While education groups want flexibility on No Child Left Behind guidelines for special education students, advocates want schools to be held accountable for helping special ed students reach grade-level standards. After all, most “special” students have moderate learning disabilities.
Under NCLB, schools are judged on the academic progress of subgroups, including special education students. Schools can miss “adequate yearly progress” goals if special ed students don’t improve their reading and math scores. Education Week reports:
The reporting provision has forced administrators to pay attention to a group of students that is too often ignored, disability-rights advocates contend. They point to studies that show that students with disabilities, even those with cognitive impairments, can achieve at higher-than-expected levels when teachers hold them to grade-level standards.
As disability-rights advocates lobby federal lawmakers, their focus has been on maintaining what they see as the strong standards of the law, while allowing schools to get credit for a studentâ€™s academic growth towards proficiency, even if the student occasionally falls short of a particular benchmark.
Three percent of students — equivalent to about 30 percent of disabled students — may take less challenging alternative assessments.
Two reports from the National Center for Learning Disabilities look at the cost of low expectations:
Special education classification has too frequently been used to diminish the expectations for the students designated as eligible for such services and to minimize the responsibility of general education teachers and administrators for their progress. Also, data suggests that special education classification is used to segregate minority students, particularly Black boys.
The Quick and the Ed adds:
Studies have shown that the process of diagnosing a disability isnâ€™t color-blind, and minority student have a higher chance of being diagnosed with a disability. This makes reducing the accountability for educating special education students an even riskier proposition, because it will disproportionately reduce accountability for minority and low-income students.
See KitchenTableMath for more on the segregation of special ed students.