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Buzz from the Hub | February 2017 | Number 1

Buzz from the Hub, February 2017, No. 1

Elementary school African-American boyTheme: Significant Disproportionality

This issue of the Buzz from the Hub connects you with new resources on significant disproportionality, an ongoing concern in schools districts, especially in special education classification. Your state is now making important decisions about how it will identify and reduce significant disproportionality under IDEA.

We hope that the resources spotlighted in this issue of the Buzz will support the participation of Parent Centers and families in meetings and decision making about how significant disproportionality will be addressed in your state.

All our best to you, as always,

The CPIR Team | Debra, Lisa, Jessica, and Myriam

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New from the CPIR

One-Stop List of Recent Guidances from the U.S. Department of Education
Looking for a one-stop list to the guidance and resource packages that have come out of the U.S. Department of Education in 2016 and 2017? (It’s been amazing, hasn’t it?) Here you go! CPIR is pleased to offer this list by topic. Disproportionality is definitely on the list!

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Resources on Disproportionality

5 Things to Know About Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Special Education
Here’s a crash-course intro to disproportionality in special education and why it is so concerning.

What are Success Gaps?
This short video (2-1/2 minutes) defines and gives examples of success gaps in education. Great for sharing with parents participating in your Center’s advocacy to reduce significant disproportionality.

Success Gaps Toolkit
The Success Gaps Toolkit is part of a package of resources that includes materials that a school or district can use to (1) conduct a root cause analysis of why there are gaps in achievement between groups of students, and (2) make a plan for reducing success gaps. Share it with your LEA, SEA, and individual schools.

Parent Engagement Toolkit
This toolkit is a resource for all organizations and community leaders interested in bringing the parent voice into the planning process and the development of local and state action plans addressing the dropout crisis.

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Logo of the Center for Center for Parent Information and ResourcesThe CPIR hopes that you’ve found useful and relevant resources listed in this month’s Buzz from the Hub. Please feel free to write to the editor, Lisa Küpper, at lkupper@fhi360.org to suggest the types of resources you’d like to see in the future. CPIR is listening! Your input is extremely valuable to helping us to craft newsletters that support your work with families.

Debra, Myriam, Jessica, and Lisa
The CPIR Team

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This eNewsletter from the CPIR is copyright-free.
We encourage you to share it with others.

Center for Parent Information and Resources
c/o SPAN, Inc.
35 Halsey St., Fourth Floor
Newark, NJ 07102
http://www.parentcenterhub.org/

Subscribe to the Buzz from the Hub.
See past issues of the Buzz.
____________________________________________________________

Publication of this eNewsletter is made possible through Cooperative Agreement H328R130014 between OSEP and the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network (SPAN). The contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government or by the Center for Parent Information and Resources.

Buzz from the Hub | January 2017

The "cover" of the Stakeholder Guide to the ESSABuzz from the Hub, January 2017, No. 1

Theme: New ESSA Resources

When spiders unite, they can tie up a lion.”
African Proverb

Welcome to the January 2017 edition of the Buzz from the Hub, the newsletter of the Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR). Notice the new look? We’ve freshened up our logo and slimmed the newsletter down to a handful of resources at a time to make it easier to read, use, and share. You can now look forward to two issues a month.

This issue of the Buzz connects you with four new CPIR resources on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to support participation of Parent Centers and families in decision making about how the law gets implemented in your state.

All our best to you, as always,

The CPIR Team | Debra, Lisa, Jessica, and Myriam

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New from the CPIR

CPIR Stakeholders’ Guide to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)
States have a lot of decisions to make about how they will implement ESSA, the nation’s general education law, and the voices of parents of children with disabilities are critical to the discussion. The Stakeholder Guide (new from CPIR) 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.

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More CPIR Resources on ESSA

Webinar | ESSA and the Assessment of Students with Disabilities
Our January 5th webinar featured an excellent presentation by Sheryl Lazarus (of the National Center on Educational Outcomes) on the history of including students with disabilities in state assessments and how it has improved outcomes for our students. Did you miss it? No problem. You can still listen, download the presentations, and connect with ESSA resources in your state. Just visit the link above.

Academic Assessments and Students With Disabilities
Check out our new fact sheets on assessment requirements for students with disabilities that are included in ESSA:

These new resources were developed in collaboration with the Advocacy Institute and are based on feedback from Parent Centers and our CPIR Stakeholders Advisory Group.

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Logo of the Center for Center for Parent Information and ResourcesThe CPIR hopes that you’ve found useful and relevant resources listed in this month’s Buzz from the Hub. Please feel free to write to the editor, Lisa Küpper, at lkupper@fhi360.org to suggest the types of resources you’d like to see in the future. CPIR is listening! Your input is extremely valuable to helping us to craft newsletters that support your work with families.

Debra, Myriam, Jessica, and Lisa
The CPIR Team

____________________________________________________________

This eNewsletter from the CPIR is copyright-free.
We encourage you to share it with others.

Center for Parent Information and Resources
c/o SPAN, Inc.
35 Halsey St., Fourth Floor
Newark, NJ 07102
http://www.parentcenterhub.org/

Subscribe to the Buzz from the Hub.
See past issues of the Buzz.
____________________________________________________________

Publication of this eNewsletter is made possible through Cooperative Agreement H328R130014 between OSEP and the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network (SPAN). The contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government or by the Center for Parent Information and Resources.

Autism Spectrum Disorder: Evidence-Based Practices

(2016 | 2017) | Useful to Parent Centers for sharing with schools and parents of children on the autism spectrum.

Two training modules are available from the IRIS Center on evidence-based practices for educating children with autism spectrum disorder.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (Part 1): An Overview for Educators provides information on the early signs of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), as well as an overview of the difference between a medical diagnosis and an educational determination of ASD. Resources include notes on instructional considerations for teachers who have children and students with ASD in their classrooms, as well as things to keep in mind when working with the families of those children and students (Est. completion time: 2 hours).

Autism Spectrum Disorder (Part 2): Evidence-Based Practices highlights strategies that have been shown to be effective in teaching appropriate behaviors and skills and decreasing inappropriate behaviors with children and youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It next explores several strategies that are particularly effective with young children, elementary and middle school students, and high school students (Est. completion time: 3 hours).

Parent Engagement Toolkit

(2016) Handouts available in English and Spanish  | Useful to Parent Centers in supporting parent engagement in state and local dropout prevention efforts and other state or local initiatives.

Parents and caregivers are arguably the most important stakeholders in a child’s educational success. With nearly 1.3 million students dropping out of high school each year, the Annie E. Casey Foundation and America’s Promise Alliance developed this toolkit to engage parents in dropout prevention and development strategies to ensure the success of all children.

The toolkit is a resource for all organizations and community leaders interested in bringing the parent voice into the planning process and the development of local and state action plans addressing the dropout crisis. It is intended to provide a set of resources to effectively reach out to parents, solicit their perspectives and engage them in the development of strategies that will lead to educational success for their children.

Access the toolkit and all its many accompanying resources, at:
http://www.americaspromise.org/parent-engagement-toolkit

One-Stop List of Recent Guidances from the U.S. Department of Education

January 2017
A resource list for Parent Centers

Looking for a one-stop list to the guidance and resource packages that have come out of the U.S. Department of Education in 2016? (It’s been amazing, hasn’t it?) Here you go! Our list is organized by topic, as follows:

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Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder under Section 504

OCR guidance clarifying the obligation of schools to provide students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with equal educational opportunity under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Date released | July 26, 2016

What’s included | Dear Colleague letter, a Know Your Rights fact sheet in several languages

Available in | English, Arabic, Spanish, and Vietnamese

Read abstract in the Hub and access all associated resources, at:
http://www.parentcenterhub.org/repository/dear-colleague-letter-and-resource-guide-on-students-with-adhd/ 

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Behavior Supports for Students with Disabilities

Dear Colleague Letter on Supporting Behavior of Students with Disabilities

Date released | August 1, 2016

What’s included | Dear Colleague letter (16 pages, PDF, 493 kb)
2-page Summary for Stakeholders (2 pages, PDF, 605 kb)

Supporting materials available from CPIR 
Webinar: IDEA Behavioral Support and Discipline
Handout: On Supporting Behavior
Handout | Important Links Mentioned in Dear Colleague Letter (Word, 16 kb)

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Charter Schools

There are 2 resource packages from the Department on students with disabilities in charter schools. One was released in May 2014, and the other (listed first below) was released in December 2016.

2016 | Rights of Students with Disabilities in Public Charter Schools

Date released | December 28, 2016

What’s included
Dear Colleague letter (41 pages, PDF, 570 kb) entitled Frequently Asked Questions about the Rights of Students with Disabilities in Public Charter Schools under Section 504

Dear Colleague letter (34 pages, PDF, 562 kb) entitled Frequently Asked Questions about the Rights of Students with Disabilities in Public Charter Schools under IDEA

2-page fact sheet (2 pages, PDF, 100 kb) entitled Know Your Rights: Students with Disabilities in Charter Schools

Additional resources from the Department 
Webinar | Rights of Students with Disabilities in Public Charter Schools
Transcript of webinar (31 pages, PDF, 261 kb)
Presentation slides from webinar (45 slides, PDF, 459 kb)

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2014 | Dear Colleague Letter: Charter Schools

Date released | May 14, 2014

Read abstract in the Hub and access the Dear Colleague letter, at:
http://www.parentcenterhub.org/repository/dear-colleague-letter-charter-schools/

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Children with Disabilities in Nursing Homes

Dear Colleague Letter on Children with Disabilities Residing in Nursing Homes

Date released | April 26, 2016

Access the Dear Colleague Letter (7 pages, PDF, 325 kb), at:
https://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/memosdcltrs/dcl-children-in-nursing-homes-04-28-2016.pdf

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Discipline (including Use of Restraint and Seclusion)

See also:  Behavior Supports for Students with Disabilities (above)

Ending Corporal Punishment | Open Letter from the Secretary of Education to Governors and Chief State School Officers

Date released | November 22, 2016

Summary | U.S. Education Secretary John King Jr. issued this open letter urging state leaders to end the use of corporal punishment in schools, a practice repeatedly linked to harmful short-term and long-term outcomes for students.

What’s included
The Secretary’s Letter (5 pages, PDF, 73 kb)
https://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/school-discipline/files/corporal-punishment-dcl-11-22-2016.pdf

Corporal Punishment: Where? Data Map | The Department also released this new Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) data map that shows where more than 110,000 students across the country were subjected to corporal punishments in 2013–14.

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Dear Colleague Letter: Restraint and Seclusion of Students with Disabilities

Date released | December 28, 2016

Summary | 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.

What’s included
Dear Colleague Letter (24 pages PDF, 408 kb)
https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201612-504-restraint-seclusion-ps.pdf

Fact Sheet (2 pages, PDF, 163 kb)
https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/dcl-factsheet-201612-504-restraint-seclusion-ps.pdf

Restraint and Seclusion Resource Document from 2012 (45 pages, PDF, 1.6 MB)
The Department’s resource document (issued 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.
https://www2.ed.gov/policy/seclusion/restraints-and-seclusion-resources.pdf

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Disproportionality and Discrimination

There are multiple packages from the Department on discriminatory practices with respect to students with disabilities, including its publication of final regulations for addressing significant disproportionality. We’ve listed each separately below, in the order in which they were released in 2016. 

See also | Discipline (above)

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Dear Colleague Letter: Preventing Racial Discrimination in Special Education

Date | December 12, 2016

Context | The guidance addresses the unfortunate fact that the enforcement experience of the Office for Civil Rights “continues to confirm: (1) over-identification of students of color as having disabilities; (2) under-identification of students of color who do have disabilities; and (3) unlawful delays in evaluating students of color for disability and their need for special education services.”

What’s included 
Dear Colleague Letter (25 pages, PDF, 449 kb)
https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201612-racedisc-special-education.pdf

Fact Sheet (2 pages, PDF, 157 kb)
https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/dcl-factsheet-racedisc-special-education.pdf

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Final Regulations for IDEA on Promoting Equity and Reducing Significant Disproportionality and Discriminatory Practices in Special Education

Date released | December 19, 2016

Context |  The Department of Education sets forth final rules for: (a) Section 300.646 of IDEA (Disproportionality) and Section 300.647 (Determining significant disproportionality).

What’s available |  Final regulations in PDF (587 kb) and in HTML.  A 3-page summary of changes made from the proposed rule to the final rule (PDF, 411 kb).

Note! To read the final regulations, skip to the last 2 pages of the PDF file. Everything preceding those 2 final pages is a discussion of comments received by the Department on its proposed regulations and an analysis of the changes made in these final regulations.

Regulations in PDF

Regulations in HTML

Changes From Proposed Rule to Final Rule on Significant Disproportionality

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Early Childhood Education

Several guidances and resource pages were released in 2016 and 2017 with respect to early childhood practices, policies, inclusion, and nondiscrimination. We’ve listed them below in the order in which they were released. 

ED-HHS Policy Statement on Family Engagement from the Early Years to the Early Grades

Date released | May 5, 2016

Summary | The Departments recognize the critical role of family engagement in promoting children’s success in early childhood systems and programs. The policy statement reviews the research base and best practices that support effective family engagement in children’s learning, development, and wellness. It also identifies core principles of effective family engagement practices, provides recommendations to early childhood systems to implement effective family engagement, and highlights resources to build programmatic and family capacity to be effective partners.

What’s included
The policy statement is available online (25 pages, PDF, 443 kb), at:
https://www2.ed.gov/about/inits/ed/earlylearning/files/policy-statement-on-family-engagement.pdf

There’s also an Executive Summary (5 pages, PDF, 215 kb), at:
https://www2.ed.gov/about/inits/ed/earlylearning/files/policy-statement-on-family-engagement-executive-summary.pdf

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Early Learning and Educational Technology Policy Brief

Date released | October 2016

Summary | The U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services released a policy brief on the use of technology with early learners to help families and early educators implement active, meaningful, and socially interactive learning.

Access the Policy Brief (25 pages, PDF, 1.5 MB), at:
https://tech.ed.gov/files/2016/10/Early-Learning-Tech-Policy-Brief.pdf

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Early Learning in ESSA: Expanding Opportunities to Support Our Youngest Learners (Non-Regulatory Guidance)

Date released | October 2016

Summary | The U.S. Department of Education released this non-regulatory guidance to remind state and local decision-makers about the importance of investing in early learning. It highlights the opportunities available under ESSA to strengthen early education, and provides examples of how states and local communities can support young children’s success in school.

Access the guidance (37 pages, PDF, 1.1 MB), at:
https://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/essa/essaelguidance10202016.pdf

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Understanding the Confidentiality Requirements Applicable to IDEA Early Childhood Programs: Frequently Asked Questions

Date released |  October 2016

Access the FAQ guidance (15 pages, PDF, 284 kb) at:
https://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/memosdcltrs/idea-confidentiality-requirements-faq.pdf

See also | Webinar (held December 15, 2016): A Little Privacy Please? Safeguarding the Privacy of Young Children with Disabilities under IDEA and FERPA

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Dear Colleague Letter: Preschool LRE

Date released | January 9, 2017

Context | Reaffirms the commitment of the U.S. Department of Education to inclusive preschool education programs for children with disabilities. Reiterates that the least restrictive environment (LRE) requirements of IDEA  are fully applicable to the placement of preschool children with disabilities. Includes additional information on the reporting of educational environments data for preschool children with disabilities and the use of IDEA Part B funds to provide special education and related services to preschool children with disabilities.

Access the Dear Colleague Letter (8 pages, PDF, 287 kb) at:
https://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/memosdcltrs/preschool-lre-dcl-1-10-17.pdf

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Homeless Children

Education for Homeless Children and Youths Program (Non-Regulatory Guidance)

Date released | July 27, 2016

What’s included | Guidance letter (51 pages), Fact sheet (4 pages) called Supporting the Success of Homeless Children and Youths: A Fact Sheet and Tips

Read abstract in the Hub and access the guidance on homeless children, at:
http://www.parentcenterhub.org/repository/education-for-homeless-children-and-youths-program-non-regulatory-guidance/

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Policy Statement on Meeting the Needs of Families with Young Children Experiencing and At Risk of Homelessness

Date released | October 31, 2016

Summary | This policy statement comes jointly from the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Education (ED). The statement recommends ways early childhood and housing providers at the local and state levels can collaborate to better meet the needs of pregnant women and families with young children who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

Access the policy statement (39 pages, PDF, 994 kb), at:
https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/ecd/echomelessnesspolicystatement.pdf

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Juvenile Justice

Toolkit: Improving Outcomes for Youth With Disabilities in Juvenile Corrections

Date released | November 2016

Summary | This toolkit includes evidence- and research-based practices, tools, and resources that educators, families, facilities, and community agencies can use to better support and improve the long-term outcomes for youth with disabilities in juvenile correctional facilities. The toolkit includes several resources that the Department released in 2014, including Guiding Principles for Providing High-Quality Education in Juvenile Justice Secure Care Settings and State Correctional Education Self-Assessment (SCES).

Access the toolkit online at:
https://www.osepideasthatwork.org/jj

See also: CPIR’s September 2016 webinar, Reaching and Serving Students with Disabilities in Juvenile Justice


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School Resource Officers

Dear Colleague Letter on the Use of School Resource Officers (SROs) in Schools

Date released | September 8, 2016

Summary | This letter expresses the Department’s increasing concern that school discipline is being administered by school resource officers (SROs), who are law-enforcement officers based in schools.

Access the DCL online:
https://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/secletter/160907.html

See also | CPIR’s Brief for Parent Centers on School Resource Officers

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Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act

Parent and Educator Resource Guide to Section 504 in Public Elementary and Secondary School

Date released |  December 2016

Summary | The resource guide provides a broad overview of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. 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.

What’s included |  The guide is available online (52 pages, PDF, 651 kb)
https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/504-resource-guide-201612.pdf

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Stakeholder Engagement in ESSA

Dear Colleague Letter on Stakeholder Engagement During Implementation of ESSA

Date released | June 23, 2016

Summary | The purpose of this letter is to highlight the importance and utility of stakeholder engagement as States and local school districts transition to and, eventually, implement the ESSA, and to provide guidance, resources, and examples of stakeholder engagement for States and districts to consider.

What’s included | The letter is online in HTML format, at:
https://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/secletter/160622.html

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Virtual schools

Dear Colleague Letter on Online and Virtual Schools and IDEA

Date released | August 5, 2016

Summary | This DCL reminds states to ensure that students with disabilities attending public virtual schools are getting the special education and supports  they deserve. The guidance focuses on specific requirements in the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for public virtual schools.

Access the “Virtual Schools” guidance (6 pages, PDF, 336 kb), at:
https://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/memosdcltrs/dcl–virtual-schools–08-05-2016.pdf

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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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