Guidebook to Including Students with Disabilities and English Learners in Assessments

Executive Summary

This Guidebook was developed to highlight the lessons learned about how to ensure inclusive assessment practices for students with disabilities and English learners. It also provides foundational information on the characteristics of these students that require consideration during all phases of assessment design, development, and implementation. The Guidebook is intended to remind all assessment, special education, and other personnel in state departments of education of the lessons that have been learned, and to share those lessons with new personnel in state assessment, special education, Title I, and Title III offices.

The 10 lessons highlighted in the Guidebook are:

Lesson 1.    Know the student populations in your state and their characteristics.

Lesson 2.    Develop a basic understanding of how the principles of universal design apply to assessments.

Lesson 3.    Examine laws, professional standards, principles, and policies on including students with disabilities and English learners in assessments.

Lesson 4.    Gain an understanding of why it is important to include all students in assessment systems, including students with disabilities, English learners, and English learners with disabilities.

Lesson 5.    Review the many lessons learned about accessible assessments.

Lesson 6.    Work with stakeholders to develop guidance for the field on making important testing decisions.

Lesson 7.    Think through intended uses of assessment results and approaches to reporting results that meet federal and professional requirements and also serve the needs of stakeholders who receive reports.

Lesson 8.    Realize that ensuring full implementation is partly the state’s responsibility.

Lesson 9.    Focus on continuous improvement of the assessment system.

Lesson 10. Learn from peers, including individuals in other states, as well as from national organizations and technical assistance partners. 

This Guidebook is designed to provide brief summary information about each lesson learned, as well as to direct the reader to expanded information and resources that provide more in-depth information. It does not address inclusion in accountability systems, per se, nor does it specifically address interim and formative assessments even though most of the lessons learned apply to those assessments as well.