NCEO - National Center on Educational Outcomes

Participation for Students with Disabilities


State and district assessments provide information on the educational achievement of students. Participation in large-scale assessments is now recognized by many educators and parents as a critical element of equal opportunity and access to education. This is true for students with disabilities. When students with disabilities do not participate in state and district assessments, their programs may be plagued by low expectations and lack of information needed to make programmatic decisions. Assessments help to measure:

  • How successful schools are in including all students in standards-based reforms.
  • How successful instructional strategies are in helping all students achieve at high levels.
  • What specific curriculum and instructional areas need improvement for specific groups of students.

Assessments used for accountability purposes are a key part of standards-based reform. Beginning in the early to mid 1990s it became evident that not all students were included in these assessments. It is only when all students, including those who have disabilities, participate in assessments that schools, districts, and states are able to have an accurate picture of a school's strengths and needs. But this does not mean that all students take the same test. There are several ways in which students can participate in assessments:

(1) the general assessment taken without accommodations,

(2) the general assessment taken with accommodations, and

(3) alternate assessments.

With these ways to participate, the question becomes not whether students will participate in assessments, but rather−how they will participate.