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IDEA in Practice

By Mary Beth Klotz

Common Core State Standards: New Assessments to Replace Existing State Tests

The Common Core State Standards initiative represents one of the most significant education reform efforts in recent U.S. history. The Common Core Standards are a single set of national standards for K–12 English language arts and mathematics that were developed by the National Governors Association and the National Association of Chief State School Officers. To date, the standards have been adopted by 43 states and the District of Columbia. New assessment systems are being developed that align with the Common Core Standards and will replace existing state assessments under ESEA. The U.S. Department of Education funded two consortia groups at the $330 million level as part of the “Race to the Top” competition to develop this new generation of tests. The SMARTER Balance Assessment Consortium (SBAC) consists of 31 states working together to develop adaptive online exams that will use open source technology. The system will include the required summative exams, optional formative or benchmark exams, and tools and resources for informal ongoing assessments. The second consortium, Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), consists of 25 states and the District of Columbia. The PARCC assessment system will be computer-based and include both formative tests given at key times during the school year and more streamlined summative tests given at the end of the year. The plan is for the new assessment systems to be implemented in the 2014–2015 school year. The SBAC and PARCC assessment systems will utilize universal design for learning principles and will be given to all students, including English language learners, and students with disabilities. The only exception will be students with the most significant cognitive disabilities (who represent less than 1% of students), who will continue to be instructed with alternate achievement standards and alternate assessments. Two additional consortia were awarded grants to develop alternative assessments for students with significant cognitive disabilities (see IDEA in Practice, January/February 2011).

NASP is participating in national discussions and working with coalition partners to formulate recommendations for the implementation of the Common Core Standards, including implementation with students with disabilities. For additional information, see:

RTI Funding Guidance

The National Center on Response to Intervention has released a new resource, “Response to Intervention (RTI): Funding Questions and Answers” (http://www .rti4success.org). This document provides written responses from Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) on the use of IDEA funds for the implementation of RTI and answers eight commonly asked questions on funding RTI.

OSEP Memo: RTI Process Cannot Delay or Deny Initial Evaluations

OSEP recently issued a memo (http:// rti4success.org/images/stories/RTI%20 Memo_1-21-11r.pdf ) to the State Directors of Special Education stipulating that an RTI process cannot be used to delay or deny an evaluation for eligibility under IDEA. It was noted that in some instances it has been reported that local education agencies (LEAs) may be using RTI strategies to delay or deny a timely initial evaluation for children suspected of having a disability. While the memo affirms that states must permit the use of a process based on the child’s response to scientific, researchbased intervention as part of the criteria for specific learning disability identification, it also clarifies that if the LEA agrees with a referral for evaluation for special education and related services, the LEA must evaluate the child. Although IDEA does not prescribe a specific time frame from referral for evaluation to parental consent, it has been the Department of Education’s longstanding policy that the LEA must seek parental consent within a reasonable time after the referral for evaluation. An LEA must conduct the initial evaluation within 60 days of receiving parental consent for evaluation, or within the state time frame, if the state has established a different time line. Furthermore, it would be inconsistent with IDEA evaluation provisions for an LEA to reject a referral and delay provision of an initial evaluation on the basis that a child has not participated in an RTI framework.

P-21 Education Pipeline

The P-21 Education Pipeline refers to the idea that federal, state, and local educational systems must be coordinated to serve all students for a lifetime of learning. States across the country are working to better align their education programs from preschool through postsecondary education. NASP is helping lead the IDEA Partnership’s activities on how general education and special education can work together to further P-21 goals.