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Assessments for Students with the Most Significant Cognitive Disabilities | ESSA Fact Sheet

Two young students, one with intellectual disabilitiesJanuary 2017
A collaborative publication of the Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR) and The Advocacy Institute

This fact sheet is designed to accompany the Stakeholder Guide to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and gives you a basic overview of the alternate academic achievement standards and alternate assessment provisions contained in ESSA. It’s organized in a Q&A format. Click on a question below, to quickly access specific information, or keep scrolling to read the full fact sheet.

  1. Do the state academic content standards apply to students with the most significant cognitive disabilities?
  2. What are alternate academic achievement standards?
  3. Who determines when a student with the most significant cognitive disabilities should participate in an AA-AAS?
  4. What are alternate assessments aligned with alternate academic achievement standards (AA-AAS)?
  5. Is there a limit to the number of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities who can be assessed using the state’s AA-AAS?
  6. What accommodations must be provided to students with disabilities?
  7. Who decides the accommodations that will be provided?
  8. How is the performance of students who take an AA-AAS reported?
  9. Can students with disabilities be assessed using an out-of-level assessment?
  10. Where can I find more information about my state’s alternate assessment?

The Current Context

Both ESSA and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) require all students with disabilities to be included in all state and districtwide assessments—including assessments required by ESSA—with appropriate accommodations. (See Academic Assessment Fact Sheet.)

Students with disabilities must participate in the general assessments for their enrolled grade, with only one exception for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. For this small group of students, ESSA allows states to adopt alternate academic achievement standards and provide for alternate assessments aligned with the state’s challenging academic standards and alternate academic achievement standards.

Participation in state assessments is critical if schools are to be held accountable for the progress of students with disabilities. It is important that students with significant disabilities are included in assessments so that their performance is measured and their instruction is targeted for improvement as needed.

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1. Do the state academic content standards apply to students with the most significant cognitive disabilities?

Yes. Academic content standards describe what is taught in each grade and apply to all students. Therefore, all students are required to have instruction based on the academic content standards for their enrolled grade.

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2. What are alternate academic achievement standards?

A state’s academic achievement standards describe how much students are expected to learn in order to be proficient on a state’s general assessment. Alternate academic achievement standards set an expectation of performance that differs in complexity from a grade-level achievement standard.

ESSA permits, but does not require, states to develop alternate academic achievement standards. Specifically, states may, through a documented and validated standards-setting process, adopt alternate academic achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, provided those standards:

—are aligned with the challenging state academic content standards;

—promote access to the general education curriculum, consistent with IDEA;

—reflect professional judgment as to the highest possible standards achievable by such students;

—are designated in the individualized education program (IEP) developed under section 614(d)(3) of IDEA for each such student as the academic achievement standards that will be used for the student;

—are aligned to ensure that a student who meets the alternate academic achievement standards is on track to pursue postsecondary education or employment, consistent with the purposes of Public Law 93-112 (Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act) to maximize opportunities for individuals with significant disabilities for competitive integrated employment. (Section 1111 (b)(1)(E))

Importantly, ESSA prohibits states from developing or implementing any other alternate or modified academic achievement standards for use in meeting the Act’s requirements (Section 1111 (b)(1)(E)(ii)). This provision expressly prevents states from developing any alternate assessments other than an alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards (AA-AAS) developed exclusively for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, such as the Alternate Assessment on Modified Achievement Standards previously authorized by the U.S. Dept. of Education in 2005 and rescinded in 2015.

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3. Who determines when a student with the most significant cognitive disabilities should participate in an AA-AAS?

ESSA clearly states that the IEP team determines when a student with a significant cognitive disability should participate in an AA-AAS. However, the determination should be consistent with guidelines established by the state. (Section 1111 (b)(2)(D)(ii)(I))

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4. What are alternate assessments aligned with alternate academic achievement standards (AA-AAS)?

ESSA allows states to provide for alternate assessments aligned with the challenging state academic standards and alternate achievement standards (as described above) for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities.

However, ESSA spells out several important conditions for AA-AAS (Section 1111 (b)(2)(D). In order to administer an AA-AAS, the state must:

ENSURE that, as part of the process for developing the IEP, the parents of such students are clearly informed that their child’s academic achievement will be measured based on such alternate standards; and how participation in such assessments may delay or otherwise affect the student from completing the requirements for a regular high school diploma;

ENSURE that participation in such assessment promotes, as consistent with IDEA (20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq.), the involvement and progress of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities in the general education curriculum;

DESCRIBE in the state plan the steps the state has taken, to the extent feasible, to incorporate universal design for learning in alternate assessments;

DESCRIBE in the state plan that general and special education teachers, and as well as other appropriate staff, know how to administer the alternate assessments; and make appropriate use of accommodations for students with disabilities on all alternate assessments;

DEVELOP, disseminate information on, and promote the use of appropriate accommodations; and

ENSURE that taking an AA-AAS does not preclude a student with the most significant cognitive disabilities who takes an AA-AAS from attempting to complete the requirements for a regular high school diploma.

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5. Is there a limit to the number of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities who can be assessed using the state’s AA-AAS?

ESSA states that the total number of students assessed using an AA-AAS may not exceed 1% of the total number of all students assessed in such a subject in the state (Section 1111 (b)(2)(D)(i)(I)). This translates to roughly 10% of students with disabilities.

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6. What accommodations must be provided to students with disabilities?

ESSA requires states to provide the appropriate accommodations—such as interoperability with, and ability to use, assistive technology, for all students with disabilities (as defined by IDEA), including students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, as well as students covered under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act— that are necessary to measure the academic achievement of such children.

ESSA requires states to provide the appropriate accommodations that are necessary to measure the academic achievement of students with disabilities receiving IDEA services, including students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, and students covered under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Accommodations can include, for example, assistive technology and or assessments that are accessible through the use of assistive technology.

Accommodations provided to a student during state assessments must also be provided during classroom instruction, classroom assessments, and district assessments. However, some instructional accommodations may not be appropriate for use on certain statewide assessments. For example, reading a test to the student may invalidate the results of a reading test in certain grades. Some states have determined certain accommodations to be “standard” or “nonstandard” and may instruct IEP teams to only select accommodations that the state has determined will not invalidate the results of a particular test or portion of a test.

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7. Who decides the accommodations that will be provided to students with disabilities on alternate academic assessments aligned with alternate academic achievement standards?

The IDEA requires the student’s IEP team to make decisions regarding the accommodations to be provided during assessments. Students must be provided accommodations based on individual need as long as the accommodations do not invalidate the assessment. Assessment accommodations should be documented in the student’s IEP.

Importantly, while the IEP team is responsible for determining both the type of assessment and the specific accommodations a student needs to participate in assessments, the IEP team may not exempt a student from participating.

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8. How is the performance of students who take an AA-AAS reported?

The performance of all students with disabilities (those taking the general assessments or an AA-AAS) are reported in the “students with disabilities” subgroup at the school, district, and state levels.

IDEA Section 618 requires states to report annually on assessment of students with disabilities. States must report separately on the number of students with disabilities in the following categories (separately for reading/ or language arts and mathematics):

  • not assessed or did not receive a valid score;
  • general assessment without accommodations;
  • general assessment with accommodations;
  • alternate assessments.

ESSA requires states and school district report cards to include the number and percentages of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities who take the alternate assessment on AA-AAS by grade and subject. (Section 1111 (h)(1)(C)(XI)) and Section 1111 (h)(2)(C)).

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9. Can students with disabilities be assessed using an out-of-level assessment?

No. An out-of-level assessment—an assessment taken at a grade level below which the student is currently enrolled—is not allowed for the purpose of accountability under ESSA.

There are only two types of assessments that may be used to assess students with disabilities: the general assessment or the AA-AAS. Students must be assessed using the assessment for their enrolled grade.

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10. Where can I find more information about my state’s alternate assessment?

More information on alternate assessments for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities should be available on your state’s department of education website. Use the directory at:
www2.ed.gov/about/contacts/state/index.html

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Authorship | This guide has been produced in a partnership between the Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR) and The Advocacy Institute under a cooperative agreement from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs.
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Academic Assessments and Students With Disabilities | ESSA Fact Sheet

Teen student with his head bent over his schoolwork.January 2017
A collaborative publication of the Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR) and The Advocacy Institute

This fact sheet is designed to accompany the Stakeholder Guide to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and gives you a brief overview of ESSA’s requirements for academic assessment of students with disabilities.  It’s organized in a Q&A format. Click on a question below, to quickly access specific information, or keep scrolling to read the full fact sheet.

  1. What academic assessments are required by the ESSA?
  2. Are the academic content and achievement standards on which these assessments are based the same in every state?
  3. How are students with disabilities to be included in the state academic assessments?
  4. Are the requirements for student participation the same in every state?
  5. What accommodations must be provided to students with disabilities on academic assessments?
  6. Who decides the accommodations that will be provided to students with disabilities on academic assessments?
  7. How is the performance of students with disabilities reported?
  8. Should parents be provided with an explanation of how their child performed on state assessments?
  9. What is the connection between a student’s IEP and the student’s participation in state academic assessments?
  10. Do the assessments required by ESSA have student “stakes” such as promotion to the next grade or receipt of a regular diploma?

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1. What academic assessments are required by the ESSA?

ESSA requires states to give the following academic assessments to all public school students each year:

  • Mathematics | In each of grades 3 through 8; and at least once in grades 9 through 12
  • Reading or language arts | In each of grades 3 through 8; and at least once in grades 9 through 12;
  • Science | One time during grades 3 through 5; grades 6 through 9; and grades 10 through 12.

These assessments must be aligned with the state’s academic content and achievement standards. In addition, states must give an annual assessment of English language proficiency to all English learners.

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2. Are the academic content and achievement standards on which these assessments are based the same in every state?

No. ESSA requires each state to adopt challenging academic content standards in mathematics, reading or language arts, and science that:

  • align with entrance requirements for credit-bearing coursework [not remedial instruction programs] in the system of public higher education in the state and relevant state career and technical education standards;
  • apply to all public schools and public school students in the state, including students with disabilities.

ESSA also requires each state to adopt academic achievement standards that:

  • are aligned with the content standards;
  • include not less than 3 levels of achievement; and
  • include the same knowledge, skills, and levels of achievement expected of all public school students in the state except for students identified with the most significant cognitive disabilities.

The U.S. Department of Education does not review or approve the states’ academic content and achievement standards. Therefore, academic content and achievement standards can and do vary from state to state. While most states have adopted the Common Core State Standards, several states have developed their own academic content standards.

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3. How are students with disabilities to be included in the state academic assessments?

ESSA requires that students with disabilities participate in the same academic assessments as all other students, with only one limited exception for those students with the most significant cognitive disabilities (see Alternate Assessment Fact Sheet). This means that the vast majority of students with disabilities should will take the academic assessments. (ESSA requires that students with disabilities be provided with appropriate accommodations, as will be discussed in a moment.)

Equally important, ESSA requires that students with disabilities participate in the assessment for their enrolled grade. In other words, a student in grade 6 cannot be given the assessment designed for grade 4. This ensures that the information about how students with disabilities are doing academically is based on their enrolled grade, providing critical information for schools and parents.

English learners with disabilities must be given both the test of English language proficiency and the academic assessments.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) also requires states to include students with disabilities in all state and district-wide assessments.

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4. Are the requirements for student participation the same in every state?

Yes. Every state must assess all students in the grades previously described every year. Students may also be expected to participate in assessments in other subject areas, such as history, geography, and writing skills, if and when the state requires it. However, ESSA requires assessments only in the areas of reading/language arts, math, and science.

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5. What accommodations must be provided to students with disabilities on academic assessments?

ESSA requires states to provide the appropriate accommodations, such as interoperability with, and ability to use, assistive technology, for students with disabilities (as defined by IDEA), including students with the most significant cognitive disabilities and students covered under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, that are necessary to measure the academic achievement of such children.

It’s also important that students with disabilities have practice in using or applying the accommodations to be provided during assessments. Accommodations provided to a student during state assessments must also be provided during classroom instruction, classroom assessments, and district assessments. However, some instructional accommodations may not be appropriate for use on certain statewide assessments. For example, reading a test to the student may invalidate a reading test. Some states have determined certain accommodations to be “standard” or “nonstandard” and may instruct Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams to only select accommodations that the state has determined will not invalidate the results of a particular test or portion of a test.

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6. Who decides the accommodations that will be provided to students with disabilities on academic assessments?

The IDEA requires the student’s IEP team to make decisions regarding the accommodations to be provided during assessments. Students must be provided accommodations based on individual need as long as the accommodations do not invalidate the assessment.

In order to make sound decisions regarding accommodations, the IEP team members must be familiar with the state’s academic content standards and state accommodation guidelines.

Assessment accommodations should be documented in the student’s IEP. Test accommodations should be reviewed annually and updated and revised as needed. While the IEP team is responsible for determining the specific accommodations a student needs to participate in state assessments, the IEP team may not exempt a student from participating.

The same procedures should be followed for students with Section 504 Plans.

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7. How is the performance of students with disabilities reported?

Individual test scores will not be made available to the public. Only the parents and school receive the results of an individual child’s tests.

ESSA requires student performance on state academic assessments to be disaggregated (or broken out) for several subgroups of students: economically disadvantaged racial/ethnic groups, special education students, and English learners at the school, district, and state levels. (Disaggregated assessment results are only reported when the number of students in the subgroup meets or exceeds the “minimum” number of students set by the state.)

This disaggregation is designed to allow the performance and expectations of historically low-performing groups of students – including students with disabilities – to be visible to the public so that performance gaps are identified. This information must be included in the annual state and local school district report cards required by ESSA.

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8. Should parents be provided with an explanation of how their child performed on state assessments?

Yes. Parents should be provided with user-friendly information on how their child performed, including an explanation of achievement levels. Teachers should also let parents know how they will use the test results to improve instruction.

Unfortunately, a recent survey of perceptions of assessments found that 61% of parents say their child’s teachers rarely or never discuss their child’s assessment results with them. So there is an urgent need for better, more frequent communication between teachers and parents.

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9. What is the connection between a student’s IEP and the student’s participation in state academic assessments?

While a student’s participation in academic assessments is required by both ESSA and IDEA, the results of that participation provide valuable information that should be incorporated into a student’s IEP.

In November 2015 the U.S. Department of Education distributed guidance to states that stated:

To help make certain that children with disabilities are held to high expectations and have meaningful access to a State’s academic content standards, we write to clarify that an individualized education program (IEP) for an eligible child with a
disability under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) must be aligned with the State’s academic content standards for the grade in which the child is enrolled.

A student’s “present levels of academic achievement and functional performance” should include the student’s performance on the most recent state academic assessments. The student’s measurable annual goals should be aligned with the academic content standards for the student’s enrolled grade, regardless of how far behind the student might be performing.

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10. Do the assessments required by ESSA have student “stakes” such as promotion to the next grade or receipt of a regular diploma?

No. States have the option to add student “stakes” to their standards and assessment systems. In some states students are required to pass one or more high school assessments as a condition of receiving a diploma. Some states require students to achieve at certain levels on assessments to be promoted to subsequent grades. However, student “stakes” are not a requirement of ESSA.

While ESSA requires that all students be assessed, the emphasis of such assessments is focused on group measures, rather than on one individual student. These group measures are used to evaluate the performance of entire schools, school districts, and states. Additionally, ESSA puts a strong focus on the performance of subgroups of students that have traditionally experienced poor academic achievement, such as minority students, students with limited English proficiency, and students with disabilities.

As ESSA states, “The purpose of this title is to provide all children significant opportunity to receive a fair, equitable, and high-quality education, and to close educational achievement gaps.”

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Authorship | This guide has been produced in a partnership between the Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR) and The Advocacy Institute under a cooperative agreement from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs.
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Know Your Rights in Charter Schools

(2016, December) | Useful to Parent Centers for sharing with staff, students with disabilities, families, schools, and other stakeholders.

On December 28, 2016, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) at U.S. Department of Education released a set of guidance resources on the rights of students with disabilities in public charter schools under Section 504 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The set of resources includes:

  • a jointly-issued Dear Colleague Letter,
  • several question-and-answer documents, and
  • a Know Your Rights fact sheet.

These documents (described further below) provide information about how to provide equal opportunity in compliance with Section 504 in key areas such as:

  • charter school recruitment,
  • application,
  • admission,
  • enrollment and disenrollment,
  • accessibility of facilities and programs, and
  • nonacademic and extracurricular activities.

The Section 504 Charter guidance:

  • Explains that charter school students with disabilities (and those seeking to attend) have the same rights under Section 504 and Title II of the ADA as other public school students with disabilities.
  • Details the Section 504 right to nondiscrimination in recruitment, application, and admission to charter schools.
  • Clarifies that during the admission process a charter school generally may not ask a prospective student if he or she has a disability.
  • Reminds charter schools, other entities, and parents that charter school students with disabilities have the right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) under Section 504.

The  41-page Section 504 Charter guidance is available online in a PDF format (570 kb), at:
https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/dcl-faq-201612-504-charter-school.pdf

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The IDEA Charter guidance:

  • Emphasizes that children with disabilities who attend charter schools and their parents retain all rights and protections under Part B of IDEA (such as FAPE) just as they would at other public schools.
  • Provides that under IDEA a charter school may not unilaterally limit the services that must be provided a particular student with a disability.
  • Reminds schools that the least restrictive environment provisions require that, to the maximum extent appropriate, students with disabilities attending public schools, including public charter schools, be educated with students who are nondisabled.
  • Clarifies that students with disabilities attending charter schools retain all IDEA rights and protections included in the IDEA discipline procedures.

The 32-page IDEA Charter guidance is available online in a PDF format (562 kb), at:
https://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/memosdcltrs/faq-idea-charter-school.pdf

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Know Your Rights Fact Sheet
In addition to the above documents, the Department also released a Know Your Rights document designed for parents to provide a brief overview of the rights of public charter school students with disabilities and the legal obligations of charter schools under Section 504 and the IDEA. The 3-page fact sheet is available online in a PDF format (92 kb) at:
https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/dcl-factsheet-201612-504-charter-school.pdf

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Additional Note
The documents are responsive to the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s 2012 report (in PDF, 937 kb) Charter Schools: Additional Federal Attention Needed to Help Protect Access for Students with Disabilities, which included the recommendation that the Department issue updated guidance on the obligations of charter schools.

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Parent and Educator Resource Guide to Section 504

(2016, December) | Useful to Parent Centers for sharing with staff, students with disabilities, families, schools, and other stakeholders.

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Education has released the Parent and Educator Resource Guide to Section 504 in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools. The 52-page resource guide provides a broad overview of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504). The guidance describes school districts’ nondiscrimination responsibilities, including obligations to provide educational services to students with disabilities. It also outlines the steps that parents can take to ensure that their children secure all of the services they are entitled to receive.

The Section 504 Parent and Educator Resource Guide also:

  • defines and provides examples to illustrate the meaning of key terms used in Section 504; and
  • highlights requirements of Section 504 in the area of public elementary and secondary education, including provisions related to the identification, evaluation, and placement of students with disabilities, and procedures for handling disputes and disagreements between parents and school districts.

The guide is available online in a PDF format (651 kb), at:
https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/504-resource-guide-201612.pdf

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On the Legal Limits of Using Restraint or Seclusion

(2016, December) | Useful to Parent Centers for sharing with staff, students with disabilities, families, schools, and other stakeholders.

The Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education has released a suite of resources on the use of restraint and seclusion in public schools. This suite includes the following:

Dear Colleague Letter on the Use of Restraint and Seclusion |  Provided as a PDF file (408 kb), the 24-page Dear Colleague Letter explains the limits that federal civil rights laws impose on the use of restraint and seclusion by public elementary and secondary school districts.
https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201612-504-restraint-seclusion-ps.pdf

Fact Sheet: Restraint and Seclusion of Students with Disabilities |  This 2-page fact sheet offers additional information about the legal limitations on use of restraint or seclusion to assist school districts in meeting their obligations to students with disabilities. The fact sheet is organized as a question-and-answer document and is available online in a PDF format (163 kb), at:
https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/dcl-factsheet-201612-504-restraint-seclusion-ps.pdf

Restraint and Seclusion Resource Document from 2012 | The Department’s resource document (issued in May 15, 2012) suggested best practices to prevent the use of restraint or seclusion, recommending that school districts never use physical restraint or seclusion for disciplinary purposes and never use mechanical restraint, and that trained school officials use physical restraint or seclusion only if a child’s behavior poses imminent danger of serious physical harm to self or others. The 2012 resource document is 45 pages long and available online in a PDF format (1.6 MB), at:
https://www2.ed.gov/policy/seclusion/restraints-and-seclusion-resources.pdf

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Webinar | ESSA and the Assessment of Students with Disabilities

A screenshot of a slide used in the webinarA webinar for the Parent Center Network on the assessment of students with disabilities, as required by the recently reauthorized ESSA.

 

Webinar Date:
Thursday, January 5, 2017

Host:
Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR)

Presenters:

Sheryl Lazarus, Associate Director
National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO)
laza0019@umn.edu
http://www.nceo.info

Candace Cortiella, Director
The Advocacy Institute
Candace@advocacyinstitute.org
http://www.advocacyinstitute.org

Summary:

The goal of this webinar is to provide Parent Centers with the information, skills, knowledge, and inspiration needed to be a voice for students with disabilities in each state’s implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The webinar focuses on the assessment of students with disabilities, as required by the recently reauthorized ESSA. Presenters from the National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO) and The Advocacy Center provide overviews of the key provisions in ESSA that relate to students with disabilities, highlighting in particular the importance of ESSA’s state assessment provisions for improving outcomes for these students.

Additionally, Candace Cortiella (of The Advocacy Center) premieres the brand-new Stakeholder Guide to the ESSA, a collaborative online publication of The Advocacy Center and the Center for Parent Information and Resources.

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Download the Webinar’s Slideshow Presentation

Download the webinar’s PPT (i.e., as a PowerPoint file, 3.7 MB)

Download a PDF of the webinar’s slideshow (PDF, 3 MB)

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Download the Guide to the Stakeholder Guide to ESSA

Background | The Stakeholder Guide to ESSA was premiered during the webinar. This extensive resource has been developed to provide Parent Center staff and their advocacy partners with an understanding of key provisions in ESSA so that they may become meaningfully involved in how the law is now planned and implemented by the states. The guide is presented on the Web in several sections (web pages) by key topic.

The Guide to the Guide (PDF, 841 kb) |  Because the Stakeholder Guide is online in several sections, we have also developed a handy companion “guide to the guide” that Parent Centers can use, print, and share with advocates, partners, families, and concerned professionals. It’s only 2 pages long (perfect for two-sided copying) and provides the direct-link URLs to all of the Stakeholder Guide’s many sections.

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Locating ESSA Information in Your State

Candace Cortiella’s presentation included mention of resources you can use to locate ESSA information for your state. Those resources are:

Center on Standards and Assessment Implementation (CSAI)
This CSAI web page includes links to each state’s draft state plans (if available), information and key resources regarding the development of state plans, and information on how states have involved stakeholders during the development process. Information is current as of December 9, 2016.

Understanding ESSA.
Enter your state’s name at the link above, and presto! See what’s happening with ESSA implementation in your state.

Does your state have a web page on its ESSA activities?
Find out at the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA).

Also from the National PTA, a wealth of other resources.
Would you like a roadmap to getting involved in ESSA planning at the state level? The local level? These are just two of the many other ESSA-related resources you’ll find by searching the National PTA’s website using this phrase:  ESSA web pages by state

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Additional Resources

Lessons Learned about Instruction from Inclusion of Students with Disabilities in College and Career Ready Assessments (PDF, 412 kb)
National Center on Educational Outcomes, 2016
https://nceo.umn.edu/docs/OnlinePubs/LessonsLearnedAboutInstruction.pdf

Lessons Learned about Assessment from Inclusion of Students with Disabilities in College and Career Ready Assessments (PDF, 286 kb)
National Center on Educational Outcomes, 2016
https://nceo.umn.edu/docs/OnlinePubs/LessonsLearnedAboutAssessment.pdf

Template that States Must Use to Submit Their State Plan (Word document, 174 kb)
U.S. Department of Education, 2016
http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/essa/essa-consolidated-state-plan-final.docx

Search the Hub library for additional resources on ESSA

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Go to the Webinar Archives, to listen to and view other webinars in the CPIR series.

Stakeholder Guide to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

Steps up to the CongressJanuary 2017
A collaborative publication of the Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR) and The Advocacy Institute

“The purpose of this title is to provide all children significant opportunity to receive a fair, equitable, and high-quality education, and to close educational achievement gaps.”   Every Student Succeeds Act (P.L. 114-95)

Welcome to the Stakeholder Guide to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ESSA is the newest version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)—the nation’s major federal law related to public education in grades pre-kindergarten through high school. This guide has been developed to provide Parent Center staff and their advocacy partners with an understanding of key provisions in ESSA so that they may become meaningfully involved in how the law is now planned and implemented by the states. The guide is presented on the Web in several sections (web pages) by key topic, as follows.

On this web page, read about:

On separate web pages, read about:

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Authorship | This guide has been produced in a partnership between the Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR) and The Advocacy Institute under a cooperative agreement from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs. The Center for Parent Information and Resources is a project of the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network, Inc.
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Introduction and Purpose of This Guide

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is the newest version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)—the nation’s major federal law related to public education in grades pre-kindergarten through high school.

Importance of stakeholder involvement | The planning and initial implementation of ESSA—which will take place over the next few years—requires attention from Parent Centers, their state partners, and others who advocate on behalf of students with disabilities. The law is clear that states must engage in timely and meaningful consultation with stakeholders both in the planning stage as well as implementation (see the section on Stakeholder Engagement).

Impact on students with disabilities | The impact that ESSA will have on students with disabilities will depend in large part on the involvement and scrutiny Parent Centers and other advocates give to the development of state plans, particularly the statewide accountability system that will be used to distinguish between school performance and determine schools in need of improvement. Ensuring that students with disabilities are treated equitably under ESSA must be a top priority as this new law is implemented.

About this guide | We have designed this guide to provide Parent Center staff and their advocacy partners with an understanding of key provisions in ESSA in order to facilitate your involvement. In addition, the guide offers PARENT CENTER ACTION ITEMS that can assist with meaningful involvement.

Awaiting final regulations | This guide has been prepared prior to the finalization of federal regulations to implement ESSA. We recognize that some of the information presented here may be altered by federal regulations in the future. However, we have attempted to provide information aligned with the ESSA statute to limit this impact. Information about ESSA and regulations can be found at:
http://www.ed.gov/essa

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Background

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Stakeholder Guide to the ESSA | Academic Assessments

Young girl with her head bent over the test she's takingWelcome to Section 3 of the Stakeholder Guide to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  This guide provides Parent Center staff and their advocacy partners with an understanding of key provisions in ESSA, so that they may become meaningfully involved in how the law is now planned and implemented by the states. The guide is presented on the CPIR website in several sections (web pages) to enhance your quick access to its many topics. This is Section 3, where you’ll find information about ESSA’s requirements for academic assessments, including:

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The Basics of ESSA’s Academic Assessment Provisions

States must implement a set of high-quality student academic assessments in mathematics, reading or language arts, and science, administered yearly to all as follows:

Mathematics | In each of grades 3 through 8; and at least once in grades 9 through 12

Reading or language arts | In each of grades 3 through 8; and at least once in grades 9 through 12

Science | Not less than one time during grades 3 through 5; grades 6 through 9; and grades 10 through 12

These assessments must:

Be designed to be valid and accessible for use by all students, including students with disabilities and English learners;

Be developed, to the extent practicable, using the principles of universal design for learning;

Involve multiple up-to-date measures of student academic achievement, including measures that assess higher-order thinking skills and understanding, which may include measures of student academic growth and may be partially delivered in the form of portfolios, projects, or extended performance tasks;

Provide coherent and timely information about student attainment of the standards and whether a student is performing at the grade level in which the student is enrolled; and

Enable results to be disaggregated within the state, LEA, and school by:

o Gender;

o Each major racial and ethnic group;

o Children with disabilities as defined in section 602(3) of IDEA as compared to all other students;

o Economically disadvantaged students as compared to students who are not economically disadvantaged;

o Status as:

 an English learner
 a migratory child
 a homeless child or youth
 a child in foster care
 a student with a parent who is a member of the Armed Forces on active duty or serves on full-time National Guard duty

ESSA allows states to accomplish the annual assessment requirement in a variety of ways. Assessments may be administered:

  • through a single summative assessment (the typical one-time, end-of-year assessment); or
  • through multiple statewide interim assessments during the course of the school year. (Such assessments must result in a single summative score that provides valid, reliable, and transparent information on student achievement or growth).

States may also administer assessments in the form of computer-adaptive assessments (CAT), as long as the assessments measure a student’s academic proficiency based on the academic standards for the grade in which the student is enrolled and growth toward those standards. A CAT can also measure the student’s level of academic proficiency and growth using items above or below the student’s enrolled grade level.

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Universal Design for Learning and Assessment Accommodations

ESSA includes several references to Universal Design for Learning. ESSA incorporates the definition of Universal Design for Learning, as found at Section 103 of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1003), which means a scientifically valid framework for guiding educational practice that:

Provides flexibility in the ways information is presented, in the ways students respond or demonstrate knowledge and skills, and in the ways students are engaged; and

Reduces barriers in instruction, provides appropriate accommodations, supports, and challenges, and maintains high achievement expectations for all students, including students with disabilities and English learners.
(Section 8101 (51))

States must provide the appropriate accommodations, such as interoperability with, and ability to use, assistive technology, for children with disabilities (as defined by IDEA), including students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, and students with a disability who are provided accommodations under an Act other than the IDEA, such as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, necessary to measure the academic achievement of such children. (Section 1111 (b)(2)(B)(vii)(II))

More information about assessment accommodation can be found in the CCSSO Accessibility Manual: How to Select, Administer, and Evaluate Use of Accessibility Supports for Instruction and Assessment of All Students  (Word, 1.1 MB)
http://nceo.umn.edu/docs/CCSSOAccessibilityManual.docx

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English Language Proficiency Assessments

In addition to the annual assessments in reading or language arts, math, and science, states must also provide for the annual assessment of English language proficiency of all English learners in the schools.

English learners must also be included in the state’s reading or language arts, math, and science assessments, and they must be provided appropriate accommodations including, to the extent practicable, assessments in the language and form most likely to yield accurate data on what such students know and can do in academic content areas, until such students have achieved English language proficiency. (Section 111 (b)(2)(B)(vi)(III)

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Exceptions, Exceptions, Exceptions

ESSA allows several exceptions to the assessment requirements outlined above. These include:

Alternate Assessments Aligned with Alternate Academic Achievement Standards (Section 1111 (b)(2)(D))
States may administer alternate assessments aligned with alternate academic achievement standards. These alternate assessments may be administered only to students with the most significant cognitive disabilities.

The total number of students assessed using the alternate assessments may not exceed 1% of the total number of all students in the state assessed in each subject. States must establish and monitor implementation of clear and appropriate guidelines for IEP teams to apply in determining, on a case-by-case basis, which students with the most significant cognitive disabilities will be assessed based on alternate academic achievement standards. Federal regulations will provide additional clarity and information.

Recently Arrived English Learners (Section 1111 (b)(3))
A state may exempt a recently arrived English learner from one administration of the state’s reading or language arts assessment. Alternatively, a state may assess and report on reading or language arts and math for the first year a student is enrolled, but not include those results in the accountability system.

Middle School Mathematics (Section 1111 (b)(2)(C))
A state may exempt an eighth-grade student from the math assessment typically administered in eighth grade and replace it with the end-of-course math assessment the state administers to high school students.

Nationally Recognized High School Academic Assessment (Section 1111 (b)(2)(H))
A state may permit a local school district to select a nationally recognized high school academic assessment that has been approved for use by the state to use as its high school assessment in reading or language arts, math, and science.

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Parent Center Action Items

Find out how the state will ensure that students with disabilities are provided adequate instruction in how to use the accessibility features in the state assessment.

Find out how the state will ensure that students with disabilities are provided ample time to practice using the accessibility features in the state assessment.

Ensure the state plan includes the steps the state has taken to incorporate universal design for learning into the design of assessments.

Participate in the development of the guidelines and definitions regarding students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, including the procedures the state will adopt in order to monitor compliance in local school districts.

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Helpful Resources

Lessons Learned About Instruction from Inclusion of Students with Disabilities in College and Career Ready Assessments, National Center on Educational Outcomes, 2016. (PDF, 412 kb)
http://www.cehd.umn.edu/NCEO/OnlinePubs/LessonsLearnedAboutInstruction.pdf

Lessons Learned About Assessment from Inclusion of Students with Disabilities in College and Career Ready Assessments, National Center on Educational Outcomes, 2016. (PDF, 286 kb)
http://www.cehd.umn.edu/NCEO/OnlinePubs/LessonsLearnedAboutAssessment.pdf

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Authorship | This guide has been produced in a partnership between the Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR) and The Advocacy Institute under a cooperative agreement from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs. The Center for Parent Information and Resources is a project of the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network, Inc.

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Index of Sections in the Stakeholder Guide to the ESSA
The Stakeholder Guide to the ESSA is presented in separate sections. Which section would you like to read now?

1 | Background, Structure of the ESSA, Implementation Timeline, State Plans, Stakeholder Engagement

2 | Academic Content Standards and Achievement Standards 

3 | Academic Assessments (You’re already here!)

4 | Statewide Accountability System

5 | Identification of Schools in Need

6 | Annual Report Cards

7 | Conclusion and Resources

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Stakeholder Guide to the ESSA | Academic Content Standards and Achievement Standards

Teacher in front of class, stack of textbooks at his side and the chalkboard covered in writingWelcome to Section 2 of the Stakeholder Guide to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  This guide provides Parent Center staff and their advocacy partners with an understanding of key provisions in ESSA so that they may become meaningfully involved in how the law is now planned and implemented by the states. The guide is presented on the CPIR website in several sections (web pages) to enhance your quick access to its many topics.

This is Section 2, where you’ll find information about ESSA’s:

January 2017
A collaborative publication of the Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR) and The Advocacy Institute

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Academic Content Standards and Achievement Standards in ESSA

A graphic example of academic standards, explained in the text after the pictureESSA requires states to provide an assurance in the state’s plan that it has adopted:

1 | challenging academic content standards in mathematics, reading or language arts, and science that:

  • align with entrance requirements for credit-bearing coursework in the system of public higher education in the state and relevant state career and technical education standards; and
  • apply to all public schools and public school students in the state, including students with disabilities.

2 | academic achievement standards that are:

  • aligned with the content standards;
  • include not less than 3 levels of achievement;
  • expected of all public school students in the state except for students identified with the most significant cognitive disabilities. (Section 1111 (b)(1))

The law requires that the state’s challenging academic content standards in mathematics, reading or language arts, and science apply to all public schools and public school students in the state, including students with disabilities. This requirement is pivotal to ensuring that students with disabilities are provided with special education services and supports that are designed to enable access to the standards.

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PARENT CENTER ACTION ITEMS

Be sure your state plan clearly articulates the requirement that students with disabilities are expected to be instructed in the same academic content standards as all other students. Specifically, how will the state ensure that Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) are aligned to state academic content standards for the student’s enrolled grade? Share the November 16, 2015 U.S. Dept. of Education Dear Colleague Letter on Free Appropriate Public Education, available online at:
https://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/memosdcltrs/guidance-on-fape-11-17-2015.pdf

Ensure that the state has a plan to communicate the importance of holding students with disabilities to the same state academic content and achievement standards as their non-disabled peers.

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Alternate Academic Achievement Standards for Students with the Most Significant Cognitive Disabilities

ESSA allows only one exception to the requirements that both the state’s academic content standards and academic achievement standards apply to all students.

Specifically, the state may, through a documented and validated standards-setting process, adopt alternate academic achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, provided those standards—

~are aligned with the challenging State academic content standards;

~promote access to the general education curriculum, consistent with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA);

~reflect professional judgment as to the highest possible standards achievable by such students;

~are designated in the IEP developed under section 614(d)(3) of IDEA for each such student as the academic achievement standards that will be used for the student; and

~are aligned to ensure that a student who meets the alternate academic achievement standards is on track to pursue postsecondary education or employment, consistent with the purposes of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act to maximize opportunities for individuals with significant disabilities for competitive integrated employment. (Section 1111 (b)(1)(E))

Importantly, ESSA prohibits states from developing or implementing any other alternate academic achievement standards for use in meeting the Act’s requirements (Section 1111 (b)(1)(E)(ii). This provision expressly prevents states from developing any alternate assessments other than an alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards developed exclusively for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, such as the Alternate Assessment on Modified Achievement Standards previously authorized by the U.S. Dept. of Education in 2005 and rescinded in 2015.

The restriction on alternate academic achievement standards is designed to ensure that the vast majority of students with disabilities will be instructed in the academic content standards for their enrolled grade and assessed against those standards.

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English Language Proficiency Standards

States must also have in place English language proficiency (ELP) standards (derived from the domains of speaking, listening, reading, and writing) for English learners that address the different proficiency levels of English learners and  that  are aligned with their academic standards. (Section 1111 (b)(2))

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Authorship | This guide has been produced in a partnership between the Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR) and The Advocacy Institute under a cooperative agreement from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs. The Center for Parent Information and Resources is a project of the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network, Inc.
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Index of Sections in the Stakeholder Guide to the ESSA
The Stakeholder Guide to the ESSA is presented in separate sections. Which section would you like to read now?

1 | Background, Structure of the ESSA, Implementation Timeline, State Plans, Stakeholder Engagement

2 | Academic Content Standards and Achievement Standards (You’re already here!)

3 | Academic Assessments

4 | Statewide Accountability System

5 | Identification of Schools in Need

6 | Annual Report Cards

7 | Conclusion and Resources

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