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Last Updated: 02/23/2018

Article of Interest - Accountability

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Bridges4Kids LogoState Accountability for All Students (SAAS) Offers Preliminary Findings on State Policy and Student State Test Results

SAAS Bulletin Number 1, June 2003

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State Accountability for All Students (SAAS) is a three year national research project designed to explore the connections between state policy/practice and the participation and performance of students with disabilities in the regular statewide assessment programs. SAAS is also examining the unintended consequences of including students with disabilities in high-stakes testing programs. The project is funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, operated by the University of Dayton, and housed in Columbus, Ohio at the School Study Council of Ohio.

SAAS has enlisted several widely respected partners to provide the expertise and perspective necessary to address the complexity of the project's issues and the diversity of its stakeholders. Project partners include the four U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs Partnership Projects:

• FAPE (Families and Advocates Partnership for Education) representing parents and advocates, operated by PACER Center, a parent/advocate organization
• ASPIRE (Association of Service Providers Implementing IDEA) representing teachers and service providers, operated by the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC)
• ILIAD (IDEA Local Implementation by Local Administrators) representing district and building administrators, operated by CEC
• PMP (Policymaker Partnership) representing policy-makers, operated by the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE)

The other major partner is NCEO (National Center on Educational Outcomes), an organization with a ten year history focused on large-scale assessment of students with disabilities, operated by the University of Minnesota.

Preliminary Findings

SAAS is in the very early stages of data analysis, but some connections between state policy and student results are beginning to emerge. Preliminary findings indicate that:

• States with high school graduation tests tend to place students with disabilities in more restrictive settings (see Data Note 1).
• Increasing allowable accommodations increases students with disabilities' participation in the regular state reading tests (see Data Note 2).

SAAS’s Purpose and Goals

SAAS’s purpose is to provide policy makers, practitioners and parents with evidence-based information regarding the effects of state policies on the participation and passage rates of students with disabilities taking the regular state tests.

Through the collection and analysis of state policies and student results, project SAAS will achieve its goals:

• Identify those policies that encourage students with disabilities to participate in and pass regular state assessments.
• Identify those policies that discourage students with disabilities from participating in and passing regular state assessments.
• Address the unintended consequences of high stakes state assessment systems.
• Disseminate the findings to state and national policymakers, practitioners and parents.

SAAS’s Major Activities

• Compiling a comprehensive database of state policies and outcomes for students with disabilities. The policies being collected include: laws and rules defining, regular and alternate assessments, rewards and sanctions, alternate assessment procedures, testing accommodations and reporting. Data being collected include test participation, test performance and data pertaining to unintended consequences such as graduation and dropout rates, discipline and LRE. The database includes data from organizations such as: OSEP, Westat, NCEO, CCSSO, NCES, ECS, Lexis-Nexis, NASDSE and the individual states. The staff uses this database to establish connections between state policy and results for students with disabilities.

• Establishing an Advisory Committee. In addition to the project partners the advisory committee includes: National Education Association, Learning Disabilities Association of America, Education Commission of the States, Council of Administrators of Special Education and 100 Black Men of America (for a complete list, go to and click on the PowerPoint presentation).

• Developing a data collection template. With the help of the SAAS Advisory Committee, a data template has been developed representing the key components of the data collection process.

• Monitoring educational reform efforts as reflected in law, regulations, literature and practice.

• Disseminating information about SAAS’s purpose, activities and potential. Examples include: creating a web site, developing a brochure, creating a PowerPoint presentation, attending conferences, providing a monthly update to SAAS partners and advisory committee and publishing a quarterly bulletin.

Current Issues Affecting Students with Disabilities and Their Involvement in Statewide Assessments

States are wrestling with the implications of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. No Child Left Behind makes it clear: No Child may be left behind. States, districts and schools must be accountable for the academic progress of all students. In general, that goal is addressed by requiring states to have: clear and challenging academic standards, curriculum and instruction designed to prepare students to meet the standards, high quality tests that measure student achievement and a unified accountability system that measures whether students, schools, districts and states are making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). There are sanctions for schools and districts that do not make AYP.

Specific requirements for including students with disabilities in the state accountability system are:

• At least 95% must participate in the state tests
• Accommodations must be made for students who need them to be able to demonstrate what they know and can do
• Alternate assessments must be given to students who cannot take the regular state tests
• With few exceptions, test scores for students with disabilities must be counted in determining the AYP for schools and districts

SAAS Can Help You

SAAS can help you by: providing information on an individual state’s accountability policies and results for students with disabilities, directing you to useful web sites and running correlations for you on any factors which are included in our database.

You Can Help SAAS

You can help SAAS by: telling others about SAAS, sharing this newsletter, informing the staff of data/literature/other information which might be helpful to SAAS and directing people to the SAAS web site or the SAAS staff.

Contact Information

Please visit our web site for additional information on Project SAAS and its partner organizations or advisory committee. If you have questions or suggestions, please contact us.

John Herner, Project Director
University of Dayton
4807 Evanswood Drive, Suite 300
Columbus, Ohio 43229
Voice (614) 785-1163
Fax (614) 785-0513
Project web site:

Data Notes

1. Based on 2000-2001 data from Education Week (Graduation Exit Exams) and OSEP (Least Restrictive Environment).
2. Based on 2000-2001 elementary and middle school data from NCEO (Biennial Performance Reports and Accommodations Report). Due to data availability, reflects 18 states at the elementary level and 17 states at the middle school level. 


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