Kentucky Approves Inclusion Of Special Needs Students In Assessments

by Devin Katayama on December 7, 2011

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also called the Nation’s Report Card, test scores have been released for reading and math in 21 metropolitan school districts, including Jefferson County.

The report includes samples from 4th and 8th grade students and compares the districts with each other and national averages. The NAEP test is administered by the National Center for Education Statistics every two years.

Kentucky showed promise earlier this year when scores continued to trend upward and in some cases exceeded the national average, but analysts caution NAEP testing should be carefully considered in Kentucky where a significant amount of students with disabilities are excluded from testing.

“The problem is when you cut these kids out of the testing pool, they’re learning disabled, they’re going to score low, and you cut a lot of them out and its going to boost your average,” said Richard Innes, an education analyst with the Bluegrass Institute.

Data for JCPS shows that around 6 percent of students were excluded from taking the test in 2011, compared to 5 percent in 2009. While that’s only one percent higher than the average of its 20 metropolitan peers, it’s enough to concern Innes, who refers to the national exclusion rate that has fell that past few years.

But Robert Rodosky, who works with JCPS accountability, said the number of kids excluded in the district’s testing is minimal.

Kentucky is aware of the issue. The Kentucky Department of Education approved changes to its policy Wednesday, which aligns more closely its policy for certain student’s with disabilities or English Language Learners to what many states already implement.

Kentucky’s reason is based on new state assessments but will also align the state with NAEP’s requirements, wrote KDE spokeswoman Lisa Gross in an email to WFPL.

JCPS is not alone in excluding certain students, but it’s unique in that over 50 percent of students tested are white, and the fact that Jefferson County is a merged city and county government and school district. This changes the dynamic of comparing JCPS to other metropolitan school districts that have more diverse students in their samples, said Innes.

JCPS did show gains in NAEP test scores but it still falls below the national average. The district also closed the achievement gaps between caucasians and minorities in most categories.

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