TC Media Center from the Office of External Affairs

Section Navigation

New Rules on Special Education Scores Help Schools Meet No Child Left Behind Targets

Since the federal No Child Left Behind Act became law in early 2002, the U.S. Department of Education has acknowledged that at least some special education students may not be able to reach proficiency on grade-level tests. In 2003, federal regulations permitted states to develop alternative achievement standards to measure the progress of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. At least some scores from such tests can be counted as "proficient" when calculating adequate yearly progress, or AYP, as long as they do not exceed 1 percent of all students in the grades tested.

But states complained that the rule did not address students with moderate disabilities who also may be unable to reach grade-level standards, even with intensive instruction. So in May of this year, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings unveiled what is known as the "2 percent" rule. For 2005 only, it permits eligible states to identify schools or districts that did not make adequate progress based solely on the scores of their students with disabilities. Using a so-called proxy method, states can then increase the percent of students with disabilities deemed proficient in those schools or districts by the equivalent of 2 percent of all students assessed.

"By the time you're up to 30 percent of all special education kids, you've really excluded a very high percentage, including a lot of students who ought to be able to make it with good instruction," said Jay P. Heubert, a professor of law and education at Teachers College, Columbia University.

This article, written by Lynn Olson, appeared in the September 21st, 2005 publication of Education Week.previous page