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Scores Stagnant For Students With Disabilities on 'Nation's Report Card'

Students with disabilities posted stagnant scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2017 and failed to close the gap with students not identified as having disabilities, who also reflected generally flat performance on the latest results for what's been called the "Nation's Report Card."

Fourth-grade students with disabilities earned an average of 187 on the NAEP's reading test and 214 on the NAEP's math test, both of which are scored on a 500-point scale. 

For 4th-grade students without disabilities, however, the average score was 227 on the reading test and 243 on the math test. 

Eighth grade students with disabilities earned 232 on the reading test and 247 on the math test. Reading was a small bright spot—that score was a 2-point gain for students with disabilities from the last time the test was administered, in 2015. 

But the reading test scores of 8th-grade students without disabilities also rose, by 1 point. Their average score was 271 on the reading portion of the test and 288 on the math section of the test. 

The NAEP is given to a nationally representative group of nearly 585,000 4th- and 8th-graders. 2017 marked the first time the tests were administered digitally.

Connecting NAEP Scores to Graduation Rates

What's hard to reconcile is that while NAEP scores for students with disabilities are showing little to no movement over the past few test administrations, the graduation rate for students with disabilities, as with other student subgroups, has hit an all-time high.

While there's still a gap between students with and without disabilities, government figures released last year said that 67 percent of students with disabilities graduated with a regular diploma. That's a 7 percentage point increase between 2010-11 and 2015-16 school years.

When the graduation results were released last year, Education Week spoke with David Johnson, the director of the Institute on Community Integration at the University of Minnesota,  who has surveyed states on their graduation requirements for students with disabilities.

"There's no real relationship beween NAEP scores and graduation rates," Johnson said. "Each state has its own way of legitimizing exit with a diploma. There's credits, exit exams, [individualized education teams] come into play, and states defer to local school districts." 

There needs to prompt a broader conversation, Johnson said. "We need to ask the question, what's really going on? We don't really have the answer," he said.  


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