Do Special Education Students Impact Overall School Test Scores?

Special education in the United States can be somewhat of a sensitive subject. On the one hand it is a necessary component of the all-inclusive public education model. The goal, obviously, is to provide opportunities for all students. On the other hand, though, is it fair to consider traditional students and special education students as equal in terms of ability, comprehension, and standardization?

Now, of course, it would not be right to simply state that special education students do not belong in a traditional classroom. But it would be shortsighted to simply state that all special education students are the same and all belong in their own classroom.

As you can see, this is a complicated matter, and likely quite the sensitive one at that. Perhaps, then, it would make more sense to simply see just how well special education students fare in traditional settings. It probably wouldn’t surprise you that the standing belief, today, is that special education students would put undue lag on a traditional classroom. Thanks to programs like No Child Left Behind, this is a somewhat constant fear with at least some merit.

The good news, though, is that it actually seems that special education students can fare just as well as traditional students; at least, when it comes to standardized testing.

In the state of Alabama, about 11 percent of the student population (elementary/primary and secondary) are in special education programs. But data also shows that a small measure of children with more complex disabilities have to take a completely different test than students with mild disabilities. Does this mean, then, that we should have more concern or less concern over standardized testing for special education students?

Well, a study looked at students across 600 schools in Alabama to compare the 2015-2016 school year ACT Aspire test scores among students in grades 4, 8, and 10. What did they find? First of all—and not to surprisingly—test proficiency was low among students in special education programs. But extrapolating this data, we can also discern that these scores probably have very little overall impact on any school’s standardized testing proficiency level.

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