Panel IV: Students with Disabilities and English Language Learners — Play Audio Podcast
(mp3 44.4 mb), Running Time: 49 minutes
Daniel Domenech: Executive Director, American Association of School Administrators
Miriam Freedman: Attorney and Author
Sharif Shakrani: Professor, Michigan State University
Martha Thurlow: Director, National Center on Educational Outcomes
(moderator) Mary Blanton: Attorney

Reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic and RESILIENCY!

That word, resiliency, has popped up in many conversations recently. In following my ears, I’m wondering how we foster resiliency in our students.

What are we doing to help students be resilient–to overcome difficulty; to see the sun on the other side; to become active learners; to move from “victim to victor” per Bill Cosby and Alvin F. Poussaint, M.D., book, “Come on People.” See earlier blog on that one!

I Googled “resiliency in children.” Check it out. Lots of good stuff.

You may also wish to visit the following website, dealing with resiliency in adults.

Yes, let’s move resiliency to the top of the class and make it the ‘4th R!’

Got ideas? Please share!

Dear friends of education,

I just got back from Washington DC, where I had the opportunity to participate on a panel at the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) 20th Anniversary Conference. Check it out at The conference dealt with the nation’s test, often called The Nation’s Report Card, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

Once on the site,, go to “The Governing Board Commemorates 20 Years.” There, you can click on “Conference Papers” and, if you’d like to hear the panel, go to the podcasts. The panel I spoke at was about testing students with disabilities (SD) and English language learners(ELL). It was Panel IV.

Issues about how to include all students and keep the NAEP ‘real’ and valid and reliable were the subject of that session. They focused on the use of accommodations on, and the exclusions of SD and ELL, from the NAEP.

My loyal blogging colleagues know that I recommend that we keep our eye on the prize at all times. To get testing results that tell us how students are doing–good and bad. To get honest scores; not necessarily rising and good scores. Just the facts!

How to do that? NAGB is chartered by law to develop one test for the nation that is valid, reliable, based on widely held technical standards and representative of all of our nation’s children. It is a voluntary national representative sample test. Scores don’t count for or against students or schools. NAEP allows our country to compare scores from state to state and for large city to city.

How do we get NAEP ‘real’? Once NAGB decides WHAT skills and knowledge NAEP is to designed to measure, other issues fall in place. We then know what accommodations to allow–only those that maintain NAEP’s purpose, validity and reliability. We don’t, for example, read the reading test to a student, if the purpose of the test is to test a student’s skills in phonics, decoding, fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary. We don’t provide a test in Spanish if the purpose of the test is to test reading in English. We don’t provide a calculator if the purpose of the test is to measure math computation and related skills. I was happy to note that Dr. Shariff Shakrani, a fellow panelist, echoed these realities in discussing SD.

In terms of exclusions, based on reading the NAGB law, there should be NO exclusions by schools or states of students. Parents can opt out of the test, and, in some situations, schools can. But schools cannot cherry pick students. In terms of SD, there should be NO exclusions (beyond the 1% of students who take alternate assessments). Current exclusion policies are based on flawed readings of the laws, including the special education law, the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).

The fact that we now have troubling variations from state to state in terms of how many SD are excluded makes the NAEP far less valuable. Indeed, it tarnishes this ‘gold standards’ as it does not produce comparable scores. Again, I was happy to note that Dr. Shakrani echoed this recommendation to end exclusions (beyond that 1% exclusion).

If we want NAEP to be the Nation’s Report Card, to be a ‘the gold standard’ and to be the basis of decision making for improving our schools, then we must bring accommodation and exclusion policy in line.

How? NAGB should set the NAEP test, tell us WHAT it measures, provide the rules, allow accommodations that are consistent with NAEP’s purpose, end the practice of exclusions, and implement its requirements consistently.

Check out the conference and panel (as well as others) on line: at “The Governing Board commemorates 20 years of NAEP.”

I just read Stephen Lipscomb’s new report (January 2009), “Students with Disabilities and California’s Special Education Program,” found it very useful, and wanted to share it with you. Research support was provided by Karina Jaquet.

The report discusses both programming and funding for special education in California. One thing I really like about it is that the report clearly separates out the (a) costs for special education from the (b) costs of educating students with disabilities–as the second of these includes the regular education services that most students with IEPs receive. This report clarified my confusion on the matter.

You can download it at the Public Policy Institute of California website:

Happy reading!

Friends and colleagues–

I thought you’d like to know that my little books of laws–

Grades, Report Cards, Etc…and the Law, and

IEP and Section 504 Team Meetings… and the Law

are now also available through the Legal Digest. Check it out!

You might find other books and products of interest to you. Of course, you can also buy them directly through School Law Pro.

Great news! Hot off the press!

Miriam’s advice (along with 23 other experts) to President Obama is included in Education Week’s new book, The OBAMA Education Plan: An Education Week Guide. Published by Jossey-Bass, More information can be obtained also at and

She’s among quite a heady crowd, as experts include our new Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, Wendy Kopp, Phillip Howard, Mike Feinberg, Rick Hanushek, Andrew Rotherham, and others. But it looks like her voice is the only one calling for the reform of special education:

Our special ed law started in the [1970’s] because back then, many students with disabilities, about a million of them, were excluded from school. The issue then was access to programming for all children. The law provided new funding, new direction, and due process rights for parents. It was a new day. [As a result, all students with disabilities were provided special education services.]

Now, many of us–educators, administrators, taxpayers, parents–have come to the unsettling realization that the system strugges and is unsustainable. Burdensome requirements take teachers and students away from the mission: teaching and learning. We spend some [110] billion dollars on special ed, yet the budgetary system has not kept up with the times because special ed costs, protected by federal law, often impact other school programs and reforms.

I would tell the President that, as sad as it is, even though we met the access challenges ofthe ’70’s, this law has not changed. And I think some courage to step up to the plate is what’s needed.

Philip K. Howard’s provocative new book is thought-provoking and excellent. Life without Lawyers: Liberating Americans from Too Much Law.

For those of us interested in reforming education–and specifically, special education, it has great insight. Imagine my delight to see among Mr. Howard’s references my little book of law about grades and report cards! Grades, Report Cards, Etc…. and the Law. Available at

Mr. Howard has started a national movement, Common Good, and a national conversation, New Talk–to end our reliance on laws and lawsuits as the means for conducting our lives. For more information, see and

But back to report cards, those papers we all know and have grown up with for generations–as children, teachers, parents. Mr.Howard on to something when he includes this little book of laws in his analysis: We know we have an issue when teachers need to worry about lawsuits when they grade students’ work in their classrooms. But there it is.