NASET News Alert

Spelling Announces New Guidelines

May 26, 2006

Spellings Announces New Special Education Guidelines, Details Workable, "Common-Sense" Policy to Help States Implement No Child Left Behind


Guidelines reflect the latest scientific research to help students with disabilities


States continue to be accountable for results of all students


U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings has announced the details of a new No Child Left Behind policy designed to help states better assist students with disabilities, and pledged to continue working with states to ensure they have the flexibility needed to raise student achievement. The guidelines follow up on the Secretary's announcement last month to chief state school officers that she would provide states with additional alternatives and flexibility to implement No Child Left Behind.

The new guidelines reflect the latest scientific research that shows 2 percent of students with academic disabilities can make progress toward grade-level standards when they receive high-quality instruction and modified assessments. Under the new flexibility option announced today, eligible states may adjust their state-set progress goals to reflect the need for modified assessments; this is a separate policy from the current regulation that allows up to 1 percent of all students being tested (those with the most significant cognitive disabilities) to take an alternate assessment.

"There is a new equation at the Department of Education: the 'bright-line' principles of No Child Left Behind, such as annual testing and reporting of subgroup data, plus student achievement and a narrowing of the achievement gap, plus overall sound state education policies, equals a new, common-sense approach to implementation of the law. Today's special education guidance is the first example of this new approach," Secretary Spellings said.

"Under this policy, to be made final under a new rule, students with academic disabilities will be allowed to take tests that are specifically geared toward their abilities, as long as the state is working to best serve those students by providing rigorous research-based training for teachers, improving assessments and organizing collaboration between special education and classroom teachers," Secretary Spellings continued. "If you stand up for the kids and provide better instruction and assessment, we will stand by you.

"Recent research from the National Institutes of Health indicates clearly that good instruction actually improves how the student learns. New evidence-based instructional programs geared toward the needs of individual children are opening educational doors for students who never before had a chance to succeed academically. Recent advances in medical interventions also hold considerable promise for many of our students with the most significant disabilities."

The new guidelines outline the process for how eligible states can implement this new policy in the short term until the Department issues final regulations on the policy.

Short-Term Options

States that meet the eligibility guidelines can adjust their 2005-06 school year state-set progress goals (Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP) for students with disabilities, based on the 2004-05 school year assessments. This option applies only to schools or districts that did not make AYP based solely on the scores of its students with disabilities subgroup. Eligible states that currently assess students based on modified achievement standards will be able to use those assessments for AYP calculations this year. Only states that intend to develop modified achievement standards and assessments are eligible for short-term flexibility.

The eligibility guidelines include:

Each state must meet Title I and IDEA requirements that are directly related to achievement and instruction for the full range of students with disabilities, including:


Statewide participation rates for students with disabilities, for purposes of measuring AYP, must be at or above 95 percent;


Appropriate accommodations must be available for students with disabilities
Alternate assessments in reading/language arts and mathematics must be available for students with disabilities who are unable to participate in the regular assessment, even with accommodations, and results from those assessments must be reported; and


The state's subgroup size for students with disabilities must be equal to that of other student groups.


Each state would request to amend their accountability plan and provide details on their actions taken to raise achievement for students with disabilities, and evidence that such efforts are improving student achievement.

Long Term Policy

The Department is working on a regulation to implement the new policy and will release a notice of proposed rulemaking to seek comments from local school districts, parents and others before finalizing a regulation.

The goal of the regulations is to:

Ensure that states hold these students to challenging, though modified, achievement standards that enable them to approach, and even meet, grade-level standards;

Ensure access to the general curriculum to ensure students are taught to the same high standards;

Measure progress with high-quality alternate assessments so parents are confident that their students are learning and achieving;

Provide guidance and training to Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams to identify these students properly; and

Provide professional development to regular and special education teachers.

States must continue meeting the requirements of NCLB related to students with disabilities.

To increase the state's ability to provide rigorous assessment, instruction, and accountability for students with disabilities, the Department of Education will direct $14 million to improve assessments, help teachers with instruction, and conduct research for students with disabilities who are held to alternate and modified achievement standards in 2005. Additional funds will be directed in 2006.

No Child Left Behind is the bipartisan landmark education reform law designed to change the culture of America's schools by closing the achievement gap among groups of students, offering more flexibility to states, giving parents more options and teaching students based on what works. Under the law's strong accountability provisions, states must describe how they will close the achievement gap and make sure all students, including those with disabilities, achieve academically.

More information about the new policy and the No Child Left Behind Act is available at www.ed.gov.



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