2008-2009 APR Snapshot #1: 

State Assessment Participation and Performance of Special Education Students

Jason Altman Miong Vang Martha Thurlow

January 2012

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

Altman, J., Vang, M., & Thurlow, M. (2012). 2008-2009 APR snapshot #1: State assessment participation and performance of special education students. 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 special education students in statewide assessments used for Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) accountability. Using federally submitted data from the 2008-2009 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 Figures 1, 2, 3, and 4 with the click of a mouse. Data tables for all grade levels are available from NCEO at www.nceo.info/APRsnapshot/data.  Data for the unique states is not shown in the figures of this report but is available at www.nceo.info/APRsnapshot/data.


Findings

Participation in Reading

Overall special education student participation in statewide grade 8 reading assessments in all 50 states is presented in Figure 1. Special education students may participate in the regular assessment or in assessments designated for special education students only, which include the alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards (AA-AAS), the alternate assessment based on modified achievement standards (AA-MAS), and the alternate assessment based on grade-level achievement standards (AA-GLAS). Total participation rates of special education students were typically 95% or higher across all states, with the average participation rate being 97.3%. The percentages of special education students participating in other statewide assessments varied dramatically, resulting in different rates of participation in the regular assessment.

Those states with an active AA-MAS generally reported testing far fewer special education students on the regular assessment. In those states with an AA-MAS, between 22.1% and 49.7% of special education students participated in the AA-MAS.

Three states reported testing students on an AA-GLAS. The percentages of students in this assessment were relatively small, with percentages varying from 0.1% to 25.1% of all grade 8 special education students.

The AA-AAS is available in all 50 states for students with significant cognitive disabilities. The participation rate in the AA-AAS varied from 3.0% to 18.8% of special education students. The average rate across states was 8.2 percent.

In most states, the test that is taken by the majority of special education students is the regular assessment. Still, with their participation in other assessments, the participation rates of special education students in the regular assessment varied from 38.5% to 94.5%. An average of 84.5% of special education students participated in this assessment in 2008-2009 grade 8 assessments.  The average participation rate was higher at lower grade levels and lower at higher grade levels.

Participation rates in unique states that reported data varied from 93.3% to 100.0% overall (see data available at http://nceo.info/APRbriefs/data). Rates for the AA-AAS ranged from 3.6% to 12.5%. One unique state has students who take state tests in many states and for that reason reported participation rates for the AA-GLAS and AA-MAS. However, there are no other unique states that reported data for these assessments. Regular assessment participation made up the bulk of the assessment activity for students with disabilities in the unique states as well. States reported a range of 82.8% to 93.7% participation on the regular assessment.

Figure 1. Participation Rates for Eighth Grade Students with Disabilities on Reading Assessments



Participation in Mathematics

Overall special education student participation in statewide grade 8 mathematics assessments in the 50 states is presented in Figure 2. Total participation rates were typically 95% or higher across all states, with the average participation rate being 97.7%. The percentages of special education students participating in other statewide assessments varied dramatically, resulting in different rates of participation in the regular assessment.

Those states with an active alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards (AA-MAS) reported testing between 19.9% and 49.3% of special education students on the AA-MAS. These states tended to have fewer students participating in the regular assessment.

Three states reported testing students on an AA-GLAS. Participation in this assessment was relatively small, with percentages varying from 0.3% to 30.5% of all grade 8 special education students.

States tested an average of 8.3% of special education students on an alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards (AA-AAS). The range across states was from 3.2% to 18.6%.

In most states, the test taken by the majority of special education students was the regular assessment. An average of 84.6% of special education students across all 50 states for 2008-2009 participated in this assessment. As is evident in Figure 2, the range in participation was from 38.6% to 93.6%.

Participation rates in unique states that reported data varied from 92.8% to 100.0% overall (see data available at http://nceo.info/APRbriefs/data). Rates for the AA-AAS ranged from 3.6% to 10.9%. One unique state has students who take state tests in many states and for that reason reported participation rates for the AA-GLAS and AA-MAS. However, there are no other unique states that reported data for these assessments. Regular assessment participation made up the bulk of the assessment activity for students with disabilities in the unique states as well. States reported a range of 93.7% to 96.4% participation on the regular assessment.

Figure 2. Participation Rates for Eighth Grade Students with Disabilities on Mathematics Assessments


Proficiency in Reading

The percentage of special education students who scored at a proficient or above level was much more variable than participation rates across the 50 states. Proficiency rates for special education students in grade 8 in 2008-2009 ranged from 9.1% to 81.1% (see Figure 3, with states ordered according to the percentage proficient and above on the regular assessment). The average grade 8 proficiency rate across all reading assessments was 38.0%

Eighteen states reported total proficiency rates of more than 40% and eleven states reported total proficiency rates of more than 50%. Six of these states reported proficient scores for either an AA-MAS or AA-GLAS.

For special education students participating in the AA-AAS, between 0.0% and 16.1% were proficient on the AA-AAS across the 50 states (based on the all special education students, not just those participating in the AA-AAS). The average percentage of students proficient and above was 5.5%

For special education students participating in the AA-MAS (in those states that offered this assessment), between 4.9% and 34.5% (based on all special education students) were proficient. The average proficiency rate for students with disabilities in these states was 17.5%

For special education students participating in the AA-GLAS (in those states that offered this assessment), the average percentage of students proficient and above (based on all special education students) was 7.4%. The range of students proficient on this assessment in the three states offering it was from 0.2% to 21.9%.

Proficiency rates in unique states that reported assessment data varied from 6.8% to 87.1% overall (see data available at http://nceo.info/APRbriefs/data). Rates for the AA-AAS ranged from 0.0% to 6.3%. One unique state has students who take state tests in many states and for that reason reported proficiency rates for the AA-GLAS and AA-MAS. However, there are no other unique states that reported data for these assessments. Proficiency on a regular assessment made up the bulk of the overall proficiency rate for students with disabilities in the unique states. States reported a range of 2.0% to 83.5% proficiency on the regular assessment.

Figure 3. Performance Trends for Eighth Grade Students with Disabilities on Reading Assessments

 


 

Proficiency in Mathematics

The percentage of special education students who scored at a proficient or above level in mathematics was more variable than participation rates for mathematics. Proficiency rates for mathematics were generally lower than proficiency rates for reading. Figure 4 shows these rates for the 50 states, ordered by the percentage of special education students proficient and above on the regular assessment. Proficiency rates ranged from 5.1 % to 71.0 percent, with the average across all states being 32.6 percent. Thirteen states reported total proficiency rates of more than 40 % and six states reported total proficiency rates of more than 50 percent. Four of these states had reported proficient scores for either an AA-MAS or an AA-GLAS.

For special education students participating in the AA-AAS, between 0.0% and 14.9% were proficient or above (based on all students with disabilities, not just those participating in the AA-AAS). The average percentage of students proficient and above was 5.4%.

For special education students participating in the AA-MAS across the 50 states (in those states that offered this assessment), between 2.4% and 34.3% (based on all special education students) were proficient. The average student proficiency rate on this assessment was 16.6%.

For special education students participating in the AA-GLAS (in states that offered this assessment), the average percentage of students proficient and above was 9.5% (based on all special education students). The range of student proficiency on it in the three states that offered this assessment was between 0.0% and 28.1%.

Proficiency rates in unique states that reported assessment data varied from 0.9% to 51.9% overall (see data available at http://nceo.info/APRbriefs/data). Rates for the AA-AAS ranged from 0.0% to 12.1%. One unique state has students who take state tests in many states and for that reason reported proficiency rates for the AA-GLAS and AA-MAS. However, there are no other unique states that reported data for these assessments. Proficiency on a regular assessment made up the bulk of the overall proficiency rate for students with disabilities in the unique states. States reported a range of 0.9% to 51.1% proficiency on the regular assessment.

Figure 4. Performance Trends for Eighth Grade Students with Disabilities on Mathematics Assessments

 




Conclusions

The data presented in this report represent a snapshot of the participation and performance of special education students on their states' reading and math assessments. Variability identified in participation and performance rates reflects the differences in the state assessment systems themselves, including where the proficient cuts were set and whether alternate assessment options such as the AA-MAS and AA-GLAS are available for special education students.

It is also evident that special education students generally are showing higher rates of proficiency on state reading assessment as compared to state mathematics assessments. This finding is similar to previous analyses of state data (Altman, Rogers, Bremer, & Thurlow, 2010; Chudowsky, Chudowsky & Kober, 2009); and data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) (Dee & Jacob, 2009).

It is also apparent from this snapshot of the participation and performance of special education students that examining their performance levels is more complicated than it is for non-special education students. Special education students are proficient in varying rates across the different assessments offered within states. As one isolates 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 steadier between content areas).


Resources

Altman, J., Rogers, C., Bremer, C., & Thurlow, M. (2010). States challenged to meet special education targets for assessment indicator (Technical Report 55). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, National Center on Educational Outcomes.

Chudowsky N., Chudowsky V., & Kober, N. (2009) State Test Score Trends Through 2007-08, Part 4: Has Progress Been Made in Raising Achievement for Students with Disabilities? Washington D. C.: Center on Education Policy.

Dee, T., & Jacob, B. (2009). The impact of No Child Left Behind on student achievement (NBER Working Paper No. 15531). Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research (see www.nber.org/papers/W15531).