Guidebook to Including Students with Disabilities and English Learners in Assessments
Peer Review Critical Elements in Section 5
The U.S. Department of Education requires that assessments used for Title I accountability be subjected to a peer review of the assessments. Peer reviewers use a set of guidelines provided by the U.S. Department of Education. These guidelines are consistent with the requirements for assessments in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), most recently reauthorized as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The most recent version of these guidelines (U.S. Department of Education, 2018) continues its emphasis on inclusive assessment systems through Section 5 (Inclusion of All Students). This section identifies four critical elements for the inclusion of all students in Title I assessments:
Critical Element 5.1 – Procedures for Including Students with Disabilities
Critical Element 5.2 – Procedures for Including English Learners in Academic Content Assessments
Critical Element 5.3 – Accommodations
Critical Element 5.4 – Monitoring Test Administration for Special Populations
Each of these is described and exemplified in a way that allows for the evaluation of assessments.
Critical Element 5.1. Procedures for Including Students with Disabilities
The State has in place procedures to ensure the inclusion of all public elementary and secondary school students with disabilities in the State’s assessment system. Decisions about how to assess students with disabilities must be made by a student’s IEP Team under IDEA, the placement team under Section 504, or the individual or team designated by a district to make that decision under Title II of the ADA, as applicable, based on each student’s individual abilities and needs.
If a State adopts alternate academic achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities and administers an alternate assessment aligned with those standards under ESEA section 1111(b)(1)(E) and (b)(2)(D), respectively, the State must:
- Establish guidelines for determining whether to assess a student with an AA-AAAS, including:
- A State definition of “students with the most significant cognitive disabilities” that addresses factors related to cognitive functioning and adaptive behavior;
- Provide information for IEP Teams to inform decisions about student assessments that:
- Provides a clear explanation of the differences between assessments aligned with grade-level academic achievement standards and those aligned with alternate academic achievement standards, including any effects of State and local policies on a student's education resulting from taking an AA-AAAS, such as how participation in such assessments may delay or otherwise affect the student from completing the requirements for a regular high school diploma;
- Ensure that parents of students assessed with an AA-AAAS are informed that their child’s achievement will be measured based on alternate academic achievement standards;
- Not preclude a student with the most significant cognitive disabilities who takes an AA-AAAS from attempting to complete the requirements for a regular high school diploma; and
- Promote, consistent with requirements under the IDEA, the involvement and progress of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities in the general education curriculum that is based on the State’s academic content standards for the grade in which the student is enrolled; and
- Develop, disseminate information on, and promote the use of appropriate accommodations to ensure that a student with the most significant cognitive disabilities who does not take an AA-AAAS participates in academic instruction and assessments for the grade in which the student is enrolled.
- The State has in place and monitors implementation of guidelines for IEP teams to apply in determining, on a case-by-case basis, which students with the most significant cognitive disabilities will be assessed based on alternate academic achievement standards, if applicable. Such guidelines must be developed in accordance with 34 CFR § 200.6(d).6
- For ELP assessments, policies that require the inclusion of an EL with a disability that precludes assessment of the student in one or more of the required domains (speaking, listening, reading, and writing) such that there are no appropriate accommodations for the affected component (the State must assess the student’s English language proficiency based on the remaining components in which it is possible to assess the student).
Critical Element 5.2. Procedures for Including English Learners in Academic Content Assessments
The State has in place procedures to ensure the inclusion of all ELs in public elementary and secondary schools in the State’s academic content assessments and clearly communicates this information to districts, schools, teachers, and parents, including, at a minimum:
- Procedures for determining whether an EL should be assessed with a linguistic accommodation(s);
- Information on accessibility tools and features available to all students and assessment accommodations available for ELs;
- Assistance regarding selection of appropriate linguistic accommodations for ELs, including to the extent practicable, assessments in the language most likely to yield accurate and reliable information on what those students know and can do to determine the students’ mastery of skills in academic content areas until the students have achieved English language proficiency.
Critical Element 5.3. Accommodations
The State makes available appropriate accommodations and ensures that its assessments are accessible to students with disabilities and ELs, including ELs with disabilities. Specifically, the State:
- Ensures that appropriate accommodations, such as, interoperability with, and ability to use, assistive technology, are available to measure the academic achievement of students with disabilities.
- Ensures that appropriate accommodations are available for ELs;
- Has determined that the accommodations it provides (1) are appropriate and effective for meeting the individual student’s need(s) to participate in the assessments, (2) do not alter the construct being assessed, and (3) allow meaningful interpretations of results and comparison of scores for students who need and receive accommodations and students who do not need and do not receive accommodations;
- Has a process to individually review and allow exceptional requests for a small number of students who require accommodations beyond those routinely allowed.
- Ensures that accommodations for all required assessments do not deny students with disabilities or ELs the opportunity to participate in the assessment and any benefits from participation in the assessment.
Critical Element 5.4. Monitoring Test Administration for Special Populations
The State monitors test administration in its districts and schools to ensure that appropriate assessments, with or without accommodations, are selected for all students with disabilities and ELs so that they are appropriately included in assessments and receive accommodations that are:
- Consistent with the State’s policies for accommodations;
- Appropriate for addressing a student’s disability or language needs for each assessment administered;
- Consistent with accommodations provided to the students during instruction and/or practice;
- Consistent with the assessment accommodations identified by a student’s IEP Team under IDEA, placement team convened under Section 504; or for students covered by Title II of the ADA, the individual or team designated by a district to make these decisions; or another process for an EL;
- Administered with fidelity to test administration procedures;
- Monitored for administrations of all required academic content assessments, AA-AAAS, ELP assessments, and AELPA