IDEA in Practice

Volume 44 Issue 1

By Mary Beth Klotz

Public Reporting: Online Assessment Outcomes for Students With Disabilities

The National Center on Educational Outcomes recently released their 16th report that analyzes how states publicly report online assessment data for students with disabilities in K-12 schools (Albus, Lazarus, & Thurlow, 2015). According to IDEA and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), states are required to disaggregate participation and performance data at the state level for all subgroups, even if the state received an ESEA flexibility waiver. This report presents information publicly reported for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 10 other areas including the Bureau of Indian Education, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. While the availability and type of data disclosed by each state varied, the report found that the achievement gaps in reading and mathematics between students with and without disabilities continue to be significant. There were smaller overall gaps in elementary reading and mathematics than at the middle school and high school levels. At the middle school and high school levels, the average gaps across states spanned from 36 percentage points to 41 percentage points for 2012-2013. Because states vary in the methods they use to publicly report data, this influences the achievement gaps reported. Those states with "all students," which included students with IEPs within the comparison group, tended to show smaller gaps compared to states using students without IEPs as the comparison group. Other factors that influence the size of achievement gaps include whether a state has alternate assessments based on alternate or modified achievement standards, the percentage of students taking an alternate assessment instead of the general assessment, and how these data are reported. To improve transparency in public reporting of disaggregated data for students with disabilities, it was recommended that states report participation and performance results for each assessment, content area, and grade level; clearly label preliminary and final data with dates posted; and report participation with accommodations. It was also recommended to provide user-friendly reports, not just technical reports, with consideration of usability of formats, ease of finding information, and clarity of language.

ESEA Reauthorization

At press time, both the House and the Senate had recently passed their respective bills to reauthorize ESEA. NASP recommendations addressed assessment and accountability systems and considerations for students with disabilities. NASP urged law-makers to require states to continue reporting disaggregated data for all subgroups to demonstrate that schools are meeting the needs of typically underserved populations, including students of color and students with disabilities. NASP also continued the recommendation that no more than 1% of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities can be assessed using an alternative assessment based on alternative academic achievement standards and counted as meeting state standards for proficiency. Further, NASP urged lawmakers to allow states to use multiple indicators of success, including student growth; retain annual assessment requirements, but remove high states decisions attached to results; and require states to explicitly outline the interventions and supports they will provide when schools, or groups of students within those schools, are identified as low performing. Check for NASP's latest public policy update on the reauthorization of ESEA at

Supports for Postsecondary Students With Disabilities

The U.S. Department of Education recently posted an announcement in the Federal Register about plans to fund a new National Center for Information and Technical Support for Postsecondary Students With Disabilities. The center will provide technical assistance and information on best and promising practices for students with disabilities as they transition to or attend postsecondary education. Under federal law, colleges and universities are prohibited from discriminating against students with disabilities, but their obligations are far less comprehensive than the requirements for elementary and secondary schools under IDEA. The objective of the new center would be to help those with disabilities and their families understand the different rights and protections afforded them under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act as they consider and pursue postsecondary educational opportunities. The center will also be tasked with supporting colleges and universities in fulfilling their obligations to accommodate students with disabilities. Institutes of higher education and nonprofit organizations that meet eligibility requirements were invited to apply for this nearly $2.5 million grant. Read announcement at


Albus, D., Lazarus, S. S., & Thurlow, M. L. (2015). 2012-13 publicly reported assessment results for students with disabilities and ELLs with disabilities (Technical Report 70). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, National Center on Educational Outcomes. Retrieved from

Mary Beth Klotz, PhD, NCSP, is NASP Director, Educational Practice