Special Populations: Inclusion of Students with Disabilities in High School Assessments
Education Commission of the States • 700 Broadway, Suite 810 • Denver, CO 80203-3442 • 303.299.3600 • Fax: 303.296.8332 • www.ecs.org

Special Populations: Inclusion of Students with Disabilities in High School Assessments

Why does it matter? If "what is measured, gets taught," then it is important to ensure that students with disabilities are receiving access to quality instruction and to the general curriculum.
 
Highlights:
  • All states offer students with disabilities accommodations on standard assessments and outline what are acceptable accommodations.
  • All states also offer students with disabilities an alternate assessment, but this option is primarily for students with severe cognitive or learning disabilities.
  • No state offers students with disabilities a blanket exemption from assessments, although three states - California, Hawaii and Washington - allow any student to be exempt from taking assessments if requested by the parent(s) or guardian(s) in writing.

Note:

  • IEP= Individual Education Plan
  • Assessment accommodations must usually be documented and justified on a student's IEP, and typically should be the same as those used during instruction and/or classroom testing.
Methodology: This information was collected from state statutes, rules and regulations, and state education agency Web sites, and will be updated as new policies and programs are enacted.

Sources for all data points are accessible through this link.

Last updated: June 4, 2007

Research conducted by Timothy Taylor and Michael Colasanti. Please contact Jennifer Dounay Zinth at 303.299.3689 or jdounay@ecs.org with comments or questions about this database.


How are students with disabilities included in high school-level exams?
Alabama
  • Accommodation(s)
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: The IEP Team decides which state assessment is most appropriate for the student. In a limited number of cases the Alabama Alternate Assessment (AAA) will be used, and is based on the student's mastery of his/her Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals and benchmarks.
  • Alaska
  • Accommodation(s)
    Notes/Citation: The IEP or 504 team selects appropriate accommodations. Because of the close link between assessment and instruction, the IEP or 504 plan must describe how the accommodations for assessment are included in the student's classroom instruction and assessment.
  • Alternate assessment
  • Arizona
  • Accommodation(s)
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: Only students classified as severely learning disabled may take an alternate assessment.
  • Arkansas
  • Accommodation(s)
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: The IEP team starts with the premise that all students with disabilities participate in the standard assessment with or without allowable accommodations. The IEP team may determine, however, that the alternate assessment is more appropriate for a student with a disability. Decisions about how a student will participate must be made at the IEP meeting that precedes the next school year's administration of any statewide assessment.
  • California
  • Accommodation(s)
  • Alternate assessment
  • Other
    Notes/Citation: A parent or guardian may submit a written request to excuse child from any or all parts of an assessment.
  • Colorado
  • Accommodation(s)
    Notes/Citation: Accommodations must have been used during other assessments at the district, school, or classroom level for at least three months prior to the test.
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: For students to qualify for the Colorado Student Assessment Program Alternate (CSAPA), the IEP team must determine that the student's disability results in a significant cognitive challenge. The cognitive challenge must be such that the student is unable to access the specific content of Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) tests (reading and writing, math, and/or science) with or without accommodations. These criteria must be met prior to consideration of other CSAPA eligibility factors.
  • Connecticut
  • Accommodation(s)
    Notes/Citation: In exceptional circumstances, there may be a student whose disabilities are such that allowable accommodations will be insufficient to provide access to the standard assessment. In these cases, the school district will need to petition the state department of education in writing and supply the necessary documentation to support any request for the use of an accommodation not already approved.
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: The alternate assessment is only available to students with significant cognitive disabilities.
  • Delaware
  • Accommodation(s)
    Notes/Citation: Students are eligible only for the test accommodations that are documented in their IEP or 504 plan.
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: The Delaware Alternate Portfolio Assessment (DAPA) is only for students with severe cognitive disabilities in grades 2-11.
  • Other
    Notes/Citation: Students with disabilities who are also ELLs may be exempted from the science and social studies assessments in grades 4, 6, 8, and 11 if specified criteria are met.
  • District of Columbia
  • Accommodation(s)
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: If the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team determines that a child may not participate in all, or part of, a particular assessment, a statement must be made by the team of: (1) Why the assessment, or part of the assessment is not appropriate for the child; and (2) How the child will be assessed.
  • Florida
  • Accommodation(s)
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: Alternate assessment is only for students who have significant cognitive disabilities. The Florida Department of Education does not endorse a single state-level alternate assessment, but instead allows school districts to determine the most appropriate alternate assessment. Selection of an alternate assessment should be based on evidence that the assessment measures achievement of Sunshine State Standards for Special Diploma.
  • Georgia
  • Accommodation(s)
    Notes/Citation: If an accommodation is recommended that is not included in the list of approved accommodations, approval must be received from the Testing Division of the Georgia Department of Education prior to the inclusion of the accommodation in the student’s Individual Accommodation Plan (IAP) and its use.
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: The IEP Committee may determine that the student will not participate in a particular state or districtwide assessment (or part of an assessment), but must state why that assessment is not appropriate and how the student will be assessed.
  • Hawaii
  • Accommodation(s)
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: The Hawaii State Alternate Assessment (HSAA) is a standards-based assessment that is administered to students who have Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and who, because of significant cognitive disabilities, are unable to participate in the Hawaii State Assessment (HSA), even with necessary accommodations. The HSAA is appropriate for a limited number of students.
  • Other
    Notes/Citation: Parents may submit a request that their child be exempted from the Hawaii State Assessment (HSA).
  • Idaho
  • Accommodation(s)
    Notes/Citation: IEP team determines.
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: Student with disabilities is eligible for the Idaho Alternate Assessments (IAA) if the IEP Team finds that the student’s demonstrated cognitive ability and adaptive behavior prevents completion of the general academic curriculum even with program modifications; and that the student’s course of study is primarily functional-skill and living-skill oriented (typically not measured by state or district assessments); and that the student is unable to acquire, maintain, or generalize skills (in multiple settings) and demonstrate performance of those skills without intensive frequent individualized instruction.
  • Illinois
  • Accommodation(s)
    Notes/Citation: The IEP team is to consider the following factors: (1) Requires an alignment between instruction and assessment; (2) Normally available and used by the student; and (3) The decision is not based on the program setting or disability, but on the student’s learning characteristics (how the student accesses instruction). Examples of acceptable accommodations have included extended time, large print, reader’s script, transcribed oral responses and changes in presentation format.
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: Only applies where a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) identifies the PSAE as inappropriate, even with accommodations, and the student is eligible to take the Illinois Alternate Assessment (IAA) instead.
  • Indiana
  • Accommodation(s)
    Notes/Citation: Generally, an accommodation is acceptable if a student with disabilities uses the accommodation in testing situations that occur throughout the student’s educational program.
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: For students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, the alternate assessment, Indiana Standards Tool for Alternate Reporting (ISTAR), is used to assess these students on alternate achievement standards.
  • Iowa
  • Accommodation(s)
    Notes/Citation: A student's IEP must include a statement of any individual accommodations/modifications, or if the IEP team determines that the eligible student will not participate, a statement must be made of: (1) Why that assessment is not appropriate for the eligible individual; and (2) How the eligible individual will be assessed.
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: Students with significant cognitive disabilities can take the Iowa Alternate Assessment.
  • Kansas
  • Accommodation(s)
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: The Kansas Alternate Assessment is intended for a small number of students who are unable to take the general state assessments due to the complexity and severity of their disabilities. Students with disabilities may also be eligible to take a modified assessment known as the Kansas Assessment of Multiple Measures (KAMM).
  • Kentucky
  • Accommodation(s)
    Notes/Citation: The Admissions and Release Committee (ARC) or 504 Committee determines based on the student’s IEP or 504 Plan.
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: The alternate assessment is for students with severe to profound disabilities.
  • Louisiana
  • Accommodation(s)
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: Only students with the most significant cognitive disabilities are eligible.
  • Maine
  • Accommodation(s)
    Notes/Citation: Schools are required to address needed accommodations at a Pupil Evaluation Team (PET) meeting. Any accommodations recommended for a student will be reflected in a statement in the IEP.
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: The very few students who will require an alternate assessment (Personalized Alternate Assessment Portfolio - PAAP) are the students for whom accommodations would be so significant that they would compromise the validity of the assessment(s).
  • Maryland
  • Accommodation(s)
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: For students with significant cognitive disabilities who are unable to participate in a regular assessment, even when accommodations are provided.
  • Massachusetts
  • Accommodation(s)
    Notes/Citation: IEP or 504 team determines any accommodations that a student will use (documented in the student's IEP or 504 plan.)
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: While the majority of students who take alternate assessments have cognitive disabilities, participation in the MCAS–Alt (alternate assessment) is not limited to this population. When the nature and complexity of a student’s disability present significant barriers or challenges to standardized testing, even though the student may be working at or near the grade-level expectations, the student’s IEP Team or 504 team may designate the student to take an alternate assessment in that subject.
  • Michigan
  • Accommodation(s)
    Notes/Citation: IEP must indicate that accommodations are appropriate for the student, and they reflect what the student routinely uses or how he or she routinely responds during instruction.
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: A student's IEP or Section 504 Plan must specify whether or not the student participates in each of the standard assessments or in an alternate assessment.
  • Minnesota
  • Accommodation(s)
    Notes/Citation: The IEP or section 504 accommodation plan determines and is to be reviewed annually.
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: If an alternate assessment is necessary, a student's IEP or section 504 accommodation plan defines an appropriate assessment of the statewide standard at a modified level of difficulty for the student.
  • Other
    Notes/Citation: An exemption from assessments must be granted to a special needs student when the student cannot demonstrate the required degree of learning with appropriate accommodations or modifications if: (a) the student's IEP or section 504 accommodation plan does not and never has included the requirements on which the tests are based; or (b) the student is enrolled in special education classes for the subject matter included in the test, but the student's IEP or section 504 accommodation plan does not include a majority of concepts tested.
  • Mississippi
  • Accommodation(s)
    Notes/Citation: Some accommodations that may be used routinely in the classroom may not be allowable for statewide assessments.
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: The alternate/alternative assessment process allows the assessment of: (a) students for whom an accurate measure of performance and progress cannot be obtained using the standard statewide testing programs even with appropriate accommodations and modifications; or (b) students with significant cognitive disabilities that are assessed against the Extended Curriculum Frameworks.
  • <
    Missouri
  • Accommodation(s)
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: Designed only for students with significant cognitive disabilities who meet age and participation criteria.
  • Montana
  • Accommodation(s)
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: The IEP team may waive the approved state-level assessments and provide alternate assessments that are appropriate to determine the student’s progress toward the content standards.
  • Nebraska
  • Accommodation(s)
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: An alternate assessment is appropriate when the IEP team has determined and documented the following information on the student’s IEP: (1) The student’s demonstrated cognitive ability and adaptive behavior prevent completion of the general academic curriculum, even with appropriately designed and implemented modifications and accommodations; (2) the student’s curriculum is based on the STARS Alternate Standards which are generally embedded in a life-skills or functional curriculum; and, (3) the student requires intensive, frequent and individualized instruction in order to acquire, maintain, and demonstrate performance of those skills.
  • Nevada
  • Accommodation(s)
    Notes/Citation: Must be an accommodation used during the regular instructional day in the classroom to address a student’s identified need.
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: Only for students identified as having the most significant cognitive disabilities.
  • New Hampshire
  • Accommodation(s)
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: Use of accommodation or alternative assessment must be explicitly identified in the student’s IEP plan. Only students with severe cognitive disabilities participate in the alternate assessment.
  • New Jersey
  • Accommodation(s)
    Notes/Citation: Modifications or accommodations must be specified in the student’s IEP or 504 plan, and must be consistent with the instruction and assessment procedures used in the student’s classroom.
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: Only used in each content area where the nature of the student’s disability is so severe that the student is not receiving instruction in any of the knowledge and skills measured by the general statewide assessment and the student cannot complete any of the types of questions on the assessment in the content area(s) even with accommodations and modifications.
  • Other
    Notes/Citation: All students with disabilities must participate unless their IEP specifically exempts them from taking one or more sections of the assessment.
  • New Mexico
  • Accommodation(s)
    Notes/Citation: IEP specifies.
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: For students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. The IEP for a student who will not participate in an assessment must explain why that assessment is not appropriate for that student and how the student will be assessed using current state-approved criteria, methods and instruments.
  • New York
  • Accommodation(s)
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: The requirements for a local diploma may be met by passing the Regent's competency tests in the subject areas they failed in the Regent's exam.
  • North Carolina
  • Accommodation(s)
    Notes/Citation: Must (1) be documented in the student’s current IEP or Section 504 Plan, and (2) the documentation must reflect routine use during instruction and similar classroom assessments that measure the same construct. However, in cases where the documentation is not consistent with accommodations used during instruction, the student is to receive the accommodations specified in the current IEP or Section 504 Plan, although this could adversely affect student performance.
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: Students with disabilities must participate in alternate assessments if they do not participate in a statewide standard test administration with or without accommodations.
  • North Dakota
  • Accommodation(s)
  • Alternate assessment
  • Ohio
  • Accommodation(s)
  • Alternate assessment
  • Oklahoma
  • Accommodation(s)
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: Only for students with the most significant disabilities.
  • Oregon
  • Accommodation(s)
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: In September 2006, the U.S. Department of Education forced Oregon to drop the use of its alternate assessment for students with moderate to severe disabilities, due to problems with the test's validity, and develop a new alternate assessment for use beginning in the 2006-2007 school year.
  • Other
    Notes/Citation: A student with a disability may be exempted from participation in state assessments upon request by the student's parent.
  • Pennsylvania
  • Accommodation(s)
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: The Pennsylvania Alternate System of Assessment (PASA) is appropriate for a small number of students with severe cognitive disabilities. All other students must participate in the standard assessment, with or without accommodations.
  • Rhode Island
  • Accommodation(s)
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: The Rhode Island Alternate Assessment (RIAA) is for students with significant cognitive disabilities. Students must also meet other specified criteria to participate in RIAA, which is determined and documented by the student's Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team.
  • South Carolina
  • Accommodation(s)
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: The South Carolina Alternate Assessment (SC-Alt) is for students with significant cognitive disabilities who are unable to participate in the regular assessment program even with accommodations and/or modifications. The SC-Alt is administered to students who meet the participation guidelines.
  • South Dakota
  • Accommodation(s)
  • Alternate assessment
  • Tennessee
  • Accommodation(s)
    Notes/Citation: If an accommodation has not been used in the student’s program to the extent that the student is proficient with the accommodation, the accommodation may not be used.
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: The Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program – Alternate Portfolio Assessment (TCAP-Alt PA) is for students with moderate, severe, and profound disabilities who cannot participate in regular TCAP assessments, even with testing accommodations.
  • Texas
  • Accommodation(s)
  • Alternate assessment
  • Other
    Notes/Citation: A student with a disability may be exempted from state assessments if the student is eligible for a special education program and the student’s IEP does not include instruction in the essential knowledge and skills at any grade level as defined under Texas law.
  • Utah
  • Accommodation(s)
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: The Utah Alternate Assessment is administered to students classified as having significant cognitive disabilities on an IEP who are not able to participate in other statewide assessments, even with test accommodations.
  • Vermont
  • Accommodation(s)
    Notes/Citation: IEP team decides, but should include parent participation.
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: When the educational team for a student with a disability determines the student cannot fairly participate in the regular statewide assessment even with the full range of approved standard accommodations, an alternate assessment must be provided. There are two alternate assessment options for such a student: (1) Modified Assessments or (2) Lifeskills Assessments.
  • Virginia
  • Accommodation(s)
  • Alternate assessment
  • Other
    Notes/Citation: A parent, guardian, surrogate parent, or student may request non-participation of the student in a particular Standards of Learning assessment. This request must be reviewed by the student's IEP team or 504 committee, and the deliberation and decision on the matter must be documented in the student’s IEP or 504 plan.
  • Washington
  • Accommodation(s)
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: The Washington Alternate Assessment System (WAAS) is designed for a relatively small number of students in special education with identifiable significant cognitive disabilities and persistent academic disabilities who are unable to participate in general state assessments even with accommodations.
  • Other
    Notes/Citation: Parents may request in writing to exempt their child from state assessments. The request for exemption will not avoid any consequence for not testing, such as failure to graduate.
  • West Virginia
  • Accommodation(s)
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: Alternative assessment only for students with significant cognitive disabilities.
  • Wisconsin
  • Accommodation(s)
  • Alternate assessment
  • Other
    Notes/Citation: Under state law, a student's parent or guardian may request that the student be excused from taking an assessment.
  • Wyoming
  • Accommodation(s)
  • Alternate assessment
  • American Samoa
  • Accommodation(s)
    Notes/Citation: All students with IEPs take assessments with the accommodation of relaxed time limits. Other accommodations such as use of calculators and clarification of directions are made according to each student's IEP. The IEP must include a statement of any individual modifications that are needed in order for the child to participate.
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: If the IEP Team determines that the child will not participate in a particular assessment of student achievement (or part of an assessment), the IEP must include a statement of why that assessment is not appropriate for the child and how the child will be assessed.
  • Puerto Rico
  • Accommodation(s)
  • Alternate assessment
    Notes/Citation: For students with signficant disabilities.

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