The Autistic Self Advocacy Network praises the US Department of Education for its newly issued Final Rule, eliminating the ability of states to apply assessments based on modified academic achievement standards for 2 percent of students. The shift away from modified assessments represents an important affirmation of the need for high academic standards for students with disabilities, ensuring that disabled students are not isolated from the general education classroom and curriculum.
Research has shown that students with disabilities who lack access to high quality standardized assessments are often ignored by their schools, receiving a substandard education and tracked into alternative diploma programs with limited credibility or impact in the workforce. We applaud the US Department of Education for taking action on their long-standing commitment to eliminate the modified assessment.
At the same time, ASAN take note of the continued over-utilization of the alternative assessment for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. Students taking the alternative assessment are frequently tracked into segregated classrooms and away from general education diplomas. Many are denied access to basic components of the general education curriculum, including literacy instruction. Furthermore, a significant percentage of students taking the alternative assessment have never received a comprehensive Augmentative and Alternative Communication assessment, raising questions as to whether or not their classification as among those “with the most significant cognitive disabilities” is accurate.
We urge the Department to consider taking further action regarding the alternative assessment, to curb and reform its usage. Students taking the alternative assessment should still have access to the general education classroom and curriculum, as well as the full array of services required under IDEA, including communication support and literacy instruction.