Our review of policies and procedures for identifying students with disabilities and English language learners and for including and accommodating these students in NAEP and other large-scale assessments has revealed a large amount of variability both among and within states and between the states and NAEP. We recognize that the task of standardizing inclusion and accommodation policies is not a small one, but in our judgment improvements can be made.

Greater uniformity in these procedures is important for several reasons. First, in the context of NAEP, the integrity of NAEP samples, and consequently the accuracy of its data, depend on the consistency with which students are identified as students with disabilities or as English language learners, as well as on the consistency with which they are included in and accommodated for NAEP testing around the country. The integrity of the samples is of paramount importance for data regarding students with disabilities and English language learners, but it also affects the validity of NAEP data about the population as a whole and other subgroups as well.

At the same time there exists the possibility that greater attention to the data regarding students with disabilities and English language learners provided by NAEP, and the factors that complicate interpretation of these data, may raise difficult questions for NAEP. To date, litigation concerning accommodations has primarily been related to so-called high-stakes tests, whose results are used in decisions about promotion, graduation, and placement for individual students. There have been no legal challenges to NAEP because its results are not used to make high-stakes decisions. However, as NAEP continues to be viewed as a tool for evaluating how the nation’s students are progressing in the context of the goals for the No Child Left Behind Act, its conclusion and accommodation policies may need to be sharpened and aligned with those of state assessment systems.

In the committee’s view, it is important to know the extent to which the percentages in the NAEP reports correspond to the percentages of students with disabilities and English language learners reported in other sources. The committee believes that many states are undertaking additional efforts at collecting such data, partly in response to the requirements of such legislation as the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. We encourage all parties (NAEP as well as state and federal agencies) to collect and compile such data so that the desired comparisons can be made.

Specifically, the committee takes note of the following circumstances:

FINDING 4-1: Decision making regarding the inclusion or exclusion of students and the use of accommodations for NAEP is controlled at the school level. There is variability in the way these decisions are made, both across schools within a state and across states.

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