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NAEP Scores for Students With Disabilities Show Wide Achievement Gap

The math and reading scores for students with disabilities on the National Assessment of Educational Progress showed little movement between 2015 and the last time the test was administered two years ago.  

Considering the NAEP score decreases seen for the overall student population, holding steady could be seen as a neutral or even positive result, especially because more students with disabilities took the test this year. Exclusion rates from the test, also known as the "nation's report card," have dropped significantly over the past two test administrations. 

But the lack of movement on scores means that students with disabilities gained no ground on closing the wide achievement gap between themselves and students who do not have disabilities.

A nationally representative group of about 600,000 students took the NAEP in 2015. The results are released about every two years, and serve as a measure of how students are performing academically. 

In the reading portion of the test, 33 percent of 4th-graders with disabilities scored at or above a basic level, compared with 74 percent of students without disabilities. For the 8th grade reading test, 37 percent of students with disabilities scored at or above basic, compared with 81 percent of students without disabilties.

Moving over to math, 54 percent of 4th-grade students scored at or above basic; 85 percent of students without disabilities scored in that range. For 8th graders, 32 percent scored at or above basic, 76 percent of students without disabilities scored in that range. 

(If you'd like to see this information in a useful chart, check out the Advocacy Institute's NAEP blog post.) 

The NAEP considers students covered under the Individuals with Disabilities Act and students with covered under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act to be "students with disabilities." Most students covered under these federal laws are not cognitively impaired. 

Maryland's NAEP Inclusion Rate Goes Up, Scores Go Down

Back in 2010, the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the NAEP, made inclusion one of its priorities. It asked states to test at least 95 percent of the students in the sample selected for assessment, including 85 percent of students with disabilities and 85 percent of students who are English-language learners. 

The inclusion rates have clearly gone up. Maryland was an outlier when the test was administered in 2013 in excluding a high percentage of students with disabilities and English-language learners, but the exclusion rate was reduced dramatically this year. 

Maryland was also the only state to see its overall scores drop in both reading and math, which was unusual enough to prompt the NAEP administrators to re-evaluate the state's numbers, according to the Baltimore Sun. 

"I think the good news for Maryland is we were a lot more inclusive," interim state school Superintendent Jack R. Smith told the Washington Post. But he added that other factors were an issue as well, and that the scores raise questions for the state to grapple with. 

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