Young students, wearing headphones, working on computers.

The National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO) at the Institute on Community Integration, which provides national leadership on the inclusion of students with disabilities, English learners, and English learners with disabilities in assessments, recently issued a primer for new state special education directors as they work to ensure students with disabilities participate in assessments.

“State special directors play an important role in ensuring that students with disabilities are appropriately included in assessments, and directors who are new to this role need to be up to speed quickly,” said Sheryl Lazarus, director of NCEO.

What New Special Education Directors Need to Know about Academic Assessments steps education leaders through the basics of including students with disabilities, English learners, and English learners with disabilities, in assessments. It also links to more in-depth resources.

“Even though the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that all students be included in all state- and district-wide assessments, some students with disabilities are still excluded. This often happens with district tests used to measure learning loss due to COVID-19, which frequently lack needed accommodations, such as availability in braille, or alternate assessments designed for students with significant cognitive disabilities. These are real challenges,” Lazarus said. “NCEO continues to be very engaged with helping states, districts, vendors, teachers, parents, and others better understand the law and that they need to be including all students with disabilities in assessments and thinking through how best to provide accommodations and alternate assessments.”

NCEO provides a rich set of resources for state education agency staff, school leaders, parents, and educators at all levels on assessment-related topics. The Center played host to Measuring What Students with Disabilities Know and Can Do Using Interim Assessments PDF , a forum for states, last year. A back-to-school FAQ PDF about testing students with disabilities and a brief covering alternate interim assessments PDF for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities are available, and a school leader series, created in partnership with the Council of Chief State School Officers is available here. The series covers the inclusion of students with disabilities in academic instruction and assessments.