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Florida Presses NAGB on NAEP Exclusion Rates

We talk endlessly about assessment. How are students doing? Do the tests they take truly reflect all that they've learned? How can we find better ways of assessing what students know?

Questions like these seem to rise only higher on the nation's radar, fueled by standards-based education, No Child Left Behind, and common standards. And however weak—or strong—our students look on the tests we give them, it's worth stopping to ask about those whose results are invisible.

I'm talking about the exclusion of students with disabilities and those learning English. Last week, while I was away on family business in Colorado, a telling tidbit emerged from Florida. My colleague Nirvi Shah wrote about it on her blog, On Special Education. But I wanted to make sure I brought it to Curriculum Matters readers, as well.

So what happened? Florida education Commissioner Gerard Robinson fired off a letter to the National Assessment Governing Board, asking that it stop reporting state NAEP scores for states with high exclusion rates. You can see his letter in the Tampa Bay Times' Gradebook column.

The Times put together a little spreadsheet, too, that looks at the NAEP exclusion rates of the 10 states that got the highest ratings on EdWeek's Quality Counts report last week. You can see how these high-flying states vary in their inclusion of students learning English and those with disabilities.

Questions about test results because of exclusion rates are nothing new, of course. Nirvi and another of our colleagues, Lesli Maxwell, reported on concerns about exclusion rates in a recent story.

I highlighted it in my NAEP reporting in 2010, and told you in blog posts (here and here), as well, how NAGB has been agonizing over the issue.

As states implement the common standards, a big issue that hovers is how to make sure that students with disabilities and those learning English can receive the instruction they need to master the standards. And as state consortia design tests for those standards, one of the big questions is how to make those tests accessible to those students. As we often say when big questions hover without clear answers: This bears watching.

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