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The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) – currently known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) – and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) both require that students with disabilities be included in state and district wide assessment programs.[i],[ii] Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and its implementing regulations also protect a student’s right to participate in state assessments and prohibits discrimination and the denial of comparable aids, benefits, and services.[iii] In order for aids, benefits, and services to be equally effective, they must provide an equal opportunity to obtain the same result, to gain the same benefit, or to reach the same level of achievement.[iv] The student’s Individualized Educational Program (IEP) team annually determines which state assessment a student may take.

States may develop and administer assessments in the following ways:

  • The regular assessment taken in the same manner as all other students
  • The regular assessment with approved accommodations or modifications
  • The alternate assessment based on alternate academic achievement standards (for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities).

COPAA is distinctly interested in assuring that all students with disabilities are included as all other students in state and district wide assessments. COPAA has consistently supported key provisions of ESSA that reinforce high standards and high expectations for students with disabilities along with their peers. 


Quick Facts on Assessment and Students with Disabilities

  • ESSA requires that states through districts provide the appropriate accommodations to children with disabilities, including interoperability with assistive technology[v]
  • ESSA requires states (not districts) to cap the use of alternate assessments by subject at 1% of all students[vi]
  • ESSA requires that parents whose child is recommended for the alternate assessment be clearly informed:

o   that their child’s academic achievement will be measured based on such alternate standards; and

o   how participation in such assessments may delay or otherwise affect the student from completing the requirements for a regular high school diploma.[vii]

  • ESSA clarifies that the state may not preclude a student taking an alternate assessment from attempting to complete the requirements of a regular high school diploma[viii]
  • Data and real-world experience show, the decision to place a student in the alternate assessment can take them off track for a regular diploma as early as elementary school

Click here to read all requirements of ESSA on the assessment of students, including students with disabilities.


[i] 20 U.S.C. § 1111(b)(2)(B)(I)

[ii] 34 C.F.R. §612(a)(16)(A)

[iii] 34 C.F.R. §104.4(b)(1)(i)-(iii)

[iv] 34 C.F.R. § 104.4(b)(2)

[v] 20 U.S.C. §1111(b)(2)(B)(vii)(II)

[vi] 20 U.S.C. §1111(b)(2)(D)(I)

[vii] 20 U.S.C. §1111(b)(2)(D)(II)(aa), (bb)

[viii] 20 U.S.C. §1111(b)(2)(D)(VII)

[i] 20 U.S.C. § 6311(b)(3)(A), (C)(v)),

[ii] 34 C.F.R. §612(a)(16)(A)

[iii] 34 C.F.R. §104.4(b)(1)(i)-(iii)

[iv] 34 C.F.R. § 104.4(b)(2)

[v] 34 CFR Part 200, Final Regulations for Standards and Assessments

[vi] 20 U.S.C. § 6311(b)(3)(C)(ix)

{viii]34 C.F.R. § 300.172(b)(3)



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