Saturday, December 17, 2005

NCLB Rules for Students with Disabilities

See this article from Thursday's Washington Post, which begins:

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings outlined new testing rules for disabled students yesterday, formalizing an initiative that has already helped more than 100 public schools in Maryland and Virginia meet the standards of the No Child Left Behind law.

In a speech at Guilford Elementary in Columbia, which she cited as a model for special education, Spellings fleshed out a plan she first proposed last spring. The plan builds on existing rules that allow alternative testing for the most severely disabled students, a change that raised the scores of up to 1 percent of all students tested in a public school system or state.

Now, the Bush administration will allow modified tests for another group of special-ed students who have significant learning disabilities, emotional disorders or other impairments. That's likely to drive up scores for an additional 2 percent of students tested, state and federal officials said.

As a result, up to 3 percent of all students tested in reading and mathematics under the federal law soon may be scored as proficient through alternative or modified assessments, even though they are academically below grade level.

The Post article doesn't have any quotes from disability rights folks, but this Boston Globe article does:

Advocates for the disabled opposed the new regulation, saying it may increase schools' incentives to shortchange children with physical and academic problems.

''It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out that if you've got two kids in the room, and one's got to pass the test and one doesn't, where are you going to put your energies," said Curtis Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network in Washington.

The guidelines also fail to prevent states from maximizing the number of children eligible for reduced assessments, said Candace Cortiella, director of The Advocacy Institute, a non-profit group to help the disabled.

''This is definitely one of those times when, if you build it, they will come," Cortiella said.


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