students would otherwise have learned under normal circumstances. This raises the very real possibility that children will face endless hours
Content provided by Newsela

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 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
Special Education 'They Already Feel Like Bad Students.' A Special Educator Reflects on Virtual Teaching
In a year of remote teaching, a high school special ed teacher has seen some of his students struggle and some thrive.
4 min read
Tray Robinson, a special education teacher, sits for a photo at Vasona Lake County Park in Los Gatos, Calif., on April 21, 2021.
Tray Robinson, a special education teacher, says remote learning has provided new ways for some of his students to soar, and has made others want to quit.
Sarahbeth Maney for Education Week
Special Education What the Research Says Gifted Education Comes Up Short for Low-Income and Black Students
Wildly disparate gifted education programs can give a minor boost in reading, but the benefits mainly accrue to wealthy and white students.
8 min read
Silhouette of group of students with data overlay.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Special Education What the Research Says Most Students With Disabilities Still Attend Remotely. Teachers Say They're Falling Behind
A new survey finds that students with disabilities are struggling in virtual classes, even with added support from teachers.
3 min read
Image shows a young femal student working on a computer from phone, interfacing with an adult female.
Getty