Special Education

Use of NAEP Scores in Special Education Evaluation System Meant to Be Temporary

By Christina A. Samuels — August 14, 2014 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Tuesday, I posted a report from my colleagues over at Politics K-12 about Senate Republicans taking the U.S. Department of Education to task over its “results-driven accountability” process that evaluates states on how well they are teaching students with disabilities.

Among the concerns of the GOP members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee: States are being graded in part based on the gap between the scores of students with disabilities and their typically developing peers on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Using the test that way turns the NAEP into a high-stakes assessment that it was never intended to be, lawmakers wrote in an Aug. 4 letter, which demands that department officials explain their decision-making process.

But in an interview with my colleague Lauren Camera, an Education Department official said that the NAEP scores will be used only until all states have adopted assessments that are “aligned with college and career standards.” The official also noted that states are evaluated on multiple measures, and that only a fraction of the points that a state could earn through the new evaluation system—12 out of a total of 42—are related to NAEP scores ( The department has a list of each state’s scores for this year, click on the link under each state’s name labeled “matrix.” )

Since the 2004 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act, states have been required to collect and report data to the Education Department, which in turn rates them on whether they are meeting the requirements of the federal law. The federal government has the authority to pull its federal funding from a state based on continued low ratings, but to this point, that has not happened.

Prior to this year, states were only rated on compliance data, such as whether they evaluated students in timely fashion, or met prescribed deadlines for conducting due process hearings. From this year on, states will be graded both on a combination of compliance factors and on the actual academic performance of students with disabilities.

As might be expected, states did not perform as well under the new evaluation system as they had under the old process, but the department held that up as an indication that they were enacting appropriately tough standards.

This isn’t the first time that concerns have been raised about using NAEP scores as part of the evaluation system. The National Association of State Directors of Special Education, based in Alexandria, Va., said the department was pushing the limits of the tests’ intended use when the accountability system was still on the drawing board. Among NASDSE’s concerns: Students with disabilities have traditionally been underrepresented among students who take the test; the test isn’t yet aligned to the Common Core, so it might not reflect what students are learning in the classroom, and it’s only given every two years, so there’s a lag in the results.

“We were not opposed to the focus on outcomes, but the devil is in the details, as they say,” said Nancy Reder, NASDSE’s deputy executive director for governmental relations, in an interview. “If [the department] is using NAEP as a placeholder, then maybe they shouldn’t have used it at all.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.

Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


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
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
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
Evaluating Equity to Drive District-Wide Action this School Year
Educational leaders are charged with ensuring all students receive equitable access to a high-quality education. Yet equity is more than an action. It is a lens through which we continuously review instructional practices and student
Content provided by BetterLesson
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.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attendance Awareness Month: The Research Behind Effective Interventions
More than a year has passed since American schools were abruptly closed to halt the spread of COVID-19. Many children have been out of regular school for most, or even all, of that time. Some
Content provided by AllHere

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 Inclusive Teachers Must Be 'Asset-Based Believers'
Four veteran educators share tips on supporting students with learning differences as they return to classrooms during this pandemic year.
16 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
Special Education Opinion 20 Ways to Support Students With Learning Differences This Year
Embed student voices and perspectives into the classroom is one piece of advice educators offer in this third pandemic-affected school year.
16 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
Special Education Schools Must Identify Students With Disabilities Despite Pandemic Hurdles, Ed. Dept. Says
Guidance stresses schools' responsibilities to those with disabilities, while noting that federal COVID aid can be used to address backlogs.
2 min read
School children in classroom with teacher, wearing face masks and raised hands
Special Education Attention Deficit Rates Skyrocket in High School. Mentoring Could Prevent an Academic Freefall
Twice as many students are diagnosed with ADHD in high school as in elementary school, yet their supports are fewer, a study says.
4 min read
Image of a child writing the letters "ADHD" on a chalkboard.