IRIS Center Module:
Accessing the General Education Curriculum
are some important steps in interpreting data from high stakes assessments?
data and determining information such as which types of accommodations were used,
how many alternative assessments were taken, and which scores were not included
in the school’s improvement index, educators should examine the data to
identify expected results, unexpected results, and common errors among
students. The educators should determine how many students with disabilities
took standardized tests and evaluate their scores. The educators should also
consider more detailed information such as how many students with certain
categories of disabilities were tested and how many students received
accommodations in each category of disability. Comparison of scores throughout
a single year at each grade level, in a single grade across several years, or
in multiple groups in multiple years can provide valuable information to show
the areas in which students are improving or struggling. Educators must address
challenges in interpreting data that include small changes causing large
impacts within small groups of students, the lack of clear differentiation of
scores in state score reporting, and the transfer of students between general
and special education. The final step in interpreting data is the creation of
teams of teachers that will develop strategies for future improvement based on
the students’ performance.
does the law say about the instruction and assessment of students with
According to the
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), educators must create an
individualized education program (IEP) for students with disabilities. Since
students with special needs are required to have access to the general
curriculum, the IEP describes how the student will be involved in general
education. The IEP includes information such as the student’s current
performance and needs, goals to be measured on an annual basis, progress data,
and a description of the student’s participation in extracurricular and
curricular activities alongside children with and without disabilities.
Students with exceptionalities
must be included in assessment programs but may be provided with accommodations
as necessary. States and local districts should create accommodation policies
that include guidelines for alternate assessments for students with
disabilities who are unable to take part in general assessments. Scores of
students with disabilities must be reported along with the students’ peers.
is it important that students with disabilities have access to the general
education curriculum? What are some ways to help these students to access the
general education curriculum?
education curriculum follows specific content standards and subject matter, and
students with disabilities have the right to access the same standards. Through
accessing this curriculum, students with disabilities move towards learning the
same critical information and abilities taught to all students. If the state
has mandated that certain content is important for students to learn, this
content is also important for students with disabilities to learn. Providing
these students with access to general education benefits these students and helps
create high expectations for students with disabilities. While some students
with disabilities may need no changes to the general curriculum, other students
may access the general education curriculum with assistance outlined by their
IEPs in the form of accommodations, modifications, or alternate assessments.
are accommodations? Modifications? Alternate assessments? When should each of
these be used?
supports the student and helps the student access the subject matter and
instruction so that he or she can demonstrate what he or she knows.
Accommodations do not alter the content of instruction or expectations. For
example, a student with motor, sensory, or information-processing deficits
could benefit from accommodations such as sign language interpreters, Braille
materials, or tape-recorded books. These accommodations “level the playing
field” for students with exceptionalities.
If all potential
accommodations have been considered and students need additional assistance,
modifications provide students with a change to the assessments or instruction.
For example, assignments could be reduced in length or the student could read a
text at a lower reading level.
assessments are used for a small percentage of students who have more
significant cognitive disabilities and who cannot participate in general
assessments. Students who take alternate assessments often follow a curriculum that
focuses mainly on life skills. An example of an alternate assessment could be a