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Inclusion. The assessments should provide a means of including all students; alternate assessments should be used only when students are so cognitively impaired that their curriculum is qualitatively different from that of students in the regular education program. The state or district should provide accommodations for those who can participate in the regular assessment.
Appropriateness. States and districts need to ensure that accommodations meet the needs of students, and that tests administered under different conditions represent accurate measures of students' knowledge and skills.
Documentation. States and districts should develop and document policies regarding the basis for assigning accommodations to students and for reporting the results of students who have taken tests with accommodations.
The following two examples describe state policies for assessing students with disabilities. Each sets as a goal including such students in the assessments, and each specifies the criteria for the use of accommodations. State policies should also call for documentation of the use of accommodations and for reporting results for students administered accommodated assessments.
According to Maryland state policy, “all students have a legal right to be included to the fullest extent possible in all statewide assessment programs and to have their assessment results be a part of Maryland's accountability system.” To accomplish this goal, the state department of education has developed guidelines for when students should receive accommodations, which accommodations are permissible for which tests, and when students may be excused or exempted from the tests.
Under the policy, accommodations:
Enable students to participate more fully in assessments and to better demonstrate their knowledge and skills;
Must be based on individual students' needs and not a category of disability, level of intensity, level of instruction, time spent in mainstream classroom, or program setting;
Must be justified and documented in the individualized education program (IEP);
Must not invalidate the assessment for which they are granted.
Students may be excused from assessments if they demonstrate “inordinate frustration, distress or disruption of others.” Decisions to exempt students must be made during an IEP committee meeting. Students who are not pursuing Maryland Learning Outcomes may be exempted.
Excused students are counted in the denominator for determining