How can Ms. Flores and Mr. Ericson use the school summary data to guide their efforts to help improve the scores of students with disabilities?

Page 5: Understand Challenges When Comparing Data

It is crucial for principals to know what data are being reported and to understand the data they are interpreting. Because state laws require states and districts to report the number of students tested but do not require them to report enrollment numbers, it is often impossible to determine whether all or some students with disabilities participated in the tests. It is common for states to:

  • Not clearly differentiate scores of students with disabilities
  • Not differentiate scores of students who take the test with accommodations versus students who take an alternate assessment
  • Aggregate—or include—the scores from tests taken with “nonapproved” accommodations with standard test scores
  • Not report scores of tests taken with nonstandard accommodations and not indicate that they are not reporting them

Caution must be used when interpreting data for groups. When the highest performing students in special education move to general education and the lowest performing students in general education move to special education, the performance of special education students appears to not improve over time. It is important to keep track of mobility in and out of special education and to look at data in a number of ways.

Victor Nolet, PhD,
Associate Professor
Department of Special Education
Western Washington University

Listen now as Victor Nolet explains the challenge of interpreting data for a small group of students (time: 1:07).

View Transcript 

The problem of interpreting data for small groups of students can be somewhat alleviated by conducting additional assessments, including contextually relevant methods such as portfolios of student work or progress tests throughout the year.

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