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Florida: States Excluding Too Many Students from NAEP

Although there has been a push to make "the nation's report card"—the National Assessment of Educational Progress—better reflect the academic performance of all children in America's schools, the effort hasn't gone far enough, Florida Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson wrote recently.

As colleague Lesli A. Maxwell and I noted late last year, overall, the numbers of 4th and 8th grade students who took NAEP and were identified as having disabilities or being English-language learners rose in 2011, continuing a long-term trend that began more than a decade ago when NAEP first allowed students to use accommodations, such as additional time, when taking the exams.

As the Tampa Bay Times wrote, last week's letter from Commissioner Robinson comes two months after NAEP results showed Florida's reading and math gains have stalled after years of steep increases. In addition, last week's Quality Counts report showed Florida tumbling from the sixth-ranked state to 11th place among states, with NAEP scores playing a role in that drop.

Maryland, which Robinson pointed out as having among the lowest inclusion rates—
only 31 percent of their identified students with disabilities in 4th grade and 30 percent in 8th grade—was the top ranked state in Quality Counts.

On the most recent NAEP administration, 40 states, plus the District of Columbia, met the goal of including 95 percent of all students in the original testing sample for the reading assessment for grades 4 and 8. In math, Oklahoma was the only state to fall short of the 95 percent inclusion goal for both grades, while Maryland did so in grade 8.

The Times reported that Cornelia Orr, the executive director of NAGB and the former testing honcho in Florida, said that while the percentages of excluded students in some states may appear large, the raw numbers of students are small, so it doesn't make a large difference in the overall scores.

Robinson told NAGB that they should consider a policy of only reporting or using state-level results if the minimum standards of inclusion are met. "This would ensure the validity of the reported results for the nation and for the participating states. States not meeting the minimum standards should face funding sanctions."

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