Including Students with Special Needs in State Assessments

Table of Contents

 

 


Introduction

Wisconsin has published academic content, performance, and proficiency standards for ALL students in the state. The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001 requires states to administer high-quality student assessments that are aligned with the state's academic standards and provide coherent information about students' attainment of such standards. Wisconsin's academic standards are for all students, including students with disabilities under Subchapter V of Wis. Stats. 115 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA), and students covered by Sec. 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Students with special needs must be given the same opportunity to acquire and demonstrate their academic performance as students without special needs.

In the state of Wisconsin, one way that students demonstrate their progress toward achieving the academic standards in reading, mathematics, language arts, social studies, and science is through participation in the Wisconsin Student Assessment System (WSAS). At present the WSAS includes both the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE) and the Wisconsin Alternate Assessment for Students with Disabilities (WAA-SwD).

The purpose of this document is to provide guidelines for facilitating the participation of students with special needs in the WKCE and the WAA-SwD. Although the rationale for participating in the WKCE is the same for all students with special needs, there are different laws which affect participation decisions for each group.


Students with Disabilities as Defined Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA)

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA) stipulates, "children with disabilities are included in general State and district-wide assessment programs with accommodations, where necessary." It also requires that alternate assessments be provided to children with disabilities when the IEP team determines that participation in standard state assessment is inappropriate for the child. Several state and national reviews concerning alternate assessment suggest that approximately 10 to 20% of students with disabilities, or 1 to 2% of the total student population, will be assessed via an alternate assessment.

All questions regarding the participation of a student with disabilities in statewide assessment must be addressed by the student's IEP team, which includes the parent as an equal participant. State and federal special education laws require that a student's IEP include "a statement of any individual modifications in the administration of State or district-wide assessments of student achievement that are needed in order for the child to participate in such assessment; and if the IEP team determines that the child will not participate in the WKCE, a statement of why that assessment is not appropriate for the child." (IDEA Title I part B sec. 614 (D)) To make these determinations, the IEP team must be knowledgeable about the child's present level of educational performance and measurable annual goals, the general curriculum, the format and content of the state or district test, and the alignment between the curriculum and the academic content standards (Wisconsin Model Academic Standards or the Extended Grade Band Standards) assessed by the state and district-wide assessment system.

A student must participate in either the WKCE or the WAA-SwD based on the decision of the IEP team as to which set of standards is appropriate for that student. Please consider this prior to the testing window.

  1. A student who is taught from the Extended Grade Band Standards must take the WAA-SwD.
  2. A student who is taught from the Wisconsin Model Academic Standards must take the WKCE.
  3. A student may not take part of the WKCE and part of the WAA-SwD.

The IEP team decision regarding student participation in the WKCE or the WAA-SwD must be made on an individual basis. The IEP team uses the WAA-SwD Participation Checklist to make this decision. Use of the checklist requires a thorough review to assess the student's current educational performance relative to the Wisconsin Model Academic Standards or the Extended Grade Band Standards.

 

For those students who are identified as needing accommodations, the IEP team must specify which accommodations are necessary for the student to participate in the WKCE or the WAA-SwD. Separate decisions regarding the need for accommodations must be made for each content area included in the WKCE or the WAA-SwD. Accommodations that the student receives in their classroom instruction may be considered as possible accommodations for state and district-wide assessments. Select accommodations that do not invalidate the test, i.e., change the skills or content tested. Use the Assessment Accommodation Matrix for further guidance.


Students Covered by Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act

Under Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973, no student with a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities, or has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment, shall solely by reason of this impairment " be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination."

Although all students with disabilities under IDEA also meet the criteria for protection under Sec. 504, there are a limited number of students who are not considered students with disabilities under IDEA but who do meet the criteria for protection under Sec. 504. Examples of these situations include students with health conditions (e.g., diabetes, asthma) or mobility impairments (e.g. paraplegia) or who have an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities but who are determined not to need special education services in accordance with IDEA. Students qualifying only under Sec. 504 criteria are entitled to accommodations and services necessary to benefit from all educational activities available to other students, including state (and district) assessment activities. For these students, appropriate accommodations and services must be documented in an IAP, including any accommodations necessary for participation in assessment activities.

The individuals responsible for developing a student's IAP are responsible for specifying accommodations necessary for participation in state assessments. Students receiving accommodations under Sec. 504 are eligible for the same range of accommodations as students with disabilities under IDEA.

 


Related Web pages:

Wisconsin Alternate Assessment for Students with Disabilities


 

For questions about this information, contact oeamail@dpi.wi.gov