U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan vowed Tuesday to abolish the so-called "2 percent rule" that obscures an accurate portrait of the academic needs of America's students with disabilities.
In prepared remarks to the American Association of People with Disabilities gala in Washington, Duncan declared that students with disabilities should be judged with the same accountability system as everyone else.
"I just want to sayhere and nowfor the recordwe are moving away from the 2 percent rule," Duncan said. "We will not issue another policy that allows districts to disguise the educational performance of 2 percent of students."
Instead, he said, "We have to expect the very best from our studentsand tell the truth about student performanceso that we can give all students the supports and services they need."
Since 2005, the Education Department has used its regulatory authority to permit states and local school districts to effectively shield certain test scores of students with disabilities when determining adequate yearly progress (AYP) under the No Child Left Behind Act.
Specifically, proficient scores for up to 2 percent of all students in the grades assessed can be reported using alternate assessments based on modified academic achievement standards, and states without appropriate alternate assessments have been allowed for purposes of AYP to use a proxycounting as proficient the scores of that 2 percent of students, regardless of how they actually performed.
That proxy has masked the kind of information that educators need in order to identify areas that can be targeted with resources to help students with disabilities achieve their academic potential.
While the Department will continue to allow states with approved alternate assessments based on modified academic achievement standards to use these assessments consistent with the regulation until the development of new, improved assessments, it will no longer permit the use of the proxy rule.
The secretary pledged to maintain the "highest expectations for every child in every classroom today. That's the understanding we bring to our work in reauthorizing federal laws impacting people with disabilities."
"Whether it's the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Workforce Investment Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act," Duncan said, "the Obama administration stands with you and I remain your champion, your advocate and your servant."
He added, "Please know that I will always challenge myself and others to measure our success in terms of all childrennot some childrenand all peoplenot just some people. Equality and inclusion are at the heart of the American ideal. They represent our common hopes, our highest aspirations and our deepest values."
Editor's NoteClick the link below for a blog post on Secretary Duncan's visit Monday to Beers Elementary School in Washington, D.C., to get a close-up look at one school that is successfully integrating students with disabilities into the school culture.