National Assessment of Educational Progress Exclusion Rates for Students with Disabilities

GAO-06-194R: Published: Oct 28, 2005. Publicly Released: Oct 28, 2005.

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In July 2005, we issued a report entitled No Child Left Behind Act: Most Students with Disabilities Participated in Statewide Assessments, but Inclusion Options Could Be Improved (GAO-05-618) in response to a Congressional request for information about inclusion of students with disabilities in the statewide assessments. We found that most states were including these students in the assessments. In addition, we reviewed the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) data to determine the extent to which students with disabilities were included in this assessment. Also called "The Nation's Report Card," the NAEP has been used to track trends in student achievement over time or to compare student performance in a particular state with the national average. With the assistance of Department of Education (Education) officials, we interpreted that in 2002 five percent of students with disabilities were excluded from the NAEP reading assessment.

Two months after the report's issuance, Education provided us with new information regarding how the NAEP data concerning the exclusion of students with disabilities should be interpreted. In reviewing this information, we determined that the exclusion rate for students with disabilities was much higher than previously reported, with about 40 percent of the students with disabilities who were part of the 2002 NAEP reading assessment sample excluded from the actual testing. In addition, the percentages of students with disabilities who were excluded from the testing varied by grade. For example: 40 percent of students with disabilities were excluded from the grade 4 assessment; 37 percent of students with disabilities were excluded from the grade 8 assessment; and 43 percent of students with disabilities were excluded from the grade 12 assessment. This high exclusion rate underscores the importance of the recommendation in our report that NAEP explore strategies to reduce the number of students with disabilities who are excluded from the assessment.

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