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Moving Children, Distorting Data: Changes in Testing of Students With Disabilities in Connecticut from 2000–2013


by Robert Cotto Jr. — 2016

Connecticut experienced two major changes in testing policy for children with disabilities that played a major role in conclusions about educational progress in the state. First, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001 required that all students with disabilities participate in grade-level, standardized tests. This movement of students deepened a crisis of stagnant and disparate achievement indicators. Policy reversed in 2007, when the federal Department of Education opened the door for modified assessments based on grade-level content and standards. When testing policy reversed, the exclusion of students with disabilities temporarily resolved this crisis by artificially inflating test results in math and reading. This article provides an overview of testing data from the Connecticut State Department of Education within its historical context. These fluctuations in standard test participation often linked closely with overall results and produced misinterpretations of educational and racial progress over time. Responses to these changes in testing policy make Connecticut an illuminating case regarding the problem of high-stakes testing and changes in policies for students with disabilities in a particular state characterized by deep racial and economic inequity. Rather than raising questions, moving children helped reinforce the legitimacy of high-stakes testing and nationally touted educational reforms.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 118 Number 14, 2016, p. 1-30
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 21545, Date Accessed: 11/19/2017 7:23:00 PM

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About the Author
  • Robert Cotto Jr.
    Trinity College
    E-mail Author
    ROBERT COTTO is the Director of Urban Educational Initiatives and a Visiting Lecturer in the Educational Studies program at Trinity College in Hartford, CT. His academic work focuses on K–12 educational policy. His research focuses on educational reform movements in the United States and Puerto Rico. In particular, he studies the history and current impact of educational testing, school choice, teacher-led innovation, and management policies, particularly with respect to marginalized and racialized groups.
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