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Volume 30, Issue 4 (2001)

High Stakes Testing and Expected Progress Standards for Students With Learning Disabilities: A Five-Year Study in One District

pp. 487—506

Abstract. The 1997 amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act contain provisions designed to increase the participation of children in special education in general education standards-based reform and accountability programs.The reading scores of 461 students with learning disabilities in a single district were followed across 5 years as the district implemented a state-mandated accountability plan and large scale testing program. The accountability program included grade-level proficiency standards for students and cash incentives for school staff to increase student growth. Student growth was assessed with a regression-based growth formula based on the typical progress of students across a school year at each grade. The district’s performance with students with learning disabilities improved in terms of mean reading score and percent proficient in reading in elementary school across the 5 years. State standards for growth established in general education appeared to offer a challenging, but achievable, goal for special education services at the district level. However, measurement issues limit the use of growth standards at the school or individual level. The combination of large scale assessment and curriculum-based data linked to the large scale assessments offers the advantage of reliable and valid continuous progress measures for students in special education keyed to the higher expectations for performance and progress within general education.

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