Participation in General Assessments
Participation in state and district general assessments of academic content is a critical element of equal opportunity and access to education. This is true for students with disabilities, English learners (ELs), and ELs with disabilities.
When these students do not participate in large-scale assessments of academic content (for example, reading, mathematics, science, and other areas), their programs may be plagued by low expectations. Programs may also lack information needed to make improvements.
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 particular groups of students
It is only when all students participate in assessments that educators and policymakers are able to have an accurate picture of school or district strengths and needs. But this does not mean that all students take the same test.
Most students will participate in general assessments of content that have a variety of access tools available to all students, as well as accommodations for those with specific needs. A much smaller number of students will participate in alternate assessments of academic content. All states have an alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards (AA-AAS).
With these ways to participate, the question becomes not whether students will participate in assessments, but rather how they will participate. For students who receive special education services, the decision about how they participate is made by the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team. For other students with disabilities and ELs, schools vary in the process used to make this decision.