NCEO Synthesis Reports: Gray Areas of Assessment Systems (#32)

Part of the NCEO Synthesis Reports series.
Patricia Almond, Rachel F Quenemoen, Kenneth Olsen, Martha L Thurlow


A 2000 paper clarifying what is meant by "gray areas of assessment" systems, delineating the primary issues that surround and contribute to gray areas, and providing suggestions for developing fully inclusive systems. As part of our nation's educational commitment to equity and excellence for all, we must develop better understanding of what it means to be accountable for all children, and identify more inclusive strategies of assessment and accountability. In response to our national commitment, and to specific legislation such as Title I of the Improving America's Schools Act (IASA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 1997 (IDEA '97), states and school districts are in the midst of developing large-scale assessment systems. Some have considered the challenge of students who do not fit into these assessment systems as one of "gray area students." New understanding is emerging that the problem does not lie with the students, but with the systems. This paper provides brief case studies of the assessment practices in two states, thereby highlighting the reality of gray areas as states implement their assessment systems. After a review of the national reform context, it presents a model that provides a basis for defining and addressing gray area concerns.

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March 2000 
Number 32
National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO)


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