(2021, August) | Useful for Parent Centers, the families they serve, and educators/school administrators


As states, districts, and schools plan to return for the 2021-22 school year, questions are frequently raised about whether and how to test children with disabilities, including children with the most significant cognitive disabilities and English learners with disabilities. This FAQ addresses common questions and provides links to useful resources. The brief, from the National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO), is 5 information-rich pages long, and the FAQs it asks and then answers are:

    • Why should children with disabilities be tested this school year?
    • Are schools required to test children with the most significant cognitive disabilities and English learners with disabilities this school year?
    • Which tests should children with disabilities take this school year?
    • Should the accommodation needs of children with disabilities be reviewed for this school year?
    • How should children be prepared for testing this school year?
    • How should the test results of children with disabilities be reported this school year?

Especially useful are the multiple resources listed under each question and answer, where users can find detailed guidance and discussion of the question at hand and the answer given. These additional resources include videos and materials in other languages.

Access NCEO’s brief at:


More about the “Why” of Testing of Children

As the NCEO Brief points out, the 2020-21 school year was an unprecedented year with many districts implementing virtual learning, and with some districts moving back and forth between in-person and distance learning. Now, as children return to school in Fall 2021, it is critical that states and districts gather information on what children with disabilities have learned and where they need more support to meet standards-based learning goals. With this information, educators can make changes to current programs and to instruction to address children’s needs. Both formal and informal tests are important tools for gathering information.

To ensure appropriate participation and meaningful test results for children with disabilities, individualized education program (IEP) teams may need to revisit a child’s IEP before making test participation decisions. IEPs written before the COVID-19 pandemic may no longer address an individual child’s needs after the pandemic. IEP teams should determine, among other things:

  • whether revisions are needed to ensure the IEP accurately reflects the child’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance;
  • that the child’s IEP goals are appropriately ambitious;
  • that special education and related services, supplementary aids and services, and program modifications and supports for school personnel are identified to enable the child to advance toward achieving the IEP goals; and
  • that any instructional and testing accommodations and services that the child needs are identified.