NCLB Special Ed Policy…Don’t Blame The Disabled Kids…

Per this, the U.S. Department of Ed has proposed a policy. Ed Week here.

This likely will not cause a dramatic drop in schools not making Adequate Yearly Progress. Though disabled kids are being fingered as the reason for a lot of schools not making AYP, the fact is that with the achievement gaps that now exist in all kinds of communities they’re being scapegoated. To be clear, there are some schools that are being identified because of special education only, but that’s not the majority.

Update: By way of example, Boardbuzz touts this Chicago Sun-Times story noting that 142 Illinois schools did not make adequate yearly progress solely because of special education students. True enough, but the story gave no overall number for context. Looks like about 700 Illinois Title I schools are not making adequate yearly progress (that figure excludes non-Title I schools that are also not making AYP which makes the total number larger). Right now, to make AYP in Illinois a school must meet the following performance targets:

  • Schools must have 40% or more of the students’ test scores in the “meets” or “exceeds” level: Subgroups must have a 37% in reading and math.
  • Schools must have a 95% participation rate on state assessments overall and by subgroup.
  • Elementary and middle schools must have an attendance rate of 89%. High schools must have a graduation rate of 66%.

So to make AYP it takes about four in ten students reading and doing math at what IL considers grade level along with the participation and attendance/graduation rate requirements. Unreasonable? You decide. But in any event, with achievement gaps like those that exist in IL (for instance, statewide in 2003 76 percent of white students were proficient in reading by 3rd grade, but only 35 percent of black students) a lot of schools won’t meet these targets. Update II: New technology! The riddle of putting charts on blogger is now solved! The chart below shows 2002-03 3rd-grade reading proficiency numbers for IL.

Source: Standard and Poor’s

Bottom line, the IL gaps are not unique and the pressure to relax NCLB’s requirements isn’t going to ease even with these special ed “fixes.” Although the special ed accountability issue is a real one (and a complicated one), it’s not the special needs kids driving the numbers of schools not making AYP. Either we’re going to bite the bullet on disaggregated accountability or not.

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