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Recommendation: Decisions about how students with disabilities will participate in large-scale assessments should be guided by criteria that are as systematic and objective as possible. They should also be applied on a case-by-case basis as part of the child's individual education program and consistent with the instructional accommodations that the child receives.
Recommendation: If a student with disabilities is subject to an assessment used for promotion or graduation decisions, the IEP team should ensure that the curriculum and instruction received by the student through the individual education program is aligned with test content and that the student has had adequate opportunity to learn the material covered by the test.2
Although the basic principle should be to include all students with disabilities in the large-scale assessments, and to provide accommodations to enable them to do so, some number of students is likely to need to participate in a different or substantially modified assessment; the size of this group will depend on the nature of the assessment and the content being assessed. Obtaining meaningful information about the educational achievement and progress of these students is difficult. However, when the stakes are high, such as in deciding whether a student receives a diploma, it is critical for students who cannot take the test to have alternate ways of demonstrating proficiency. For students whose curriculum differs substantially from the general curriculum, there may also be a need to develop meaningful alternative credentials that can validly convey the nature of the student's accomplishments.
Recommendation: Students who cannot participate in a large-scale assessment should have alternate ways of demonstrating proficiency.
Recommendation: Because a test score may not be a valid representation of the skills and achievement of students with disabilities, high-stakes decisions about these students should consider other sources of evidence such as grades, teacher recommendations, and other examples of student work.
To the extent that tracking decisions are based on readiness rather than mastery, there might not be any need to assume that the student has been exposed to particular curricular content. Thus, this recommendation does not pertain to tracking decisions.