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National Center on Secondary Education and Transition: Creating opportunities for youth with disabilities to achieve successful futures.

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This topic explores assessment, which is the process of collecting and analyzing information through tests to show policymakers how well the nation’s education system is doing.


Assessment is the process of gathering information for the purpose of making decisions about individuals, groups, or systems. Classroom-level assessments provide information about how well individual students are learning. District and state assessments make it possible to evaluate and compare learning in groups of students, and also provide evidence of the effectiveness of educational programs and local school systems. Tests administered at the national level, of samples of students from across the country, help policymakers gauge the condition of the nationís educational system.

Assessments have taken on new importance with the passage of both federal and state laws that call for increased accountability for student achievement. The push for reform at the federal level started with the Title I requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act passed in 1994. This law required, among other things, that each state develop challenging academic content standards and design assessments that would periodically measure student performance against those standards. States implemented those requirements, and in some cases added to them to improve education in their states. Recent revisions to Title I further extended the federal role in education by requiring annual testing of students in grades 3-8 in reading and math.

Because these accountability requirements are intended to apply to all children, they can present unique challenges to educational systems working to ensure that students with disabilities are included. These challenges include questions about the impact of "high stakes" graduation exams, and what accommodations are appropriate for students with disabilities to enable their participation in state and district assessments. While including students with disabilities in assessment and accountability systems can create challenges for states, districts, and teachers, their participation helps to ensure that schools and educators hold all students to high standards and take responsibility for their academic progress.

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This page was last updated on January 12, 2022.