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No Educator Left Behind:
Testing Special Ed Students

No Educator Left Behind is a series providing answers from the U.S. Department of Education to questions about the federal No Child Left Behind Act and how it will affect educators. If you have a question about No Child Left Behind, send an e-mail to Ellen Delisio, and we will submit your question to the Department of Education.


Is it fair to give special education and regular students the same test and expect the same results?


By regularly testing students with special needs and disabilities, schools can see whether the additional resources they receive for special education are translating into academic improvement and the opportunity for students to lead successful and independent lives. When students with disabilities are part of the accountability system, educators' expectations for these students are more likely to increase. In fact, under the No Child Left Behind Act, students with disabilities are receiving more classroom time and attention, according to the Center on Education Policy. And we know from research that when students with disabilities are excluded from school accountability measures, the rates of referral of students for special education increase dramatically. (See National Center for Educational Outcomes Synthesis 26)

In other words, we're helping educators realize that students with disabilities can learn and must be counted. Of course, we understand that some students, because of their disability, may need to take an alternate assessment. Under NCLB, and using state-established guidelines that are consistent with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Individualized Education Plan (IEP) teams make the determination regarding which students will take an alternate assessment.

Read previous questions and answers in our No Educator Left Behind archive.