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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