room—learning, solving problems, interacting with others, and creating products. Designed for students in preschool through grade 5, the Work Sampling System consists of three interrelated elements: developmental guidelines and checklists, portfolios, and summary reports. A brief observational assessment version of Work Sampling designed for Title I reporting is also available.
Studies of Work Sampling's effectiveness in urban communities, and particularly in Title I settings, demonstrate that the assessment is an accurate measure of children's progress and performance. It is a low-stakes, nonstigmatizing assessment that relies on extensive sampling of children's academic, personal, and social progress over the school year and provides a rich source of information about student strengths and weaknesses. In professional development associated with the system, teachers learn to observe, document, and evaluate student performance during actual classroom lessons. Through the checklists and other materials, teachers can translate their students' work into the data of assessment by systematically documenting and evaluating it, using specific criteria and well-defined procedures (Meisels, 1996).
One of the most far-reaching features of the 1994 Title I statute was its requirement to include all students in assessment and accountability mechanisms, and in its definition of “all students,” the law refers specifically to students with disabilities. According to the law, states must “provide for the participation of all students in the grades being assessed.” To accomplish this, the law calls for “reasonable adaptations and accommodations” for students with diverse learning needs.
This requirement was reinforced and strengthened by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997. That law requires states to demonstrate that children with disabilities are included in general state and district-wide assessment programs, with appropriate accommodations and modifications, if necessary. The law further states that the individualized education program (IEP), which is required to be developed for each student with a disability, must indicate the modifications required for the child to take part in the assessment; if the IEP process determines that a student is unable to participate in any part of an assessment program, the IEP must demonstrate why the student cannot participate and how the student will be assessed.
The law also requires states to develop alternate assessments for children who cannot participate in state and district-wide assessments, and to report to the public on the number of students with disabilities participating in regular and alternate assessment programs, and the performance of such students on the assessments.
These provisions break new ground. In the past, as many as half of all