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History of Inclusion Policy

Although NAEP has always endeavored to assess as high a proportion of sampled students as is possible, prior to 1996 NAEP did not allow accommodations for students with disabilities (SD) or for English learners (EL). This resulted in exclusion of some students who could not meaningfully participate in the assessment without accommodations.

The passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), as amended in 1997, led states and districts to identify increasing numbers of students as requiring accommodations in assessments in order to fairly and accurately show their abilities. It was important for NAEP to be as consistent as possible with testing practices in most states and districts while maintaining the ability to compare more recent NAEP results to those from 1990, 1992, and 1994.

Read the history of NAEP inclusion policy below.

NAEP in 1996

In 1996, NAEP began efforts to study the effect of assessment accommodations on NAEP results, and initiated a transition in which NAEP official reporting samples would come to include students assessed with accommodations. NAEP national samples in science and mathematics assessments were split between settings in which testing accommodations were not allowed and settings in which they were. This enabled the program to accomplish three key goals: to maintain data trends to the past, to study the effects of providing assessment accommodations, and to begin new trend baselines in which accommodations were allowed. (NAEP's guidelines to schools for determining which students should participate in the assessment were also revised.) The program allowed almost all accommodations that students received in their usual classroom testing.

Guidance for accommodation decisions was specific to NAEP. A student identified on the Administration Schedule as having a disability (SD), that is, a student with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or equivalent classification, would have been included in the NAEP assessment unless

  • the IEP team or equivalent group had determined that the student could not participate in assessments such as NAEP, or
  • the student's cognitive functioning was so severely impaired that he or she could not participate, or
  • the student's IEP required that the student be tested with an accommodation that NAEP did not permit, and the student could not demonstrate his or her knowledge of the subject without that accommodation.

A student who was identified as LEP or EL and who was a native speaker of a language other than English should be included in the NAEP assessment unless

  • the student had received reading or mathematics instruction primarily in English for less than 3 school years including the current year, and
  • the student could not demonstrate his or her knowledge of the subject in English even with an accommodation permitted by NAEP.

The phrase "less than 3 school years including the current year" meant 0, 1, or 2 school years. Therefore, the guidelines below were used:

  • Include without any accommodation all LEP or EL students who had received instruction in the subject primarily in English for 3 years or more and those who were in their third year.
  • Include without any accommodation all other such students who could demonstrate their knowledge of the subject without an accommodation.
  • Include and provide accommodations permitted by NAEP to other such students who can demonstrate their knowledge of the subject only with those accommodations.
  • Exclude LEP or EL students only if they could not demonstrate their knowledge of the subject even with an accommodation permitted by NAEP.

The goal of all these activities was to ensure that NAEP samples would be as representative as possible, and that high percentages of sampled students would and could participate. The provision of accommodations was indeed found to result in higher levels of inclusion, with little effect on scale scores at the national level, but somewhat greater impact on average scores in some states.

To learn more, read Increasing the Participation of Special Needs Students in NAEP: A Report on 1996 NAEP Research Activities.

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NAEP in 1998

In 1998, accommodations were allowed for all students in subjects in which new trend lines were being introduced (writing and civics). In reading, the split-sample design was continued (and expanded to the state NAEP samples) to allow comparability to the past and to ensure that a new trend line was started. Main reports were based on the "trend samples" in which accommodations were not allowed. Two reports reanalyze the 1998 reading data, including students with accommodations.

NAEP in 2000 and 2001

In the 2000 and 2001 results, data from both samples—that is, those in which accommodations were allowed, and those in which they were not—were reported. These results are in the Report Cards, and also may be seen on this site in the NAEP Data Explorer (NDE) by selecting the sample in which accommodations were not allowed (in addition to the accommodated sample that is selected by default for these years). Geography, mathematics, reading, science, and U.S. history have results with the split-sample design in the NDE.

In addition to the resources linked from the subject pages referenced above (such as accommodations allowed, and percentages of SD and EL students by state for mathematics and science assessments), the NDE contains average scores for students classified as LEP or EL by their schools. Note that the results from this sample cannot be generalized to the total population of EL students. To find the average scores for EL or LEP students, type "English" into the keyword search window and select the variables of interest.

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NAEP in 2002

Beginning with the 2002 assessments, NAEP has offered accommodations as detailed in the current inclusion policy, and thus no longer has nonaccommodated samples.

Last updated 16 March 2022 (AA)