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r! New Approaches to Assessment and Instruction The panel began its work by investigating the causes of existing minority and sex disproportions in special education programs and by studying so- lutions to the problem of disproportion. We came to view this approach as too narrow a perspective on the issue of disproportion and thus considered why disproportion is a problem. We view the disproportionate placement of minorities and males in programs for educable mentally retarded (EMR) children as problematic only under certain circumstances. Harm accrues to those children who have been invalidly referred and assessed for special education placement and to those who have received instruction of inferior quality. All children are potential victims of these conditions; however, minority children, particularly those in the southern and border states, and to a lesser extent males, face a greater chance of being placed in EMR programs, and the potential consequences of the EMR classifica- tion unduly affect these groups of children. This perspective on disproportion has significant implications for any attempts to resolve the equity issues associated with disproportionate placement. Overrepresentation of minorities and males does not consti- tute an inequity if the students have been validly assessed and are receiv- ing high-quality, educationally relevant services. Simplistic solutions that lead only to the reduction of racial or ethnic or sex disproportion are mis- directed. The focus should be on fundamental educational problems un- derlying EMR placement on the valid assessment of educational needs and on the provision of appropriate, high-quality services. The panel's major recommendations emphasize improvements in as 92
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New Approaches to Assessment and Instruction 93 sessment procedures and the provision of services rather than remedies that would directly eliminate disproportion in placement rates. To achieve these dual goals, we recommend adherence to six principles (see below) that ask participants at each major step in the placement process to dem- onstrate the educational utility and relevance of their actions before refer- ring, placing, and maintaining children in special programs. Although these principles are consistent with current law and educational theory, to a large extent they are not followed in practice, nor do they underlie cur- rent systems of assessment, classification, and instruction. Faithful adherence to these principles would have far-reaching effects on the organization of both the regular education and the special educa- tion systems. Two potential outcomes are of special significance. First, the current categorization system, which includes a class of children labeled EMR, would gradually evolve into a system that emphasizes the func- tional educational needs of children experiencing learning difficulties. Sec- ond, the use of global IQ scores would be Reemphasized in favor of tech- niques that link assessment more directly to the provision of educational services. The abolition of either IQ tests or EMR classes is not in itself a solution to the problems of educational failure or inequitable treatment of minority children. On the contrary, ethnic differences in IQ distributions and dis- proportionate representation of minority students in EMR programs are symptoms of deeper failings in the education and social systems-failings that will not be ameliorated by mere relabeling. Nevertheless, prevailing practices in the use of tests for assessment and the labeling and placement of EMR children obscure the importance of matching educational needs and services. In this chapter the panel makes two sets of recommendations. Our ma- jor recommendations consist of six principles of responsibility that must be adhered to in order to ensure valid referral, assessment, and placement and high-quality programs of instruction. First, we list the six principles, then examine each individually, giving attention to problems of imple- mentation, to suggested research that would facilitate implementation, and to intended as well as unintended effects. Whenever possible, the rec- ommendations include suggestions for demonstration programs and the evaluation of natural experiments that seem to embody the principles that we consider critical. The second set of recommendations, addressed to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), is specifically framed to aid OCR in its data collection and monitoring efforts. Fundamental change in the special education system will take time, and procedures must evolve in response to practical experience that we believe should guide change in the system. For this reason we stress broad principles
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94 REPORT OF THE PANEL rather than detailed administrative prescriptions. Although we have fo- cused on the participants in the placement and instructional processes notably teachers and administrators the responsibility for bringing about these changes must be shared by all concerned with educating children: parents, school boards, state education agencies, and the federal govern- ment. To ask for major institutional change and to ask public institutions to support such change is to ask a great deal. Yet even in a time of increasing financial stringency, we believe that these recommendations make sense. No untried technology nor radically new functions are being proposed for schools. All the recommendations are based on practices that have already been implemented in some school districts. All are consistent with current law and regulations. These existing practices are the basis of our detailed recommendations for research recommendations that are designed to derive maximum guidance from demonstration programs and natural ex- periments that are already under way. MAJOR RECOMMENDATIONS: PRINCIPLES OF RESPONSIBILITY Each of the six principles listed below asks participants in the placement and educational process to demonstrate that an individual child needs special education services. Each also stipulates that improved educational outcomes should be the final criterion on which to judge all decisions. 1. It is the responsibility of teachers in the regular classroom to engage in multiple educational interventions and to note the effects of such inter- ventions on a child experiencing academic failure before referring the child for special education assessment. It is the responsibility of school boards and administrators to ensure that needed alternative instructional resources are available. 2. It is the responsibility of assessment specialists to demonstrate that the measures employed validly assess the functional needs of the individ- ual child for which there are potentially effective interventions. 3. It is the responsibility of the placement team that labels and places a child in a special program to demonstrate that any differential label used is related to a distinctive prescription for educational practices and that these practices are likely to lead to improved outcomes not achievable in the regular classroom. 4. It is the responsibility of the special education and evaluation staff to demonstrate systematically that high-quality, effective special instruction is being provided and that the goals of the special education program could not be achieved as effectively within the regular classroom. 5. It is the responsibility of the special education staff to demonstrate,
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New Approaches to Assessment and Instruction 95 on at least an annual basis, that a child should remain in the special edu- cation class. A child should be retained in the special education class only after it has been demonstrated that he or she cannot meet specified educa- tional objectives and that all efforts have been made to achieve these ob . . Ject~ves. 6. It is the responsibility of administrators at the district, state, and na- tional levels to monitor on a regular basis the pattern of special education placements, the rates for particular groups of children or particular schools and districts, and the types of instructional services offered to af- firm that appropriate procedures are being followed or to redress inequi- ties found in the system. ALTERNATIVE STRATEGIES WITHIN THE REGULAR CLASSROOM 1. It is the responsibility of teachers in the regular classroom to engage in multiple educational interventions and to note the effects of such inter- ventions on a child experiencing academic failure before referring the child for special education assessment. It is the responsibility of school boards and administrators to ensure that needed alternative instructional resources are available. As it becomes apparent that a child is experiencing academic failure and after consultation with parents, the classroom teacher should use all available regular program resources remedial specialists, special educa- tion staff expertise, school psychologists, resource rooms, compensatory education programs, bilingual programs, and so forth to identify and implement promising alternative instructional strategies in an attempt to reverse the pattern of failure. All avenues within the regular program should be pursued. If and only if a variety of alternative instructional in- terventions fail should there be a formal referral for special education as- sessment as required by the Section 504 regulations and the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975. A discussion of the rationale underlying this recommendation is found in Chapter 3. The contribution of the teaching/learning environment to the child's observed difficulties in the classroom must be systematically explored before the child receives a comprehensive individual assessment for special education placement. This approach shifts attention from pre- sumed deficiencies in the child to possible contributors in the child's edu- cational environment. The child who has been unable to learn under cer- tain conditions of instruction in the regular program should not be judged as unable to learn under any conditions of regular instruction until a variety of such strategies has been attempted and demonstrated to be un- successful.
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96 REPORT OF TEIE PANEL This perspective is consistent with P.L. 94-142, which requires that "special classes, separate schooling or other removal of handicapped children from the regular educational environment occur only when the nature or severity of the handicap is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satis- factorily ..." (20 USC 1412~5~(B)), and is consistent with the regulations implementing Section 504, which state that "a recipient shall place a handi- capped person in the regular educational environment operated by the re- cipient unless it is demonstrated by the recipient that the education of the person in the regular environment with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily" (34 CER 104.34a. While these provisions apply to children who have already been assessed and labeled, the approach is equally appropriate for the child who has not yet been labeled as mentally handicapped (see Chapter 3~. Implications for Implementation A number of school districts have implemented, with some reported suc- cess, programs to facilitate the strategy of alternative instructional prac- tices within the regular program. For example, in one district, school psy- chologists have been trained by special education experts at the local university to serve as educational consultants to teachers who have asked for assistance in the formulation of alternative instructional techniques for certain children. As a result, a majority of the children who previously would have been referred for special education first receive what is called a referral for observation and consultation, which triggers the intervention of the school psychologist/educational consultant. After interviews with the teacher, observations in the classroom, and the administration of cri- terion-referenced tests, the educational consultant works with the teacher in designing alternative approaches to instruction following behaviorally oriented, direct instruction theories. Only after these instructional ap- proaches have failed to solve the initial problems is a referral for special education placement filed (Alessi and Leys, 1981~. A major consequence of this approach should be a reduction in the number of children referred for special education placement. In the dis- trict described above, approximately 80 percent of the children referred for observation and consultation were not later referred for special educa- tion placement. This principle is not meant simply to shift liability from the child to the classroom teacher. Teachers, often working in overcrowded classrooms with insufficient materials, need a variety of levels of support to properly implement the recommended strategy. School boards and administrators
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New Approaches to Assessment and Instruction 97 must provide resources to enable teachers to work with children of varying abilities. These may include preservice and in-service training programs, appropriate materials, and access to and assistance from expert consul- tants. In turn, these educational consultants e.g., school psychologists or resource teachers must learn to develop individualized educational op- tions and to train regular-classroom teachers in the use of these techniques. This principle implies additional costs, such as those of retraining per- sonnel, as well as potentially burdensome paperwork for those who are asked to document the use of alternative strategies in the classroom. These expenditures may be counterbalanced, however, by corresponding savings at later points in the placement and instructional process. Fewer students will probably require a formal comprehensive assessment or costly special programs if this recommendation is carried out. In the district cited above, for example, the average referral for observation and consul- tation required 5 to 10 hours; the average referral for special education placement required 16 to 20 hours. In addition, as noted above, a vast ma- jority of the children referred for observation and consultation were not later referred for special education placement. Suggested Research On Alternative Strategies Within the Regular Classroom Guidelines are needed to assist classroom teachers and educational consultants in the se- lection of appropriate interventions likely to succeed with individual children. To provide such assistance, we recommend the development of a taxonomy of alternate instructional strategies. Such a taxonomy would draw on the large body of existing research on instructional strategies for low-achieving pupils and on existing taxonomies of educational objectives and methods. Research is needed to determine reasonable expectations about the length of time a given strategy should be pursued before initiat- ing another intervention and before referring for special education. On the Evaluation of Natural Experiments We recommend the investi- gation of existing districtwide programs in which alternative instructional strategies are being systematically implemented within the regular class- room for children experiencing academic failure. Monitoring of these pro- grams should focus on such considerations as the administrative support systems needed to facilitate program implementation, the staff training required for implementation, the effects of the program on the function- ing of the regular classroom (including major constraints imposed on the teacher's time and effects on other students) as well as the effects on tar- geted children who continue to experience failure after intervention and
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98 REPORT OF THE PANEL whose referral for special education assessment may be delayed. In addi- tion, special attention should be paid to the incentives created by funding patterns that will facilitate implementation of this recommendation. The state of Louisiana recently revised its special education regulations and guidelines to promote the use of alternative resources within the regular program; this may prove to be an interesting candidate for a case study once the state's revised regulations are implemented. In monitoring those sites that have implemented this "prereferral" phase of the assessment process, it would also be possible to investigate the extent to which improvement in the quality of regular instruction decreases total EMR placement in general and disproportionate place- ment rates by ethnicity and sex in particular. In addition to the data sources already cited, such a program could build on "effective schools" research (see Chapter 4) to determine whether schools serving minority and low-income students at or above grade level also have EMR place- ment rates that are lower than expected. Once identified, these effective schools might well seine as demonstration projects. On the Assessment of Learning Environments This recommendation im- plies that a child cannot be referred for special education until there is evi- dence that he or she has been exposed to effective instruction. Appropriate and valid assessments of instructional environments are essential, both to discover strengths and weaknesses in classroom processes and to identify alternative strategies that may prove beneficial. Research is needed on the development of measurement systems that describe the major dimensions of learning environments. These should include, at a minimum, demonstra- tion of the effectiveness of curricula for the particular student populations served and the degree to which the curricula are actually used in the classroom. VALID ASSESSMENT 2. It is the responsibility of assessment specialists to demonstrate that the measures employed validly assess the functional needs of the individ- ual child for which there are potentially effective interventions. If the alternative instructional interventions described in the preceding recommendation are not effective, the child should be referred for a com- prehensive special education assessment. The primary justification for the use of any assessment technique during this process is, in our view, its contribution to educational practice. From this perspective a valid assess- ment must display two characteristics. First, measurement instruments should assess a child's functional needs and should thereby be evaluated on the basis of their relevance to education decisions. Functional needs may be categories of academically relevant skills (e.g., reading, mathe
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New Approaches to Assessment and Instruction 99 matics), cognitive-process skills (e.g., generalization, self-monitoring), adaptive and motivational skills (e.g., impulse control, social skills), or physical problems that hamper learning (e.g., defective vision or hearing). Second, functional needs should be identified only if there exist potentially effective interventions. Thus, assessments can be judged in terms of their utility in moving the child toward appropriate educational goals. Assessment techniques in general need not always identify functional characteristics of the individual that can be corrected through interven- tion. As noted in Chapter 3, for example, there are diseases that can be diagnosed but not treated. Furthermore, we do not mean to discourage re- search on new instructional practices with selected populations that may, in the future, ameliorate children's educational performance. However, we urge that the assessment procedures employed by school systems focus on individual characteristics that are relevant to classroom performance and susceptible to remediation. Such a focus would concentrate attention on the responsibilities of the school rather than on the shortcomings of the child, and it may help prevent diagnosis from becoming an excuse for in- action. While potential interventions may be broad and may encompass actions beyond the school environs, we anticipate that each will also include an in- structional component. For example, certain interventions may be as straightforward as providing a child with eyeglasses or improving his or her attendance; however, these remedies in isolation will not compensate for the instruction missed while the child could not see adequately or did not attend class. The regulations implementing Section 504 and P.L. 94-142 require that evaluation and assessment materials be "... validated for the specific purpose for which they are used ..." (34 CFR 104.35(b)~1), 34 CFR 300.532a. Both the Section 504 regulations and those for P.L. 94-142 give additional guidance about the type of instruments to be used and the purpose of the assessment process. "Tests and other evaluation materials include those tailored to assess specific areas of educational need and not merely those which are designed to provide a single general intelligence quotient" (34 CFR 104.35(b)~2), 34 CFR 300.532 (31(b)~. The clear mean- ing of these requirements establishes a dual function for assessment proce- dures: measurement of the functional needs of the child and guidance for instructional interventions. The panel strongly endorses such provisions. Implications for Implementation The focus on assessments that stress functional needs disarms the contro- versy over the use of IQ test scores in special education placement proce- dures. As discussed in Chapter 3, the controversy focuses on the adequacy
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100 REPORT OF THE PANEL of IQ tests as measures of children's innate capacity to learn. A focus on functional needs makes it unnecessary to know whether the causes of poor performance are organic or experiential. The issue becomes one of whether children who perform poorly in class and on IQ tests will benefit from special types of instruction. The principle of educational utility suggests a number of measures that could be included in an assessment. While the technology for this type of assessment is relatively undeveloped compared with that for IQ tests, a number of instruments currently in use or under development may poten- tially meet our criterion. For example, the increasing availability of in- structionally related diagnostic tests that are tied to programs of remedia- tion link assessments directly to instruction. Observing children's responses to intense instruction as an indication of their ability to learn and to generalize may also provide a promising alternative to current assessment techniques. Changing established assessment practices and ingrained associations between IQ scores and the definitions of educable mental retardation would require both a change in attitudes toward the purposes and goals of assessment and the dissemination of information concerning instruments that would accomplish these goals. The retraining of school psychologists is, thus, central to successful implementation of this recommendation. Several districts throughout the country have successfully abandoned IQ testing in special education placement. Some, for example, have relied on criterion-referenced testing to develop instructional objectives. For ex- ample, since 1970, districts in Vermont participating in the Vermont Con- sulting Teacher Program have trained teachers to conduct continuous, detailed measurements of a child's attainment of minimum objectives. These assessments identify those needing special services and are the basis for prescribing an educational program for such a child within the regular classroom. The state of California, too, has banned the use of IQ tests for placement in EMR programs and is promoting the development and use of alternative methods of evaluation. These and other approaches to spe- cial education assessment suggest that it is administratively feasible to use measures that appear to meet the criterion of educational utility. Suggested Research On the Identification and Development of Measurement Instruments That Validly Assess Functional Needs A program of research should be undertaken to identify and/or develop instruments that assess those func- tional needs of the child for which there are potential prescriptions for in- tervention. This program must be coordinated with and complementary to the suggested development of a taxonomy of alternative instruction, as
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New Approaches to Assessment and Instruction 101 suggested above. The usefulness of instruments such as criterion-refer- enced tests and so-called measures of learning potential, such as those suggested by the work of M. Budoff and R. Feuerstein, also warrant addi- tional investigation. On Current Practices Providing an Alternative to 1Q Tests We recom- mend a program of research on the effects of the court-mandated ban on the use of IQ test results for EMR placement in California and the similar ban in Chicago. Individual studies should address such questions as: What are the pitfalls associated with abandoning the IQ test? What are the assessment procedures being used to replace the IQ test? What are the implications of the ban on using IQ tests for training programs required for school psychologists and other special education personnel? What are the costs of needed training programs? What costs are associated with the revised assessment procedures? What are the effects on rates of dispropor- tion in special education categories and on overall prevalence rates? On Current Practices That Incorporate Broader Measures of Individual Functioning As indicated in Chapter 3, comprehensive assessment of functional needs must go beyond the intellectual domain to incorporate measures of adaptive behavior and organismic functioning. We recom- mend study of school districts and demonstration programs in which adaptive behavior measures are being used widely and systematically, in order to assess their effects on the children who remain in special educa- tion as well as those who are excluded on the basis of their adaptive behav- ior test scores. Such studies could include a documentation of the educa- tional experiences both academic and social of those children whose adaptive behavior test scores disqualify them from special education placement. In addition, questions remain concerning the current and po- tential utility of information from adaptive behavior instruments for edu- cational programming and their effects on the numbers of children placed in special classes and on racial and ethnic disproportions in those classes. Demonstration programs that incorporate medical screening as an in- tegral part of the special education placement system should be studied. These demonstration programs should be established in low-income areas, where the prevalence of health-related learning problems is the highest. Medical screening should focus on those conditions that are likely to be amenable to educational interventions. CLASSIFICATION AND THE PROVISION OF NEEDED SERVICES 3. It is the responsibility of the placement team that labels and places a child in a special program to demonstrate that any differential label used
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102 REPORT OF THE PANEL is related to a distinctive prescription for educational practices and that these practices are likely to lead to improved outcomes not achievable in the regular classroom. In order to warrant the continued use of any generic labels in special education placement, the benefits of labeling must clearly outweigh a range of potential costs. Ever since the establishment of the earliest pro- grams, the extent of possible harm and enduring stigma associated with labeling and placement in special education classes has remained a major controversial issue. While a classification system based on functional needs rather than global categories of deficiencies may mitigate problems of potential stigma and inappropriately low expectations, problems asso- ciated with current systems of classification will not disappear merely if new labels are substituted for old. Resolution seems to lie in the answer to a key procedural question: To what extent must children be classified and labeled in terms of deficien- cies or handicaps in order to receive needed educational services? This question does not deny the necessity of labeling and classification; both state and federal funding is dependent on official identification of specific individuals. Recognizing the need for such identification, we recommend two criteria to guide decisions concerning labeling and placement. First, differential labels should be linked to distinctive educational practices. Only with evidence that children who receive a common label require in- struction or interventions that are different from those needed by other children-whether labeled or not can the labeling be justified. Second, the justification for a classification system must depend on its usefulness in providing effective educational services. Since the negative connota- tions of labels often increase as the separateness of a program from the regular classroom increases, it is imperative that the separation of chil- dren from their peers be justified by evidence demonstrating that a separate program does indeed provide a better educational environment for the child. The placement of handicapped children in the least restrictive appro- priate environment is a central part of P.L. 94-142, its regulations, and the regulations implementing Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The regulations of P.L. 94-142 also require placement based on the child's educational needs as expressed in the individual education plan. The panel endorses these requirements. The evidence described in Chapter 4 indicates that similar instructional processes appear to be effective with EMR, learning-disabled, and com- pensatory education populations. At the present time, therefore, we find no educational justification for the current categorization system that separates these three groups in the schools. If categorical labels remain
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New Approaches to Assessment and Instruction 107 means of documenting effective classroom processes. While considerably more development is needed, such approaches seem to provide a natural way of comparing the practices of teachers in special programs both with the practices of regular classroom teachers and with ideal practices pre- scribed for dealing with particular problems or disabilities. Systematic observations also offer a way of documenting maladaptive student behav- ior (e.g., inattention or disruptiveness) and of measuring progress in deal- ing with problems in both regular and special classes. Several methods are available for assessing academic progress. One is the use of standardized achievement tests. Another is the use of tests targeted on specific areas of achievement. The latter technology is less developed than the former, but it is more readily linked to a particular program of instruction. The major barriers to implementation are administrative, not techno- logical. Other than the few school systems that have established experi- mental programs closely paralleling our recommendations, systematic monitoring of instruction is extremely rare, and the monitoring of student progress is not as extensive, frequent, or as closely tied to instruction as we suggest. Periodic achievement testing is common and is often used as a basis for placement, but the use of achievement scores to develop instruc- tional plans for individual students is much less common. Systematic use of criterion-referenced tests as a means for monitoring student progress and guiding instruction is rare. Schools are not currently organized to keep relevant records and to feed back information to classroom teachers in a manner designed to shape their strategies for dealing with individual students. Suggested Research On Measurement Technologies Research is needed on the design and psychometric properties of classroom observation instruments and crite- rion-referenced tests. In both cases there is a substantial foundation on which to build. As indicated in Chapter 3, elaborate observation instru- ments have been developed for basic research purposes. Further develop- ment of simpler, more focused instruments is needed to meet the practical needs of school psychologists and educational consultants charged with the periodic monitoring of student and teacher behaviors. Criterion-refer- enced tests have been developed in connection with various "direct in- struction" curricula, and recently there have been several attempts to ex- pand their theoretical and technical underpinnings. More of the latter work is needed, in conjunction with efforts to disseminate the technology in a form useful for practitioners.
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108 REPORT OF THE PANEL On Administrative Practices Studies of demonstration programs and natural experiments already under way should focus not only on the valid- ity and effectiveness of assessment and intervention techniques, as already suggested, but also on the costs and administrative changes entailed by the information needs of such systems. Any recommendation that implies recordkeeping that goes beyond current practice runs the risk of imposing burdensome and ultimately unproductive paperwork on teachers and ad- ministrators already burdened by such requirements. It is therefore im- perative to discover, through studies of successful practices, the most effi- cient ways of gathering information and feeding it back to classroom teachers and teaching consultants. The growing use by schools of micro- computers for instructional planning and the collection of data on the per- formance of individual students suggests a feasible and cost-effective solu- tion to the management problems implied by this recommendation. It may also be possible to identify current practices that are inefficient or un- necessary and thus to recommend compensating reductions in paperwork. RETENrIoN IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM 5. It is the responsibility of the special education staff to demonstrate, on at least an annual basis. that a child should remain in the special education class. A child should be retained in the special education class only after it has been demonstrated that he or she cannot meet specified educational objectives and that all efforts have been made to achieve these objectives. Although no systematic data are collected on the number of EMR stu- dents who exit the special education system each year, it is commonly believed that once placed in EMR programs, there is little chance of re- turning to the regular classroom. Because these programs are not often considered remedial (as opposed to compensatory education programs such as Title I), it is frequently assumed that children placed in these pro- grams will always need the supports associated with a more restricted en- vironment, such as a modified curriculum or a smaller class size (Algoz- zine et al., 1979~. This recommendation is an extension of the previous one. It applies to the child who requires special education services after it has been demon- strated that he or she does not rightly belong in the regular program with supplementary instruction. This recommendation is premised on the belief that there is a group of children, albeit a reduced one, who require instruction in a self-contained special education program. Nevertheless, such children should not remain in special programs through inertia or
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New Approaches to Assessment and Instruction 109 default; their status should be contingent on informed decisions based on a continuous assessment of their progress in the special program. We therefore recommend the formulation of specific objectives or "exit criteria" for all children who are placed in special education classes. Once a child has attained these objectives, he or she should return to the regular classroom or the next least restrictive environment. In addition, the initial placement in special education should be limited to one year. If the child has not met the objectives at the end of the school year, the special educa- tion staff must demonstrate that all efforts were put forth to help the child meet the assigned objectives and to prepare him or her to return to the regular classroom. If these criteria cannot be met, if the child fails to meet the program's goals because of inadequate implementation of instruc- tional strategies, the child should not be retained in the special program but should return to the regular classroom. Implications for Implementation A serious obstacle to the implementation of this recommendation is the difficulty of establishing criteria that can be used to judge whether a child is ready to leave a special class. While there are relatively clear-cut indica- tors that are currently used to flag a child as EMR (e.g., low IQ scores, low scores on adaptive behavior measures; see Chapter 2), there are fewer consistent or salient criteria that signal that a child is ready to return to the regular class. P.L. 94-142 requires that the individual education plan of special education students include annual and short-term goals, including cri- teria for determining whether short-term instuctional objectives have been met. These presumably could serve as exit criteria, yet research indicates that these goals are infrequently specified in practice and, when included, do not appear to serve that purpose (see the paper by Bickel in this volume for a review of this research). To determine whether children should return to the regular classroom or to the next least restrictive environment, continuous assessment is criti- cal. This does not necessarily require the full assessment that preceded the child's entrance into special education; it should focus instead on the at- tainment of measurable objectives and should be monitored by regular and special education teachers alike. While this may entail additional costs, it also results in financial savings, since fewer children will remain in the costly self-contained programs. Louisiana's new regulations incorporate a variation of the principle we advocate. The individual education plan review process requires, at a
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110 REPORT OF THE PANEL minimum, a return to the next least restrictive setting unless the reviewers can justify why the child's placement should not be changed. Special education funds in Louisiana follow a child for one year after decer- tification. Suggested Research On Retention Guidelines Because specifying exit criteria is not common practice, demonstration programs should be established that attempt to specify the conditions under which a child should lose his or her special education status. The establishment of such criteria obviously will match instructional objectives. While this may be relatively clear-cut in mastery learning approaches that emphasize the acquisition of a specified skill se- quence, it may be less so in nonbehavioral programs. Research is needed on the specification of such criteria. In addition, methods of easing the transition from a special program to the regular classroom need to be identified. This should include a study of funding practices that will assist both the child and the teacher during the period of transition and reinte- gration. Finally, the progress of those children who move from special education to the regular classroom should be monitored. On Children Who Require Ongoing Services Not all children who have been placed in separate programs will improve significantly, even under the best of instructional strategies, so that they can reenter regular pro- grams. Intensive study of this group of children is necessary. How much progress can be expected under ideal conditions? How might these children be identified so that they can receive appropriate services as quickly as possible? At what point in their development should social and vocational skills be introduced into the educational program? EXAMINATION OF THE PATTERNS OF SPECIAL EDUCATION PLACEMENT 6. It is the responsibility of administrators at the district. state. and na- tional levels to monitor on a regular basis the patters' of special education placements. the rates for particular groups of children or particular schools and districts, and the types of instructional services offered to af- firm that appropriate procedures are being followed or to redress inequi- ties found in the system. The panel recognizes that changes in practice such as those recom- mended here are difficult to implement and sustain. Even within a set of well-intended and well-defined guidelines, local practices vary dramatically, especially as the compositions of school populations and instructional
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New Approaches to Assessment and Instruction 111 staffs change over time. For these reasons and to ensure that valid assess- ment and intructional opportunities continue to be afforded to students with learning difficulties, it is important to monitor the special education system of referral, assessment, and instruction and to periodically investi- gate those situations that appear problematic. Implications for Implementation At a global level, annual or biannual monitoring can be accomplished by a review of the number of children receiving each type of special education service offered by a school district. These data should be gathered so that it is possible to determine the extent to which each type of service is uti- lized (i.e., the amount of time students receive for each form of special in- struction) and so that comparisons can be made by student race or ethnic- ity and by sex. Such reports could be examined both for populations that receive particular services disproportionately and also for schools, sub- districts, and districts that make exceptionally high or low use of par- ticular services or that have patterns of service delivery very different from those found elsewhere. Schools should be encouraged to report special education services according to the classification system actually in use. Administrators at all three levels should review these data on a regular basis. At the state and district levels, two other functions in addition to data collection are necessary: analysis and feedback. When the statistical data reveal patterns that warrant further examination, state and local per- sonnel should have in place a means for conducting an in-depth analysis of the extent to which valid assessments have been conducted and appro- priate educational interventions have been provided for special students. Each of the first five principles of responsibility we recommend can be recast in the form of a question and addressed by administrators. Were alternative educational interventions attempted before referral was made? Were they sufficiently distinct interventions? Were the measures employed in the assessment of children's functional needs valid for the special services now being received by them? Is there evidence that the programs are effec- tive? Is it clear that different programs have demonstrably distinctive in- structional features and that they produce outcomes that are less likely to occur in the regular classroom? Is there evidence that children who remain in special classes for more than a year could not function in the regular classroom at the end of a year? Are exit criteria specified clearly for each child and have attempts to work toward those objectives been documented? To the extent that valid procedures have not been followed, local and state administrators should establish a means for providing feedback and support to the instructional staff. This may involve both suggestions for
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112 REPORT OF THE PANEL immediate changes with regard to particular groups of students and sug- gestions for changes in general procedures; the latter may include con- ducting in-service training or workshops or providing materials that docu- ment valid assessment procedures and instructional approaches. These responsibilities are completely consistent with Section 1413(a) of P.L. 94-142, which requires that states provide a system of personnel develop- ment as well as the means for disseminating and adopting "promising educational practices and materials." The focus of the recommended system of monitoring, analysis, and feedback is on actual educational practice. While it may be infeasible for federal agencies such as OCR to evaluate the validity of such practices, their compliance activities should include reviews of the documentation required by recommendations 1 through 5 to determine whether the dis- proportionate placement of minorities and males is accompanied by valid assessment practices and effective instruction. In addition, administrators at the federal level can aid state and district personnel by preparing, dis- seminating, and updating documents that describe valid assessment tech- nologies and effective instructional approaches for children with learning problems. DISCUSSION The panel's major recommendations emphasize improvements in special education referral, assessment, and placement procedures and instruc- tional practices rather than direct mechanisms for the elimination of dis- proportionate special education placement rates. Because of the broad scope of recommended changes, with their concomitant complexities and unintended as well as intended consequences, research and demonstration programs are emphasized as a necessarily careful route to program im- plementation. The unique possibilities for research involving natural experiments have been highlighted to take advantage of changes in special education pro- grams that are under way at the district and state levels. These "cases" do not necessarily represent model programs that we wish to see implemented nationwide; in many instances their effectiveness has not yet been demon- strated. The panel does not endorse any specific program. The programs cited do serve as examples of the commitment of several districts and states to modifying and improving their special education systems. These cases may be particularly useful in isolating problems and suggesting remedies before they are implemented on a broader scale. The proposed recommendations require participants in the process- teachers, assessment specialists, placement teams, administrators-to
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New Approaches to Assessment and Instruction 113 demonstrate and to document that they have fulfilled certain responsibili- ties. The question rightly can be asked: To whom are each of these partici- pants responsible? Ultimately, the responsibility is to the children who are referred, assessed, and placed in special education. On a more pragmatic level, responsibility entails monitoring and ac- countability both through self-analysis and feedback and through reviews by outside individuals and agencies. While the district must implement the recommended practices, the state departments of education must assume a central role in establishing and monitoring the special education policies to be followed by the local education agencies. Such policies in- clude definitions of special education categories, required assessment pro- cedures, and staff training and certification. We urge state departments of education to examine their policies in light of the six principles of responsibility recommended in this chapter. Many of the changes intended by the recommendations would evolve gradually; others could be implemented in a relatively short time. Initial research efforts could include compilations and syntheses of current knowledge in the areas described, such as diagnostic tests that are linked to remediation programs, observational systems of learning environments, and alternative instructional practices that can be used within the regular program. These state-of-the-art documents would not only facilitate the design of additional needed research but could also encourage districts to adapt available practices to their own needs and to explore alternative strategies that go beyond the current knowledge base. The panel's recommendations raise significant questions concerning the financing of needed services. As indicated earlier, the recommenda- tions entail some shifting of special education funds from comprehensive assessment and remedial programs to preventive intervention in the regu- lar classroom. This shift entails reconsideration of funding formulas based on head counts of children in various categories of disability. Recom- mending appropriate levels of special education funding and formulas for allocating funds are tasks far beyond the scope of this panel's work. Rec- ommendations likely to have cost implications and research likely to be helpful in making funding decisions have been highlighted. We caution against two misinterpretations of our recommendations: (1) they provide no rationale for cutting funds for special education and (2) they should not be construed as a plea for more money for special education. The panel's recommendations are concerned solely with the principles on which place- ment decisions should be based; their cost implications remain to be worked out. Finally, the panel is well aware that its recommendations place a heavy burden of responsibility on the schools. This is intentional. The burden is
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114 REPORT OF THE PANEL essentially one of educating all children, and it is one that educators and schools as institutions have already accepted. Our intention has not been to add to that burden or to denigrate teachers, schools, or special educa- tion. We have argued instead that educators and educational institutions, under pressure from many outside sources, have become distracted from this central responsibility. Concerns about assessment procedures, ethnic disproportion in special education, and related issues are important but ancillary. In the largest sense, the goal of our recommendations is to refocus the attention of educators, policy makers, and the public on the traditional goal of the schools: providing the best possible education for all children. RECOMMENDATIONS FOR OCR'S DATA COLLECTION AND MONITORING OCR's School and District Surveys, intended primarily for targeting and monitoring purposes, have proven to be an invaluable source of research data for this panel. Although many additional questions can be suggested that would enhance the utility of the data for research purposes, the panel recognizes that the time and effort required to respond to the survey ques- tionnaires could easily become prohibitive. Therefore the recommenda- tions for additional questionnaire items that follow are limited to those that are necessary accompaniments to the implementation of the recom- mendations discussed above. THE OCR SURVEYS The Ouestionnaires Under the guidelines proposed by the panel, revised methods of reporting participation in special education programs and of targeting districts for investigation of possible civil rights violations would be required. The panel recommends that OCR, in consultation with educators formulating alternative assessment and service delivery methods, undertake a review of the data that will be required to identify districts in which some or all pro- tected groups of students (those covered by civil rights laws) are "isolated" in separate special programs. While the panel is not prepared to under- take this task in any depth, it offers the following suggestions and recom- mendations for consideration in modifying the survey instruments. The OCR survey questionnaire currently solicits information on the
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New Approaches to Assessment and Instruction 115 amount of time students spend in special education classes, categorized as "less than 10 hours per week, 10 hours or more per week but less than full- time, or full-time." There is some ambiguity in the way this item may be interpreted: It may imply the amount of time a student is considered to be classified in a special category such as EMR, the amount of time he or she receives special instruction, whether in the regular class or in a separate setting, or the amount of time the child is removed from the regular classroom. An alternate way to document the extent of participation in special pro- grams either under the current categorical approach or under a service delivery orientation would be through clarification and expansion of the time question. To identify the types of special programs in which students participate, this item could be restructured in terms of distinct instruc- tional settings. For example, the amount of time a child receives instruc- tion from an aide or tutor in the regular classroom, the amount of time a child participates in a resource room, or the amount of time a child is taught in a self-contained room with a class of special education students could be recorded. With little algebraic manipulation, these responses could be compiled either to the percentage of students (or students of any racial or ethnic group) who are spending more than x percent (e.g., 25 percent, 50 percent, 75 percent) of their instructional time outside the regular classroom or to the percentage of instructional time spent by one or all racial or ethnic groups in resource rooms, in separate classes, and so on. As a second alternative, the questionfs) could be structured in such a way that the resource rooms or separate special classrooms become the focus, and the numbers of children participating in instruction in those rooms could be recorded. This would make it possible to identify racially isolated classes more directly. However, if such an approach is taken, the questioners) should be worded in such a way as to determine the amount of time children spend in the separate classroom as well. The appropriate composite indextes) (i.e., the "trigger") to be used for targeting purposes must be devised before the final format of question- naire/item~s) can be specified. If classroom teachers make every effort to instruct children with learning problems in the regular classroom, the use of resource rooms or separate classrooms would probably diminish. An unusually large use of these separate facilities by a school or district might indicate that the degree of separation for a protected group of children or for all racial groups alike is too great. Thus, the overall extent of the use of special facilities may supplement measures of racial or sex disproportion in identifying districts in need of further investigation.
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116 Level of Aggregation REPORT OF THE PANEL Analyses of OCR survey data should be based on placement rates calcu- lated separately for each racial or ethnic group (i.e., the number of group x in a special program divided by the number of group x in attendance). These rates could be compared with those of white students, nonminority students, or among themselves. However, only with separate rates for each group can patterns of disproportion be seen clearly for smaller minority populations (i.e., any group except blacks). Furthermore, in districts with two or more substantial minority populations, failure to disaggregate by race or ethnicity can easily produce misleading district appearances (e.g., a high overrepresentation of one minority and large underrepresentation of the other will average out to produce overall summary statistics in- dicating no disproportion. Current OCR targeting practices give some consideration to separate minority populations. This recommendation is particularly important for those examining the distribution of dispropor- tion for a single racial or ethnic group and for those conducting secondary analyses of the survey data. Many large school districts (e.g., New York City and Dallas) are orga- nized into subdistricts, and these often mirror important demographic characteristics of the neighborhoods (e.g., racial composition, income, family size). The number of children attending school in the subdistricts is usually substantial, often exceeding the number in the nation's smaller districts in total. Some degree of fiscal control is often provided to the sub- districts and more often educational practices vary among subdistricts in a larger district. OCR should consider collecting subdistrict breakdowns for each large district and identifying each school by its subdistrict member- ship. Checks on the Data Because the data from OCR school and district surveys have profound im- plications both for the welfare of children and the legal and financial status of the schools, the panel recommends that a program of data vali- dation be undertaken soon after questionnaire returns are obtained. This should include recounts of students enrolled in schools and school pro- grams; a subset of elementary and secondary schools could be chosen within a sample of districts classified by demographic characteristics (e.g., size, racial composition, region). In each school and district revisited, respon- dents to the survey should be interviewed to compare the way in which ques- tionnaire items were interpreted. The results of this investigation should be published with the summary and documentation of the data.
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New Approaches to Assessment and Instruction RESEARCH ON HISPANIC AND OTHER MINORITY GROUPS 117 The panel's analysis of OCR's 1978-1979 survey reveals that the pattern of disproportion for minority groups other than blacks varies considerably. In the case of Hispanic students, for example, there are numerous large EMR and SED (seriously emotionally disturbed) disproportions and many that are small or even reverse (i.e., few Hispanics in special programs). These trends appear to be a function of the availability of bilingual classes for children who have difficulty with English and of the racial or ethnic mix of the community. Further field-level research is needed to under- stand the processes of assessment and placement for Hispanic students. Trends among other non-English-speaking populations, including newly arrived Asian and other immigrants, also should be explored. RESEARCH ON SMALL SCHOOL DISTRICTS Small school districts tend not to be investigated in depth by federal agen- cies. However, the disproportion in EMR placement is particularly large among small districts in some parts of the country and may constitute a large-scale problem at the state or regional level. At the other extreme, many small districts in rural areas have small or nonexistent EMR or other special education programs. In general, special education practices among small school districts should be examined in detail to determine the extent and ways in which the educational needs of the students are be- ing met. RESEARCH ON SOUTHERN SCHOOL DISTRICTS The panel's analysis of OCR survey data reveals that EMR disproportions for black students were high throughout most of the Southeast. Further investigation of this phenomenon is warranted, including an examination of state criteria for special education placement, the referral and assess- ment process, and the quality of educational programs being offered in both the regular and special education classrooms.
Representative terms from entire chapter: