Maryland’s successful test scores undermined by high exclusion rate

BY Elizabeth Jones  December 3, 2013 at 4:25 PM EST

Maryland’s celebrated standardized test scores may not be what they appear. According to analysis of recent National Assessment of Educational Progress data, Maryland’s reading scores are the second-highest in the nation for fourth grade and sixth-highest for eighth grade. But the state leads the country in its rate of excluding students with learning disabilities and English language learners, according to the Washington Post.

Results show the state excluded 62 percent of fourth-grade and 60 percent of eighth-grade students with disabilities and English language learners from the reading portion of the 2013 NAEP test.

NAEP is one of the primary vehicles by which states, which until this year have had very different learning standards, compare themselves to other states.

Lindsay Jones, the director of public policy and advocacy for the National Center for Learning Disabilities told the Washington Post that Maryland’s exclusion rate is a “red flag.”

She added, “It stands out this year in particular because NAEP’s exclusion rate has dropped so much.”

In fact, the nation’s average exclusion rate for English language learners and students with learning disabilities is now 12 percent for fourth-grade and 13 percent for eighth-grade.

Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Lillian Lowery said she will review the state’s exclusion rates and the impact of those exclusions on the test scores.

“We do need for those students to be included, absolutely,” Lowery said. “We want parents and students to know exactly how they are performing, as it relates to what they’ve been able to do, and that they’re ready to graduate from high school, college- and career-ready.”

The National Center on Education Statistics (NCES) estimated how states would perform on the test if it included students with learning disabilities and English language learners. According to NCES, Maryland’s score would have dropped about eight points for fourth-grade reading and five points for eighth-grade reading.

Clayton Best, Maryland’s NAEP coordinator, said the state excludes so many students because it offers a “read aloud” accommodation to learning-disabled students on annual state exams that the NAEP does not allow.

The “read-aloud” accommodation permits a person or a computer to read the text to the test-taker. This accommodation is controversial because some see it as a listening test instead of a reading test.

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