The ADA and Education

Equality for people with disabilities has been advanced tremendously over the years by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and related legislation. In the area of education, this trend is still going strong today.

In August, the U.S. Department of Education announced a new rule: states will no longer be allowed to administer tests to students with disabilities that are based on modified academic achievement standards. However, children with the most significant cognitive disabilities — up to 1 percent of all students — will still be allowed to take tests based on “alternate academic achievement standards” under the rule.

This means, essentially, that students deemed capable of meeting state standards for academic achievement will be required to meet those standards. As a result, schools will be required to provide the support that students with disabilities may need to achieve on the same level as other students.

The Education Department cited new research that supports the idea of holding most students with disabilities to the same standards as their peers. The research shows that students with disabilities who have difficulty with reading and math can achieve at grade-level standards if they have “appropriate instruction, services and supports.” In addition, the agency said that nearly all states have new standardized tests “designed to facilitate the valid, reliable and fair assessment of most students, including students with disabilities who previously took an alternate assessment based on modified academic achievement standards.”

It remains to be seen whether the new rule will lead to improved academic achievement for students with disabilities. However, the philosophy behind the rule is that all students with disabilities should be encouraged to achieve their full potential. That’s a sentiment the entire disability community can get behind.

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