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Archive for Thursday, August 30, 2007

Special education assessment results in reading blamed on legal technicality

August 30, 2007

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Terry McEwen and Kim Bodensteiner discuss the AYP results

Terry McEwen and Kim Bodensteiner, Lawrence district administrators, explain the AYP results revealed Wednesday. Enlarge video

New numbers show Lawrence schools are making progress in ensuring no child is left behind

School district leaders released results today from last year's state assessment standards for reading and math. Those tests - known as Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP, - fall under the federal 'No Child Left Behind Act.' Enlarge video

Lawrence students met almost all state-assessment goals, according to information the school district released Wednesday.

However, one group - those in special education classes - did not meet reading standards.

District leaders say that was due to a technicality in the federal law, not student performance.

Certain special education students are not required to take the same test as other students. They can take so-called "modified assessment tests," ones that use less complex language.

But school districts with large special education populations are penalized.

That's because only 2 percent of a district's tests can be the modified version. So if a district's special education test-taking population for that year is higher than 2 percent - which Lawrence's was last year - results of the same number of tests above that threshold automatically are considered "nonproficient."

Last year, the Lawrence district had 49 tests that were above the threshold and, therefore, counted against the district's overall rating.

"They actually earned that (proficiency); those students were meeting the target," said Terry McEwen, the district's assessment director. "But when you have 49 tests reclassified, then it created the scenario."

Kansas Education Commissioner Alexa Posny said the Lawrence district's reputation for a strong special education program makes it a "magnet" for families with students in need. So its special education population is higher than average.

"They're doing absolutely the appropriate thing. They are giving the students the appropriate assessment," she said. "It's not going to help them. It's just one of those Catch-22's."

Posny said the limit is in place to safeguard against districts giving easier tests just to meet standards. But it does make it tougher on several districts across the nation, including Lawrence.

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