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NAEP Scores for Students With Disabilities Remain Flat

The math and reading scores of 12th grade students with disabilities on the National Assessment of Educational Progress were stable in 2015—but those scores are still significantly below the scores of students who do not have disabilities. 

In math, 6 percent of high school seniors with disabilities scored at or above the proficient level on the NAEP, compared to 26 percent for students who do not have disabilities. The at-or-above proficiency rate was the same for students with disabilities in 2013. (Proficiency is defined as demonstrating "solid academic performance and competency over challenging subject matter.")

In reading, 12 percent of high school seniors with disabilities scored at or above proficient on the NAEP. That compares to 40 percent for students who do not have disabilities. In 2013, 10 percent of students with disabilities scored at-or-above proficient in reading, but the percentage difference is not statistically significant, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, which administers the assessment.

The National Center for Education Statistics describes students with disabilities as those who are covered under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, or those who are covered under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 504 spells out particular accommodations that must be made for children who have certain disabling conditions, but is not as prescriptive as the IDEA. 

A nationally representative group of 13,200 12th graders took the NAEP math test in 2015, and 18,700 took the reading test. The test is considered a barometer of U.S. students' achievement.

Overall, the lowest performers on the NAEP—which include students with and without disabilities—showed big declines compared to the last time the test was given. Between 2013 and 2015, students at or below the 10th percentile in reading went down an average of 6 points on the assessment. Students at or above the 90th percentile, in contrast, rose two points on average in reading.

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