...No Child Left Behind allows states to use what Alabama calls "alternative achievement standards" to evaluate students with what it considers the "most significant cognitive disabilities." Roughly, those are students whose IQ's are 55 and below, and who may be unable to achieve at grade level even with the best of instruction.
The catch is, if the number of special education students showing proficiency on the alternate tests exceeds 1 percent of the total number of students who passed, some of those special ed scores are arbitrarily deemed to be failing. In other words, even if the kids have done the best that they possibly can on tests they have a chance of passing, some of their scores don't count.
U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has recently modified the national policy to allow schools to exempt 3 percent of their special ed students from the standardized tests. That's an improvement, but in the Mobile County school system, 13 percent of students are considered special ed.
The special ed provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act need to be modified so that schools aren't set up to fail just because they have a significant number of special ed students enrolled.
In the meantime, parents who have been notified that they can transfer their children from low-performing schools need to take a hard look at why the schools have been rated that way, before deciding whether their children really can get a better education somewhere else.
In my town the only elementary schools to not make AYP were the schools with enough special ed students to count. In other words a school has to have big enough numbers so that the results are what they call "statistically significant." Our schools that do not have many spec. ed. students all made AYP. The editor is right on here. Just another of at least 31 ways that all schools can fail.