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U.S. Department of Education: Promoting Educational Excellence for all Americans

General (Sec. 300.160)

(originally published on April 9, 2007 – 72 FR 17748; effective date – May 9, 2007)

Comment: A few commenters requested that the regulations clearly state that all students must participate in a State's assessment program except for a child with a disability who is medically fragile and cannot tolerate the stress of participating in an assessment.

Discussion: We cannot make the requested change. Section 300.160(a), consistent with section 612(a)(16)(A) of the IDEA, is clear that a State must ensure that all children with disabilities are included in State and district-wide assessment programs. Neither the IDEA nor these regulations permit categorical exceptions to this requirement.

Changes: None.

(originally published on April 9, 2007 – 72 FR 17748; effective date – May 9, 2007)

Comment: One commenter expressed concern that LEAs would have difficulty developing alternate assessments for district-wide assessments and requested assistance in identifying ways for LEAs to meet the requirements in section 612(a)(16)(A) of the IDEA.

Discussion: Section 612(a)(16)(A) of the IDEA is clear that all children must participate in State as well as district-wide assessments. This has been a requirement since the 1997 reauthorization of the IDEA. LEAs that conduct district-wide assessments must provide an alternate assessment for children who cannot participate in the district-wide assessment even with accommodations. Identifying the manner in which an LEA meets this requirement, however, is a matter that is best determined by State and local officials.

Changes: None.

(originally published on April 9, 2007 – 72 FR 17748; effective date – May 9, 2007)

Comment: One commenter recommended requiring benchmarks or short-term objectives to be developed for students with disabilities participating in alternate assessments based on modified academic achievement standards.

Discussion: Section 614(d)(1)(A)(i)(I)(cc) of the IDEA requires benchmarks or short-term objectives to be included only in the IEPs of children with disabilities who participate in alternate assessments based on alternate academic achievement standards. Alternate assessments based on modified academic achievement standards are not alternate assessments based on alternate academic achievement standards. Therefore, we do not believe that benchmarks or short-term objectives should be required for children with disabilities who participate in alternate assessments based on modified academic achievement standards. Congress specifically limited the requirement for benchmarks and short-term objectives to the IEPs of children with the most significant cognitive disabilities who participate in alternate assessments based on alternate academic achievement standards. As the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions noted in Sen. Rep. No. 108-185 (p. 28), ``Short-term objectives and benchmarks can focus too much on minor details and distract from the real purpose of special education, which is to ensure that all children and youth with disabilities achieve high educational outcomes and are prepared to participate fully in the social and economic fabric of their communities.''

We believe that students participating in alternate assessments based on modified academic achievement standards will benefit more when IEP Teams focus on goals that are based on grade-level content standards, rather than on short-term objectives or benchmarks. In the discussion of comments under Sec. 200.1(e)(2)(iii) in this notice, we explain why we are requiring that the IEPs of children taking alternate assessments based on modified academic achievement standards include goals based on the academic content standards for the grade in which the student is enrolled and that the IEP be designed to monitor the student's progress in achieving the student's standards-based goals.

Changes: None.