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170National Alert -- Proposed NCLB Assessment Regulations

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  • pluker4856
    Feb 22 6:14 PM
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      The National Down Syndrome Society [NDSS] is circulating its
      comments on the proposed NCLB regulations implementing rules for
      modified academic achievement standards and assessments. The NDSS
      alert is embedded below. We urge all readers to use the capwiz
      reply function included in the NDSS alert to tell the Department of
      Education not to water down assessment requirements for children
      with disabilities. Even though the NDSS has its primary focus on
      kids who have Down Syndrome, its comments are excellent and apply to
      ALL kids with disabilities. The deadline for responding to the
      Department of Education is February 28th!!!

      Act Now on NCLB Regulations

      February 17, 2006

      Today, NDSS submitted its comments on the No Child Left Behind
      (NCLB) proposed regulations, which were published on December 15,

      These regulations provide the rules for creating modified academic
      achievement standards and assessments based on these standards. They
      also provide some rules on the eligibility criteria for students to
      be assessed on these standards. Some of these rules also have an
      impact on students with the most significant cognitive disabilities
      who are assessed on alternate academic achievement standards.

      NDSS recognizes that many people are not as familiar and comfortable
      with NCLB, as they are with IDEA. Some may also have reservations
      about NCLB because of negative commentary they have read in the
      newspapers or heard from school personnel. Generally this commentary
      is based on misinterpretations of the law. NDSS is asking for your
      support for two reasons. First, these regulations are critically
      important to students with Down syndrome. They have the potential to
      either significantly improve or diminish educational opportunities
      for our children – depending on how the final regulations are
      written and implemented. Second, NCLB is a groundbreaking law for
      students with disabilities. It stands for the principle that the
      academic achievement of children with disabilities is as important
      as the achievement of any other group of students. The force of this
      message is a powerful tool to help us improve the implementation of
      IDEA. Tremendous pressure is being put on the U.S. Department of
      Education to weaken accountability for students with disabilities.
      We need to keep this from happening.

      Potential Benefits
      While we have serious reservations about the regulations as written,
      they have the potential to improve access to the general curriculum
      and educational outcomes IF the changes suggested by NDSS are made
      and the regulations are well implemented. These regulations provide
      an opportunity to clarify that all students should have access to
      grade-level curriculum taught by highly qualified teachers. These
      teachers must be trained to deliver instruction that is accessible
      to students with different learning styles and ability levels. The
      inclusion of these concepts in the proposed regulations will lead to
      higher expectations and increased opportunities for children with
      Down syndrome to be educated in the least restrictive environment.

      NDSS believes that modified academic achievement standards should be
      based on a core subset of grade-level curriculum objectives.
      Alternate academic achievement standards for students with the most
      significant cognitive disabilities should be based on adaptations or
      extensions of these core objectives, which may include introductory
      or prerequisite skills. Students should take the assessment that is
      appropriate for them for each subject and should be able to move
      from one standard to the next as they make progress. Hopefully, many
      students with Down syndrome who have been assessed on alternate
      academic achievement standards will soon be assessed on modified
      academic achievement standards.

      Main NDSS Concerns
      Until recently, the only scores from a non grade-level assessment
      that could help schools, districts and States make Adequate Yearly
      Progress (AYP) were the scores from assessments based on alternate
      academic achievement standards (with a cap equal to 10% of students
      with disabilities). The proposed regulations will also allow scores
      from assessments based on modified academic achievement standards to
      be used to calculate AYP (with a cap equal to 20% of students with
      The proposed regulations need to provide more and better guidance on
      the development of modified and alternate academic achievement
      standards, the assessments based on these standards, and the
      eligibility criteria that determines which students should use these
      new standards. The 10% and 20% caps are so large that many students
      who should not be assessed on modified and/or alternate academic
      achievement standards might be included under the caps.

      The regulations are based on the assumptions that students with
      disabilities are receiving high-quality instruction by highly
      qualified teachers and special education and related services
      designed to address the student's individual needs. While
      educational opportunities for students with intellectual
      disabilities have improved over the years, far too many students
      with Down syndrome do not currently receive appropriate supports,
      services, and instruction in the least restrictive environment.
      Since the assumptions are wrong, the "protections" in the
      regulations are insufficient. Unless the guidance and protections
      are significantly improved, these regulations could have the
      unintended consequences of lowering expectations for children with
      Down syndrome, limiting their educational opportunities and
      negatively affecting their classroom placements. Once finalized,
      these regulations must also be properly interpreted and implemented.
      The NDSS comments contain numerous recommendations that would
      address these concerns.
      Action Steps
      NDSS needs parents, friends, other family members of children with
      Down syndrome, and organizations to send letters to the U.S.
      Department of Education and their elected officials in order to
      demonstrate that there is extensive grassroots support for our
      recommendations to strengthen these regulations. We have prepared an
      email that will take just a few minutes to send to these recipients -
      please enter your zip code below. If you have the time, it is very
      powerful to personalize the email with a story about your child and
      the importance of high standards and access to the general
      curriculum. The deadline to submit your comments is February 28,

      • The full text of the proposed regulations can be found at
      • An NDSS information bulletin on the proposed regulations can be
      found at http://capwiz.com/ndss/issues/alert/?alertid=8325296

      • The full text of the NDSS comments can be found at