Guidebook to Including Students with Disabilities and English Learners in Assessments
Principles and Characteristics of Inclusive Assessment Systems in a Changing Assessment Landscape
This document (Thurlow et al., 2016) is entirely devoted to assessments in which students with disabilities, ELs, and ELs with disabilities participate, including formative and interim assessments. It identifies six basic principles:
Principle 1. Every policy and practice reflects the belief that all students must be included in state, district, and classroom assessments.
Principle 2. Accessible assessments are used to allow all students to show their knowledge and skills on the same challenging content.
Principle 3. High quality decision making determines how students participate in assessments.
Principle 4. Implementation fidelity ensures fair and valid assessment results.
Principle 5. Public reporting content and formats include the assessment results of all students.
Principle 6. Continuous improvement, monitoring, and training ensure the quality of the overall system.
Each principle is described, as well as are several characteristics associated with each principle. It is suggested that these principles apply to assessment development, assessment revision, and decision-making processes for students with disabilities and ELs (including ELs with disabilities). It is also suggested that the principles and characteristics that explicate them can inform these processes for students who do not have disabilities and who are not ELs. Detailed characteristics that exemplify these principles are discussed in the section on applying principles to evaluate assessments.
The characteristics are:
Characteristics of Principles of Inclusive Assessment Systems
- Principle 1. Every policy and practice reflects the believe that all students must be included in state, district, and classroom assessments
- Characteristic 1.1. All students are included in every aspect of a comprehensive assessment system, including participation in the assessments, the reporting of data, the use of data for various purposes, and the improvement strategies that grow out of data reviews.
- Characteristic 1.2. The validity of the results from a comprehensive assessment system is ensured through technically defensible assessments that address the implications of varied student learning characteristics and needs.
- Characteristic 1.3. Stakeholders with expertise and experience in varied student learning characteristics, needs, and improvement strategies collaborate on all aspects of the assessment system to ensure that all students can show what they know and can do.
- Characteristic 1.4. Stakeholders collaborate to create systems where there is broad support throughout the system for inclusion of all students in the state’s school reform efforts linked to assessments.
- Principle 2. Accessible assessments are used to allow all students to show their knowledge and skills on the same challenging content.
- Characteristic 2.1. All students in all settings who receive special education services, ELL services, or both, are included in their enrolled grade-level assessments in some way (e.g., in general, ELP, or alternate assessment), regardless of the nature of disability, needs related to English language proficiency, or other special needs.
- Characteristic 2.2. All assessments are designed from the beginning with a focus on accessibility for all students who will participate in the assessment.
- Characteristic 2.3. Accessibility and accommodations policies are informed by the defined construct to be measured, available research findings, and the purpose of the assessment.
- Characteristic 2.4. Alternate assessments (including alternate content assessments and alternate ELP assessments) are used to assess the knowledge and skills of students whose disabilities are a barrier to demonstrating knowledge and skills in general assessments with or without allowable accessibility features and accommodations.
- Principle 3. High quality decision making determines how students participate in assessments.
- Characteristic 3.1. Decisions about the way in which students participate in assessment systems are based on how the individual student shows knowledge and skills.
- Characteristic 3.2. Accessible assessments and accommodations are available to all students, and decisions about their use are based on an individual student’s characteristics, needs, and experiences in conjunction with what the assessment is designed to measure.
- Characteristic 3.3. Clear policies, guidelines, procedures, and training on assessment participation decision making are provided for all decision-making partners.
- Characteristic 3.4. The IEP team or another decision-making team annually reviews and documents assessment participation and accessibility/accommodation decisions on an individual student basis for each assessment.
- Principle 4. Implementation fidelity ensures fair and valid assessment results.
- Characteristic 4.1. Assessment administrators have been trained in policies and procedures for administering assessments to all students, including students with disabilities, ELLs, and ELLs with disabilities.
- Characteristic 4.2. Students take the assessment that they are supposed to take.
- Characteristic 4.3. Students receive the accessibility features and accommodations that are indicated for them.
- Characteristic 4.4. Humans who provide accessibility features or accommodations do not compromise the validity of assessment results and interpretations based on them.
- Principle 5. Public reporting content and formats include the assessment results of all students.
- Characteristic 5.1. All students in all placement settings who receive educational services, regardless of severity of disability or level of English language proficiency, are accounted for in the reporting system.
- Characteristic 5.2. The number and percentage of students with disabilities assessed and their aggregable results are reported near to, as often as, and in ways similar to the reporting for students without disabilities
- Characteristic 5.3. The number and percentage of ELLs who are assessed and their aggregable results are reported near to, as often as, and in ways similar to the reporting for students who are not ELLs.
- Characteristic 5.4. The number and percentage of ELLs with disabilities who are assessed and their aggregable results are reported near to, as often as, and in ways similar to the reporting for students who are not ELL with disabilities.
- Characteristic 5.5. The number and percentage of students not assessed or whose results cannot be aggregated are revealed in public reports, and explanations are given.
- Characteristic 5.6. Results from assessments administered in ways that raise policy questions are reported separately so that they can be publicly examined and discussed, as well as aggregated with other results.
- Characteristic 5.7. Reports are provided to educators, parents, students, policymakers, community members, the media, and other stakeholders with a clear explanation of results and implications.
- Principle 6. Continuous improvement, monitoring, and training ensure the quality of the overall systems
- Characteristic 6.1. The quality, implementation, and consequences of student participation decisions are monitored and analyzed, and the data are used to evaluate and improve the quality of the assessment process at the school, district, and state levels.
- Characteristic 6.2. States and districts provide training to multiple stakeholders to improve their assessment literacy, which in turn improves decisions about the use of available assessment options.
- Characteristic 6.3. The use that is made of reports on assessment results and the impact that accountability decisions have on educational processes and student learning are monitored to determine the adjustments needed to improve the accountability system.
- Characteristic 6.4. The quality of assessment features is continuously evaluated and improved by applying information gathered about the use and impact of assessment results and by responding to developments in the field of measurement.