December 11, 2014

Proposed Change to Federal Regulations Would Affect State Authority Over Special Education Modifications

According to the Federal Register, since 2007 federal regulations have allowed states to modify academic standards and develop alternative standardized tests for special education students, changes that were meant to give them the flexibility needed to assess these students when reporting their academic progress to the federal government (as required by the federal No Child Left Behind Law).

In 2013, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) proposed eliminating states’ authority to modify  special education curriculum standards and testing requirements (78 Fed. Reg. 52467-71 (Aug. 23, 2013)).

DOE offers two reasons for these proposed changes. First, the new general assessments developed by state consortia since 2007 are more accessible to students with disabilities, and they will yield results that are more valid, reliable, and fair.  (Connecticut joined the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, which designed a new test aligned to the Common Core State Standards, in 2010.)  Second, research shows that more accessible general assessments can promote high expectations for students with disabilities when paired with appropriate support and instruction. Consequently, DOE anticipates that modified standards and tests will no longer be needed.

The notice and comment period for the proposed regulations has closed.  Final action is scheduled for January 2015.