2016-2017 APR Snapshot # 19:

State Assessment Participation and Performance of Students Receiving Special Education Services

Yi-Chen Wu and Martha Thurlow

July, 2019

All rights reserved. Any or all portions of this document may be reproduced and distributed without prior permission, provided the source is cited as:

Wu, Y.-C. & Thurlow, M. L. (2019). 2016-2017 APR snapshot #19: State assessment participation and performance of students receiving special education services. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, National Center on Educational Outcomes.


Table of Contents


Background

This brief provides a snapshot of the participation and performance of students receiving special education services in statewide assessments used for Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) accountability. Using federally submitted data for the 2016-17 school year, we present information on participation and performance in reading and mathematics statewide assessments administered to grade 8 students. Figures displaying statewide assessment data for other grades are provided in this report following each figure. Data tables for all grade levels are available at www.cehd.umn.edu/nceo/APRsnapshot/data.

Calculations for this brief used only data available through state-submitted Annual Performance Reports (APRs). Thus, the denominator for calculating participation and proficiency rates was the number of enrolled students with disabilities. The number of enrolled students was calculated by adding together the number of students with disabilities participating in each of a state’s assessments, plus any students with medical exemptions and any students who did not participate in an assessment. Typically, the state assessments included the regular assessment and the alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards (AA-AAS). In some states other assessments were also available, most notably an alternate assessment based on grade-level achievement standards (AA-GLAS). The number of enrolled students with disabilities was calculated separately for reading and mathematics assessments for each grade level.

Throughout this brief, we use the term “students with disabilities” to refer to students receiving special education services. Thus, students on 504 accommodation plans are not included in these analyses.

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Findings

Participation in Reading

Overall participation of students with disabilities in statewide grade 8 reading assessments in the regular states is presented in Figure 1. One state is not included in this figure because the needed data were suppressed for data quality issues.

In 2016-17, students with disabilities could participate in the regular assessment or in an alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards (AA-AAS). Two states reported testing students in an alternate assessment based on grade-level achievement standards (AA-GLAS). The percentages of students in the AA-GLAS were relatively small, with one state having a participation rate of 0.2% and the other 0.03% of all grade 8 students with disabilities. For the remainder of this brief, the AA-GLAS data are combined with the regular assessment data. AA-GLAS data are reported separately in the data tables.

Total participation rates of students with disabilities (in regular and alternate assessments) were typically 90% or higher across the 49 regular states. The range in participation rates was from 65.8% to 95.2%, with the average participation rate being 95.2%.

The AA-AAS for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities was available in all of the 49 states with data available. Participation rates in the AA-AAS varied from 5.2% to 18.3% of all students with disabilities (including those in the regular assessments). The average rate across states was 9.5% of students with disabilities. The percentages of students with disabilities participating in the AA-AAS varied dramatically, resulting in different rates of participation in the regular assessment.

The test that is taken by the majority of students with disabilities in all states is the regular assessment. Still, with the participation of some students with disabilities (i.e., those with the most significant cognitive disabilities) in an AA-AAS, the participation rates of students with disabilities in the regular assessment varied from 57.5% to 91.8%. An average of 85.7% of students with disabilities participated in the regular grade 8 reading assessment in 2016-17. The average participation rate was higher at lower grade levels and lower at higher grade levels.

Figure 1. 2016-17 Participation Rates for Eighth Grade Students with Disabilities in Reading Assessments for Regular States

Figure 1 Grade 8

Grades 3 - 7 and High School Reading. Click the images to enlarge.

Grade 3 Grade 4 Grade 5 Grade 6 Grade 7 Grade HS
Grade 3 Grade 4 Grade 5 Grade 6 Grade 7 Grade HS

Ten unique states reported data in grade 8 reading assessments, with one unique state only reporting participation data for the AA-AAS (see Figure 2). Overall participation rates of students with disabilities in grade 8 reading assessments (across all assessments) in unique states that reported data (n=9) varied from 67.7% to 100.0% (see data available at www.cehd.umn.edu/nceo/APRsnapshot/data).

Participation rates for the AA-AAS in the unique states varied from 0% to 15.1% of students with disabilities. Regular assessment participation made up the bulk of the assessment activity for students with disabilities in the unique states. These states reported a range of 65.9% to 100.0% participation in the regular assessment at the 8th grade level.

Figure 2. 2016-17 Participation Rates for Eighth Grade Students with Disabilities in Reading Assessments for Unique States

Figure 2 Grade 8

Grades 3 - 7 and High School Reading. Click the images to enlarge.

Grade 3 Grade 4 Grade 5 Grade 6 Grade 7 Grade HS
Grade 3 Grade 4 Grade 5 Grade 6 Grade 7 Grade HS

 

Participation in Mathematics

Overall participation of students with disabilities in statewide grade 8 mathematics assessments in the regular states is presented in Figure 3. One state is not included in this figure because regular assessment data were suppressed for data quality.

Total participation rates for students with disabilities (across all assessments) were typically 90% or higher across the 49 regular states; they ranged from 64.6% to 99.5%, with the average participation rate being 95.1%. One state reported testing students on an AA-GLAS. The percentage of students in this assessment was relatively small, with a participation rate of 0.04% for grade 8 students with disabilities. As for reading, the mathematics AA-GLAS data are combined with the regular assessment data in the remainder of this brief. AA-GLAS data are reported separately in the data tables.

States tested an average of 9.7% of all students with disabilities (including students in other assessments) on an AA-AAS. The range across states was from 5.2% to 18.6%. The percentages of students with disabilities participating in the AA-AAS varied dramatically, resulting in different rates of participation in the regular assessment.

In most states, the test taken by the majority of students with disabilities was the regular assessment. An average of 85.4% of students with disabilities across the 49 states with data participated in this assessment. The range in participation was from 56.5% to 91.5%.

Figure 3. 2016-17 Participation Rates for Eighth Grade Students with Disabilities in Mathematics Assessments for Regular States

Figure 3 Grade 8

Grades 3 - 7 and High School Mathematics. Click the images to enlarge.

Grade 3 Grade 4 Grade 5 Grade 6 Grade 7 Grade HS
Grade 3 Grade 4 Grade 5 Grade 6 Grade 7 Grade HS

Ten unique states reported participation data for grade 8 mathematics assessments, with one unique state only reporting participation data for the AA-AAS. Overall participation rates of students with disabilities in grade 8 mathematics assessments (both regular and AA-AAS) in unique states (n = 9) that reported data varied from 57.1% to 100.0% (see data available at www.cehd.umn.edu/nceo/APRsnapshot/data).

Participation rates for the AA-AAS at the 8th grade level in unique states ranged from 0% to 100.0%. Regular assessment participation made up the bulk of the assessment activity for students with disabilities in the unique states. These states reported a range of 47.1% to 100.0% participation in the regular assessment at the 8th grade level.

Figure 4. 2016-17 Participation Rates for Eighth Grade Students with Disabilities in Mathematics Assessments for Unique States

Figure 4 Grade 8

Grades 3 - 7 and High School Mathematics. Click the images to enlarge.

Grade 3 Grade 4 Grade 5 Grade 6 Grade 7 Grade HS
Grade 3 Grade 4 Grade 5 Grade 6 Grade 7 Grade HS

 

Proficiency in Reading

Proficiency rates were calculated for each assessment. If a state reported information for either the regular assessment or AA-AAS alone, the proficiency rate was calculated based on that assessment; all of these results are included in this brief. In total, 49 states were included for reading proficiency (see Figure 5)—46 states reported both regular assessment and AA-AAS data, and three states reported regular assessment data only (AA-AAS results were suppressed due to small cell size).

Overall proficiency rates for students with disabilities in grade 8 (across all reading assessments) ranged from 6.2% to 44.8% (see Figure 5, with states ordered according to the percentage proficient or above on the regular assessment), with the average proficiency rate being 15.3%. Three states reported overall proficiency rates of more than 30%; only one of these states reported a total proficiency rate of 40% or more.

For students with disabilities participating in the AA-AAS, the average percentage proficient and above was 5.0%.

Proficiency rates on the regular assessment varied from 2.7% to 33.4%. An average of 10.2% of students with disabilities were at or above the proficient level on regular grade 8 assessments across 49 states in 2016-17.

Figure 5. 2016-17 Performance Trends for Eighth Grade Students with Disabilities on Reading Assessments for Regular States

Figure 5 Grade 8

Grades 3 - 7 and High School Reading. Click the images to enlarge.

Grade 3 Grade 4 Grade 5 Grade 6 Grade 7 Grade HS
Grade 3 Grade 4 Grade 5 Grade 6 Grade 7 Grade HS

Ten unique states reported proficiency information for reading assessments. Only four unique states had proficiency rates calculated for both the regular assessment and AA-AAS. Data for both the regular assessments and AA-AAS in four unique states were suppressed because of small cell size; another unique state did not report performance information for the regular assessment with its performance data were suppressed for the AA-AAS due to small cell size, and the other state only had performance data for regular assessments (data for the AA-AAS were not reported).

Figure 6 presents proficiency rates for unique states, with states ordered according to the percentage proficient or above on the regular assessment. Five unique states are included in this figure--four unique states reported data for both the regular assessment and the AA-AAS, and one unique state reported only data for the regular assessment. Overall proficiency rates in unique states that reported 2016-17 assessment data varied from 6.5% to 95.7% (see data available at www.cehd.umn.edu/nceo/APRsnapshot/data).

Four unique states reported proficiency rates for the AA-AAS. These states reported a range of 1.6% to 12.9% (based on all students with disabilities, not just those in the AA-AAS).
Proficiency on the regular assessment made up the bulk of the overall proficiency rate for students with disabilities in the unique states. These states reported a range of 2.9% to 82.8% proficient on the regular assessment.

Figure 6. 2016-17 Performance Trends for Eighth Grade Students with Disabilities on Reading Assessments for Unique States

Figure 6 Grade 8

Grades 3 - 7 and High School Reading. Click the images to enlarge.

Grade 3 Grade 4 Grade 5 Grade 6 Grade 7 Grade HS
Grade 3 Grade 4 Grade 5 Grade 6 Grade 7 Grade HS

 

Proficiency in Mathematics

A total of 49 regular states had performance data for mathematics 2016-17 assessments (see Figure 7). One state was not included because the number of students at or above the proficient level was suppressed due to quality issues. Forty-nine states had performance data on both regular assessments and AA-AAS. Two of these states had small numbers for AA-AAS performance data, so the AA-AAS proficiency rates were not calculated. Overall proficiency rates for students with disabilities in grade 8 (across regular and AA-AAS) in the regular states were generally lower than proficiency rates for reading.

Figure 7 shows mathematics performance for states ordered according to the percentage of students with disabilities proficient or above on the regular assessment. Proficiency rates ranged from 3.1% to 51.2%, with the average across the 49 states with proficiency rates calculated for both regular and AA-AAS being 12.6%. Two states reported overall proficiency rates of more than 30% and one of them reported a proficiency rate of more than 50%.

For students with disabilities participating in the AA-AAS, between 0.2% and 13.9% were proficient or above on the AA-AAS across the 47 states with complete data (based on all students with disabilities, not just those participating in the AA-AAS). The average percentage of students taking the AA-AAS who were proficient and above was 4.3% across 47 states.

Proficiency rates on the regular assessment varied from 2.5% to 40.2%. An average of 8.3% of students with disabilities was at or above the proficient level on regular grade 8 assessments across 49 states in 2016-17.

Figure 7. 2016-17 Performance Trends for Eighth Grade Students with Disabilities on Mathematics Assessments for Regular States

Figure 7 Grade 8

Grades 3 - 7 and High School Mathematics. Click the images to enlarge.

Grade 3 Grade 4 Grade 5 Grade 6 Grade 7 Grade HS
Grade 3 Grade 4 Grade 5 Grade 6 Grade 7 Grade HS

Nine unique states reported proficiency information for mathematics assessments. Only four unique states had proficiency rates calculated for both the regular assessment and AA-AAS. Data for both the regular assessments and AA-AAS in three unique states were suppressed because of small cell size; another unique state only had performance data for the AA-AAS (data for the regular assessments were suppressed because of small sample sizes), and the other state only had performance data for regular assessments (data for the AA-AAS in these states were suppressed because of small cell sizes).

Overall proficiency rates in unique states that reported 2016-17 mathematics assessment data varied from 5.7% to 92.5% (see data available at www.cehd.umn.edu/nceo/APRsnapshot/data).

Five unique states reported proficiency rates for mathematics at grade 8 on the AA-AAS. These ranged from 1.6% to 11.8% (based on all students with disabilities, not only those taking the AA-AAS). The average rate was 5.8%.

Only five unique states reported proficiency rates on their regular assessments in grade 8. These ranged from 1.7% to 80.6% with the average rate of 19.4% (based on all students with disabilities).

Figure 8. 2016-17 Performance Trends for Eighth Grade Students with Disabilities on Mathematics Assessments for Unique States

Figure 8 Grade 8

Grades 3 - 7 and High School Mathematics. Click the images to enlarge.

Grade 3 Grade 4 Grade 5 Grade 6 Grade 7 Grade HS
Grade 3 Grade 4 Grade 5 Grade 6 Grade 7 Grade HS

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Conclusions

The data presented in this report represent a snapshot of the participation and performance of students receiving special education services on their states’ reading and mathematics assessments. Forty-nine regular states and nine unique states had participation data available for analysis for both reading and math. Forty-nine regular states had proficiency data for both reading and math assessments, and five unique states and six unique states, respectively, had proficiency data for reading and mathematics assessments available for analysis. Variability identified in participation and performance rates reflects the differences in the state assessment systems themselves, including where the proficient cuts were set and the rates of students participating in the AA-AAS.

In most of the regular states, students with disabilities at the earlier grade levels generally showed higher rates of proficiency on state mathematics assessments compared to their performance on state reading assessments. As the grade level increases, more states’ students with disabilities showed higher proficiency rates in reading than in math. This same pattern was found in previous years’ APR snapshots (Thurlow & Wu, 2016, Thurlow & Wu, 2018; Wu & Thurlow, 2017). In the 2015 and 2017 NAEP results (The Nation’s Report Card, n.d.-a, n.d.-b, n.d.-c, n.d.-d) more students with disabilities showed proficient performance at the lower grades compared to the higher grades on reading (e.g., 12% at grade 4 and 10% at grade 8 in 2017) and mathematics (e.g., 16% at grade 4 and 9% at grade 8 in 2017).

It is apparent from this snapshot of the participation and performance of students with disabilities that examining their performance levels is more complicated than it is for students not receiving special education services because the participation and performance data are not only from the regular assessment, but also from an alternate assessment. Students with disabilities are proficient in varying rates across the different assessments offered within states. In just looking at the regular assessment, it becomes apparent that the scores on this assessment are likely a major reason for that discrepancy (whereas performance on alternate assessments may be more consistent across content areas). This complexity is not necessarily reflected in public reports of participation and performance (Lazarus, Albus, & Thurlow, 2016; Thurlow, Albus, & Lazarus, 2017; Albus, Liu, Thurlow, & Lazarus, 2019).

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Resources

Albus, D., Liu, K., Thurlow, M., & Lazarus, S. (2019) 2016-17 publicly reported assessment results for students with disabilities and ELs with disabilities (NCEO Report 411). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, National Center on Educational Outcomes.

Lazarus, S. S., Thurlow, M. L., & Edwards, L. M. (2013). States' flexibility plans for phasing out the Alternate Assessment Based on Modified Academic Achievement Standards (AA-MAS) by 2014-15 (Synthesis Report 89). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, National Center on Educational Outcomes.

Lazarus, S. S., Albus, D., & Thurlow, M. L. (2016). 2013-14 publicly reported assessment results for students with disabilities and ELLs with disabilities (NCEO Report 401). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, National Center on Educational Outcomes.

The Nation’s Report Card. (n.d.-a). NAEP Reading Report Card: National Achievement-Level Results (4th grade). Retrieved April 2, 2019, from https://www.nationsreportcard.gov/reading_2017/nation/achievement?grade=4

The Nation’s Report Card. (n.d.-b). NAEP Reading Report Card: National Achievement-Level Results (8th grade). Retrieved April 2, 2019, from https://www.nationsreportcard.gov/reading_2017/nation/achievement?grade=8

The Nation’s Report Card. (n.d.-c).NAEP Mathematics Report Card: National Achievement-Level Results (4th grade). Retrieved April 2, 2019, from https://www.nationsreportcard.gov/math_2017/nation/achievement?grade=4

The Nation’s Report Card. (n.d.-d). NAEP Mathematics Report Card: National Achievement-Level Results (8th grade). Retrieved April 2, 2019, from https://www.nationsreportcard.gov/math_2017/nation/achievement?grade=8

Thurlow, M. L., Albus, D. A., & Lazarus, S. S. (2017). 2014-15 publicly reported assessment results for students with disabilities and ELs with disabilities (NCEO Report 405). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, National Center on Educational Outcomes.

Thurlow, M. L., & Wu, Y.-C. (2016). 2013-2014 APR snapshot #10: State assessment participation and performance of students receiving special education services. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, National Center on Educational Outcomes.

Wu, Y.-C., & Thurlow, M. L. (2017). 2014-2015 APR snapshot #13: State assessment participation and performance of students receiving special education services. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, National Center on Educational Outcomes.

Thurlow, M. L., & Wu, Y.-C. (2018). 2015-16 APR snapshot #16: State assessment participation and performance of students receiving special education services. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, National Center on Educational Outcomes.