Washington, DC− The U.S. Department of education recently announced rule changes aimed at monitoring and prioritizing the progress of students with disabilities, including those with autism.
“The recent rule changes from the Department of Education are a significant step to ensure that every student with autism receives the support they need to reach their full potential and that begins with inclusion and prioritizing the academic progress of every student including those with disabilities,” said Angela Lello, member of the Autism Speaks’ federal advocacy team.
The new rules disallow states from testing students with disabilities with modified academic standards. Advocates point out that alternative academic standards have not encouraged school districts to monitor and invest in students with disabilities. Schools are allowed to modify testing procedures but now must assess all students’ progress towards the same academic standards. That way, parents and teachers will be able to monitor how well students with autism are learning as compared to their same-age peers as well as access the curriculum required to earn a diploma.
Read more on the IDEA and ESEA and the autism community.
Until the most recent reauthorization of ESEA in 2001, called the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), students with disabilities were excluded from state assessments and accountability systems, inhibiting access and exposure to the general curriculum leaving many parents without relevant tools to monitor their child’s academic progress.
Under the NCLB a state-by-state accountability system as much as 2% of students could be considered grade level proficient under modified testing standards, but the recent rule change removes that allowances after a one year adjustment period.
“We believe that the removal of the authority for states to define modified academic achievement standards and to administer assessments based on those standards is necessary to ensure that students with disabilities are held to the same high standards as their non-disabled peers,” said the Department of Education.
The agency suggested that broader testing will hold school districts accountable for the academic progress of all students including many that are capable of reaching grade-level proficiency with proper supports.
The ruling did note that the changes do not prevent states that “develop and administer alternate assessments based on alternate academic achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities or alternate assessments based on grade-level academic achievement standards” in accordance with Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA); the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA); or the Individualized Education Program (IEP).
The newly changed US Department of Education rules also highlighted the pressing need for reauthorizing the ESEA improving academic gains made by students with disabilities. To get involved with ESEA advocacy and all Autism Speaks advocacy efforts sign up for Autism Votes HERE and follow us on at @AutismVotes.