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How ESSA improves the assessment of students with disabilities

Ensuring parents and educators are a part of the decision-making process
Published: June 25, 2020

The Every Student Succeeds Act ensures that parents’ and educators’ voices are part of decision-making at the federal, state, and local levels to support students with disabilities.

Key Provisions

Student progress disaggregation: ESSA maintains the requirement to disaggregate key data about student progress. This is key to ensuring students, including students with disabilities, receive the support they need.

IEP team recognition: The statute recognizes that the multidisciplinary individualized education program (IEP) team—which includes parents—is in the best position to make critical decisions regarding the students’ academic, assessment, and social emotional needs.

Appropriate accommodations: Students must have access to appropriate accommodations, such as the ability to use assistive technology, for assessments.

Alternative assessment caps: ESSA places a cap of one percent (1%) of the total number of all students in the state that can be assessed using alternative assessments aligned to alternative academic achievement standards for students with significant cognitive disabilities. 

The statutory language does not authorize a district-level cap on the administration of alternative assessments, but does require districts contributing to the state’s cap to submit information to the state to help the state justify its need to exceed such cap. If a state exceeds the cap, it must apply to the U.S. Department of Education for a waiver from ESSA’s provisions.

Opt-outs of academic assessments: The new law acknowledges the right of parents and guardians to opt their children out of statewide academic assessments where state and/or local policies allow them to do so.

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