NCEO Synthesis Reports: Appeals Processes for Students Who Fail Graduation Exams: How Do They Apply to Students with Disabilities? (#36)


A report of findings about high stakes tests for students with disabilities, as of the year 2000, and the appeals processes for those who need an alternative way of demonstrating skills. High stakes tests that determine whether students earn a standard high school diploma are on the rise. They are viewed as the way to make sure that students meet high standards and graduate with the skills needed to be successful employees. At the same time that more and more states are investing in graduation exams, there are concerns about students who have met high standards, yet are unable to pass a test. To determine the extent to which there are other options for demonstrating skills, and to check the availability of these to students with disabilities, the authors studied state Web sites for information on appeals processes and the availability of waivers. They found only six states with appeals processes, and these varied considerably from locally set procedures to relatively specific requirements. In one state, the appeals process is viewed as the avenue for students with disabilities to have access to accommodations. In most states, there is no evidence that students with disabilities have been considered. Further, states do not have data on the number of students involved in appeals processes, much less disaggregated for students with disabilities. The difficulty they experienced in finding information about an appeals process is certainly encountered by students and families whose lives are affected by graduation exams. Without appeals processes, or easily found information on such processes, the likelihood that lawsuits will be viewed as the only avenue for recourse is dramatically increased.

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July 2000 
Number 36
National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO)


  • Specific life stage
    • Children
    • Adolescents and young adults
  • Educational accountability and assessment
    • Diplomas and Graduation Requirements
    • Accessibility & Accommodations
    • Assessment Participation
    • Students with Disabilities