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

Alternate Assessments (New Sec.300.160(c)) (Proposed Sec.300.160(d))

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

Comment: One commenter stated that the regulations must specify that States and LEAs are required to develop two alternate assessments--one measuring the same academic achievement standards as all other students and the other based on alternate academic achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. A few commenters requested clarification as to whether alternate assessments are based on high academic achievement standards or alternate academic achievement standards. One commenter stated that a State should be required to provide a definition of what constitutes an alternate assessment.

Discussion: Section 612(a)(16)(C)(i) of the IDEA is clear that a State must develop and implement alternate assessments and guidelines for children with disabilities, but does not specify whether the alternate assessments must be based on grade-level academic achievement standards, modified academic achievement standards, or alternate academic achievement standards. Modified academic achievement standards under Sec.200.1(e) and alternate academic achievement standards under Sec.200.1(d) are optional. However, having an alternate assessment is not optional if there are children with disabilities who cannot be appropriately assessed with the regular assessment. Therefore, if a State chooses not to develop an alternate assessment based on modified or alternate academic achievement standards, the State must have an alternate assessment based on grade-level academic achievement standards, unless all children with disabilities can be appropriately assessed using the regular assessment.

Section 612(a)(16)(A) of the IDEA and Sec.300.160(a) of these regulations require a state to ensure that all children with disabilities are included in general State and district-wide assessments. Section 612(a)(16)(C)(i) of the IDEA and new Sec.300.160(c) (proposed Sec.300.160(d)) further require that a State (or in the case of a district-wide assessment, an LEA) develop and implement alternate assessments and guidelines for children with disabilities who cannot participate in regular assessments even with accommodations. Under Sec.Sec.200.1(e) and 200.6(a)(3) of the Title I regulations published in this notice and new Sec.300.160(c), a State has the option of developing alternate assessments based on modified academic achievement standards. For clarity, we have redesignated proposed Sec.300.160(c) as new Sec.300.160(c)(2)(ii) so that it is clear that an assessment based on modified academic achievement standards is an alternate assessment.

Because a State has options regarding the type of alternate assessments that it will provide for students with disabilities, a State would not necessarily report on the number of students who participated in each of the alternate assessments. To acknowledge this and for clarity, we have made clear in new Sec.300.160(f)(2) through (f)(4) (proposed Sec.300.160(e)(2) through (e)(4)) that a State must report the number of children with disabilities, if any, who are assessed, using an Alternate assessment based on grade-level, modified, or alternate academic achievement standards, respectively. We also have removed the regulatory citations for the different academic achievement standards (e.g., “described in paragraph (d)(2)(i)”) and added the name of the particular achievement standard to which we are referring (e.g., “grade-level”) in new Sec.300.160(f)(2) through (f)(4) (proposed Sec.300.160(e)(2) through (e)(4)).

With regard to the request to clarify whether alternate assessments are based on high achievement standards or alternate academic achievement standards, this will depend on the type of alternate assessment. We believe that the regulations are clear that there are three types of alternate assessments permitted under Title I and the IDEA: alternate assessments based on grade-level academic achievement standards; Alternate assessments based on modified academic achievement standards; and alternate assessments based on alternate academic achievement standards.

We do not believe it is necessary for a State to provide a definition of what constitutes an alternate assessment, as requested by one commenter. New Sec.300.160(c)(2) (proposed Sec.300.160(d)(2)) clearly lays out that alternate assessments under Title I of the ESEA must be aligned with a State's challenging academic content standards and challenging academic achievement standards and, if a State has adopted modified academic achievement standards or alternate academic achievement standards, measure student achievement against those standards.

Changes: We have (1) redesignated proposed Sec.300.160(c) as new Sec.300.160(c)(2)(ii) and renumbered the subsequent paragraph; (2) added ``if any'' following ``number of children with disabilities'' in new paragraphs (f)(2) through (f)(4) (proposed paragraphs (e)(2) through (e)(4)); and (3) replaced the regulatory citation in new paragraphs (f)(2) through (f)(4) (proposed (e)(2) through (e)(4)) with the name of the particular academic achievement standards to which we are referring.

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

Comment: Several commenters recommended requiring public agencies to notify parents in writing when a child's IEP Team determines that the child will participate in an alternate assessment. A few commenters recommended requiring parents to be informed in writing of the consequences of their child taking an alternate assessment, including any effect on the child's eligibility for graduation with a regular high school diploma. The commenters stated that providing this information to parents is particularly important in a State that requires students to pass a State exam in order to receive a regular high school diploma.

Discussion: We agree that it is important for parents to be informed that their child will be assessed based on alternate or modified academic achievement standards. We also believe that it is important that parents, as well as other IEP Team members, are informed about any effects of State or local policies on their student's education that may result from taking an alternate assessment based on alternate or modified academic achievement standards. As the commenters point out, this information is particularly important in a State where students must pass a particular assessment to be eligible to receive a regular high school diploma. Therefore, we have added a regulation requiring a State to provide IEP Teams, which include the parent, with a clear explanation of the differences between assessments based on grade-level academic achievement standards and those based on modified or alternate academic achievement standards, including any effects of State or local policies on the student's education resulting from taking an alternate assessment based on alternate or modified academic achievement standards (such as whether only satisfactory performance on a regular assessment would qualify a student for a regular high school diploma). We also have required a State to ensure that parents of students selected to be assessed based on alternate or modified academic achievement standards are informed that their child's achievement will be measured based those standards. This also is consistent with Sec.200.1(f)(1)(iii) and (iv) of the Title I regulations.

We do not believe it is necessary to add an additional requirement that such parental notification be provided in writing, as suggested by several commenters. Parents are integral members of the IEP Team and, as such, are involved in decisions about how their child will participate in the Statewide assessment system. Section 300.320(a)(6)(ii) of the IDEA regulations already provides that, if an IEP Team determines that a child will not participate in a particular regular State or district-wide assessment, the child's IEP must include a statement of why the child cannot participate in the regular assessment and how that child will be assessed. Under Sec.300.322(f), a copy of the child's IEP must be provided to the parents.

Changes: We have added new paragraph (d) to Sec.300.160 requiring a State to provide IEP Teams with a clear explanation of the differences between assessments based on grade-level academic achievement standards and those based on modified or alternate academic achievement standards, including any effects of State or local policies on the student's education resulting from taking an alternate assessment based on alternate or modified academic achievement standards (such as whether only satisfactory performance on a regular assessment would qualify the student for a regular high school diploma). We also have added a new paragraph (e) requiring a State to ensure that parents of students selected to be assessed based on alternate or modified academic achievement standards are informed that their child's achievement will be measured based on alternate or modified academic achievement standards. The subsequent paragraph has been redesignated as new paragraph (f).