The U.S. Department of Education has denied California’s request for a waiver from the requirement that it provide test scores to parents of students who are taking this year’s California Alternate Assessment, the standardized assessment for students with severe cognitive disabilities.
“Without information on test results, parents will be denied the opportunity to make informed decisions regarding their child’s IEP (Individualized Education Program) and take advantage of any interventions that flow from the results of student assessments,” said the May 19 letter that was addressed to State Board of Education President Michael Kirst and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.
The California Department of Education said it was discussing the issue with the federal department and was unable to comment. The U.S. Department of Education said that it had nothing to add to what it stated in the letter.
The letter says the state has until the third week in June to present a “high-quality” plan to distribute scores and report any “significant obstacles” to the U.S. Department of Education. The letter also warned that if California does not report the individual results from this year’s alternate assessment, it might consider “placing California on high risk for non-compliance” with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. It did not give any further details about what that status would mean.
The California Alternate Assessment is being given to students with severe cognitive disabilities this spring as a field test, which means the results will be used to develop an operational assessment for next spring. The data from the field test is not going to generate individual scores, Sheila Self, an education program consultant with the California Department of Education, told EdSource last month.
Vicki Barber, co-director of the Statewide Special Education Task Force, agrees with the California Department of Education. She said that since the alternate assessment was given as a field test this year and not as an official test, students should not have to get individual scores.
Barber said California filed an appeal with the U.S. Department of Education last year after an initial denial of a waiver from providing individual scores for its field tests of the Smarter Balanced assessments, the standardized assessments given to less disabled and general education students.
“We would be supportive of the California Department of Education taking the same posture as they did last year,” Barber said.