- ADA Americans with Disabilities Act
- AYP Adequate Yearly Progress
- ADHD Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
- CEC Council for Exceptional Children
- CSP Charter Schools Program (of the U.S. Department of Education)
- ED U. S. Department of Education
- EIS Early Intervening Services (could also be Early Intervention Services - See Definitions)
- EMO Educational management organization
- FAPE Free appropriate public education
- FERPA Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
- FRC Federal Resource Center
- 504 Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1974
- IDEA Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
- IEP Individualized education program
- IFSP Individualized Family Service Plan
- LEA Local education agency (school district)
- LRE Least restrictive environment
- NACSA National Association of Charter School Authorizers
- NAEP National Assessment of Education Progress
- NAPCS National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
- NASDSE National Association of State Directors of Special Education
- NCLB No Child Left Behind Act - the most recent reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)
- NICHCY National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities
- NRT Norm-referenced test
- OCR Office for Civil Rights
- OSEP Office of Special Education Programs
- PACER Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights
- RRC Regional Resource Center
- RTI Response to Intervention (See definitions)
- SEA State education agency
Changes in the administration of an assessment, such as setting, scheduling, timing, presentation format, response mode, or others, including any combination of these, that do not change the construct intended to be measured by the assessment or the meaning of the resulting scores. Accommodations are used for equity, not advantage, and serve to level the playing field for a student with a disabiity. To be appropriate, assessment accommodations must be identified in the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Section 504 plan and used regularly during instruction and classroom assessment.
An instrument designed to efficiently measure the amount of academic knowledge and/or skill a student has acquired from instruction. Such tests provide information that can be compared to either a norm group or a measure of performance.
ADEQUATE YEARLY PROGRESS
Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) is the minimum level of improvement that states, school districts and schools must achieve each year. It is an individual state’s measure of yearly progress toward achieving state academic standards required by NCLB.
The total or combined performance of all students for reporting purposes.
The similarity or match between or among content standards, curriculum, instruction, and assessments in terms of knowledge and skill expectations.
The term used for tests that gather information on the standards-based performance and progress of students whose disabilities preclude their valid and reliable participation in general assessments. Alternate assessments measure the performance of a relatively small population of students who are unable to participate in the general assessment system, with or without accommodations, as determined by the IEP Team. There are different types of alternate assessments a state may adopt under the NCLB requirements. First, states must make available an alternate assessment based on grade level achievememnt standards. Then, there are two other alternates states may develop: the "alternate assesment based on alternate achievement standards" designed for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities and the "alternate assessment based on modified achievement standards" for students who cannot be expected to achieve grade level standards within one school year and who need a less complex assessment to demonstrate their knowledge of those standards.
The process of collecting information about individuals, groups, or systems that relies upon a number of instruments, one of which may be a test. Therefore, assessment is a more comprehensive term than test.
ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY DEVICE
Any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability. The term does not include a medical device that is surgically implanted, or the replacement of such device[34 CFR §300.5].
ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY SERVICE
Any service that directly assists a child with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device [34 CFR §300.6]. It includes evaluation, purchasing, training and other services related to the acquisition and use of such devices.
ATTENTION DEFICIT HYPERACTIVE DISORDER (ADHD or ADD)
A condition with the principal characteristics of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. It becomes apparent in some children in the preschool and early school years and can continue into adulthood. These symptoms appear early in a child's life. Because many normal children may have these symptoms, but at a low level, or the symptoms may be caused by another disorder, it is important that the child receive a thorough examination and appropriate diagnosis by a well-qualified professional. Under IDEA, a child may be eligible for special education under the category of other health impairment [34 CFR §300.9(i)].
The office or organization that accepts applications, approves, exercises oversight and, after the period of approval, decides on renewal or revocation of a charter school. Some states use different terms for this role, e.g., sponsor.
According to the 2006 IDEA regulations 34 CFR §300.8(2)(c):
(i) Autism means a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age three, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. Other characteristics often associated with autism are engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences. (ii) Autism does not apply if a child’s educational performance is adversely affected primarily because the child has an emotional disturbance, as defined in paragraph (c)(4) of this section. (iii) A child who manifests the characteristics of autism after age three could be identified as having autism if the criteria in paragraph (c)(1)(i) of this section are satisfied.
BIAS (test bias)
In a statistical context, bias is a systematic error in a test score. In discussing test fairness, bias is created by not allowing certain groups into the sample, not designing the test to allow all groups to participate equitably, selecting discriminatory material, testing content that has not been taught, etc. Bias usually favors one group of test takers over another, resulting in discrimination.
Charter schools are independent public schools designed and operated by educators, parents, community leaders, educational entrepreneurs and others. They are authorized/sponsored by designated local or state educational organizations who monitor their quality and effectiveness, but allow them to operate outside of the traditional system of public schools. Most states use the term "charter school" although there are other terms in use for this type of school, such as "community school" used in Ohio and "public school academy" in Michigan.
CHILD WITH A DISABILITY
A child evaluated in accordance with IDEA regulations §§300.304 through 300.311 as having mental retardation, a hearing impairment (including deafness), a speech or language impairment, a visual impairment (including blindness), a serious emotional disturbance (referred to in this part as “emotional disturbance”), an orthopedic impairment, autism, traumatic brain injury, an other health impairment, a specific learning disability, deaf blindness, or multiple disabilities, and who, by reason thereof, needs special education and related services [34 CFR §300.8(a)(1)]. (See also STUDENT WITH A DISABILITY)
CRITERION-REFERENCED TESTS (CRT)
A test that measures specific skill development as compared to a predefined absolute level of mastery of that skill.
Assessments that mirror instructional materials and procedures related to the curriculum resulting in an ongoing process of monitoring progress in the curriculum and guiding adjustments in instruction, remediation, accommodations, or modifications provided to the student.
Deaf blindness means concomitant hearing and visual impairments, the combination of which causes such severe communication and other developmental and educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for children with deafness or children with blindness [34 CFR §300.8(c)(2)].
A hearing impairment that is so severe that the child is impaired in processing linguistic information through hearing, with or without amplification, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance [34 CFR §300.8(c)(2)].
Child with a disability for children aged three through nine (or any subset of that age range, including ages three through five), may include a child:
(1) Who is experiencing developmental delays, as defined by the state and as measured by appropriate diagnostic instruments and procedures, in one or more of the following areas: physical development, cognitive development, communication development, social or emotional development, or adaptive development; and
(2) who, by reason thereof, needs special education and related services [34 CFR §300.8(b)].
In addition: A State that adopts a definition of developmental delay under §300.8(b) determines whether the term applies to children aged three through nine, or to a subset of that age range (e.g., ages three through five).
A state may not require an LEA to adopt and use the term developmental delay for any children within its jurisdiction.
If an LEA uses the term developmental delay for children described in §300.8(b), the LEA must conform to both the state's definition of that term and to the age range that has been adopted by the state.
If a state does not adopt the term developmental delay, an LEA may not independently use that term as a basis for establishing a child’s eligibility under this part [34 CFR §300.111(b)].
“Disaggregate” means to separate a whole into its parts. Under NCLB, this term means that test results are sorted into groups of students who are economically disadvantaged, from racial and ethnic minority groups, have disabilities, or have limited English fluency.
EARLY INTERVENING SERVICES
Early Intervening Services (EIS) is a new section of the 2004 reauthorization of the IDEA that provides that an LEA may use not more than 15 percent of the amount the LEA receives under Part B of the IDEA in combination with other amounts (which may include amounts other than education funds) to develop and implement coordinated, early intervening services, which may include interagency financing structures, for students in kindergarten through grade 12 (with a particular emphasis on students in kindergarten through grade three) who are not currently identified as needing special education or related services, but who need additional academic and behavioral support to succeed in a general education environment [34 CFR §300.226].
EARLY INTERVENTION SERVICES
The term 'early intervention' is used to describe the programs and services provided to infants and toddlers under Part C of IDEA who are experiencing developmental delays or have a diagnosed physical or mental condition that has a high probability of resulting in developmental delay.
Emotional disturbance means a condition exhibiting one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree that adversely affects a child’s educational performance:
(A) An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors.
(B) An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers.
(C) Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances.
(D) A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression.
(E) A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.
(ii) Emotional disturbance includes schizophrenia. The term does not apply to children who are socially maladjusted, unless it is determined that they have an emotional disturbance under paragraph (c)(4)(i) of this section [34 CFR §300.8(c)(4)].
ERRORS OF MEASUREMENT
The differences between observed scores and the theoretical true score, the amount of uncertainty in reporting scores, the degree of inherent imprecision based on test content, administration, scoring, or examinee conditions within the measurement process that produce errors in the interpretation of student achievement.
Content standards that have been expanded while maintaining the essence of the standards, thereby ensuring that all students with significant cognitive disabilities have access to, and make progress in, the general curriculum.
FREE APPROPRIATE PUBLIC EDUCATION
Special education and related services that--
(a) Are provided at public expense, under public supervision and direction, and without charge;
(b) Meet the standards of the SEA;
(c) Include an appropriate preschool, elementary school, or secondary school education in the state involved; and
(d) Are provided in conformity with an individualized education program (IEP) that meets the requirements of IDEA §§300.320 through 300.324 [34 CFR §300.17].
An impairment in hearing, whether permanent or fluctuating, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance but that is not included under the definition of deafness in this section [34 CFR §300.8(c)(5)].
HIGH STAKES TESTING
A test for which important consequences are attached to the results for students, teachers, schools, districts, and/or states. Consequences may include promotion, graduation, rewards, or sanctions.
Under special education, an approach that stresses educating students with disabilities, regardless of the type of severity of that disability, in the regular classrooms of their neighborhood schools and delivering special education and related services within the classroom to the extent possible.
INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATION PROGRAM
An IEP is a written statement for a child with a disability that is developed, reviewed and revised in a meeting in accordance with IDEA regulations.
INDIVIDUALIZED FAMILY SERVICE PLAN
An IFSP is a written plan for providing early intervention services to infants and toddlers eligible under Part C of IDEA.
INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES EDUCATION ACT
IDEA is the major federal law related to special education that provides funding to states and sets specific procedural requirements for the identification and education of students with disabilities.
LEAST RESTRICTIVE ENVIRONMENT
The IDEA requires that, to the maximum extent appropriate, school districts must educate students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment (LRE), i.e., in the regular classroom with appropriate aids and supports (referred to as “supplementary aids
and services”) along with their non-disabled peers in the school they would attend if not disabled, unless a student’s individualized education program (IEP) requires some other arrangement. For further details on this concept, see the IDEA regulations at 34CFR §§ 114 through 120.
The type of connection that is mandated by state law or voluntarily established between a charter school and a traditional LEA.
LOCAL EDUCATION AGENCY (LEA)
A public institution (often referred to as a school district) that has administrative control and direction of one or more public elementary or secondary schools. The term includes a public charter school that is established as an LEA under state law.
A measurement technique organizing a large set of test items into a number of relatively short item subsets, each of which then is administered to a subsample of test takers, thereby avoiding the need to administer all items to all examinees.
Mental retardation means significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning, existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance [34 CFR §300.8(c)(6)].
There are two ways in which the term "minimum n" is used under NCLB requirements:
1) the smallest number of students a state has determined can produce statistically reliable results for a subgroup, or
2) the smallest number of students to be included in public reporting that will not violate the requirements of confidentiality for the students involved.
A change to the testing conditions, procedures, and/or formatting so that measurement of the intended construct is no longer valid and the score cannot be aggregated with scores from tests administered under standard conditions.
Multiple disabilities means concomitant impairments (such as mental retardation-blindness or mental retardation-orthopedic impairment), the combination of which causes such severe educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for one of the impairments. Multiple disabilities does not include deaf-blindness [34 CFR §300.8(c)(7)]
NATIONAL ASSESSMENT OF EDUCATION PROGRESS
NAEP, conducted since 1969, is the only nationally representative and continuing assessment of what American students know and can do in various subject areas. Students with disabilities participate according to NAEP criteria. (For a copy of the criteria, see http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard).
NORM-REFERENCED TESTS (NRT)
A standardized test designed, validated, and implemented to rank a students’ performance by comparing that performance to the performance of that student’s peers.
OFFICE OF SPECIAL EDUCATION PROGRAMS
OSEP is that section of the U. S. Department of Education that is responsible for the implementation of the IDEA. It carries out activities related to state eligibility for IDEA funds and monitoring state compliance with IDEA requirements.
Orthopedic impairment means a severe orthopedic impairment that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. The term includes impairments caused by a congenital anomaly, impairments caused by disease (e.g., poliomyelitis, bone tuberculosis), and impairments from other causes (e.g., cerebral palsy, amputations, and fractures or burns that cause contractures)[34 CFR §300.8(c)(8)]
OTHER HEALTH IMPAIRMENT (OHI)
Other health impairment means having limited strength, vitality, or alertness, including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli, that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment, that--
(i) Is due to chronic or acute health problems such as asthma, attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, diabetes, epilepsy, a heart condition, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fever, sickle cell anemia, and Tourette syndrome; and
(ii) Adversely affects a child’s educational performance [34 CFR §300.8(c)(9)].
Out of level testing is a term applied to the administration of a test designed for a level above or below a student’s present grade level to enable the student to be assessed at the level of instruction rather than the level of enrollment. This type of test is not allowed under NCLB requirements.
An organized collection or documentation of student-generated or student-focused work typically depicting the range of individual student skills that is evaluated and graded according to an established set of criteria.
Under IDEA, qualified personnel means personnel who have met SEA-approved or SEA-recognized certification, licensing, registration, or other comparable requirements that apply to the area in which the individuals are providing special education or related services.
Related services means transportation and such developmental, corrective, and other supportive services as are required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education, and includes speech-language pathology and audiology services, interpreting services, psychological services, physical and occupational therapy, recreation, including therapeutic recreation, early identification and assessment of disabilities in children, counseling services, including rehabilitation counseling, orientation and mobility services, and medical services for diagnostic or evaluation purposes. Related services also include school health services and school nurse services, social work services in schools, and parent counseling and training [34 CFR §300.34(a)].
RESPONSE TO INTERVENTION (RTI)
RTI is a practice of providing high-quality instruction and intervention matched to student needs using data on the child's learning rate and level of performance to make important educational decisions about the necessity for more intense interventions or as part of evaluating eligibility for special education.
The consistency of the test instrument, i.e., the extent to which it is possible to generalize a specific behavior observed at a specific time by a specific person to observations of similar behavior at different times or by different behaviors.
Special education means specially designed instruction, provided at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability, including--
(i) Instruction conducted in the classroom, in the home, in hospitals and institutions, and in other settings; and
(ii) Instruction in physical education.
(2) Special education includes each of the following, if the services otherwise meet the requirements of paragraph (a)(1) of this section:
(i) Speech-language pathology services, or any other related service, if the service is considered special education rather than a related service under State standards;
(ii) Travel training; and
(iii) Vocational education [34CFR §300.39(a)].
SPECIFIC LEARNING DISABILITY (SLD)
The term means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. The term does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of mental retardation, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage [34 CFR §300.8(c)(10)].
SPEECH OR LANGUAGE IMPAIRMENT
A communication disorder, such as stuttering, impaired articulation, a language impairment, or a voice impairment, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance [34 CFR §300.8(c)(11)].
A standardized test is a test is administered with the same directions and under the same conditions (time limits, etc.) and is scored in the same manner for all students to ensure the comparability of scores. Standardization allows reliable and valid comparison to be made among students taking the test. The two major types of standardized tests are norm-referenced and criterion-referenced.
The term standards is used in many different ways in education. As used under the NCLB law and regulations, there are two types of standards:
1. academic content standards - the basis of the general education curriculum covering what all students are expected to know and be able to do. These standards apply to all types of assessment for NCLB including alternate assessments.
2. academic achievement standards - the degree of proficiency students demonstrate about what they know and are able to do in each of the content areas.
There are three subtypes of academic achievement standards:
a) grade level achievement standards;
b) alternate achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities (performance criteria for a small percent of students that must be aligned with the regular academic achievement standards); and
c) modified achievement standards (performance criteria aligned with regular academic achievement standards for an additional group of students who can make progress toward grade-level achievement standards but may not reach them in the same timeframe as other students).
Assessments constructed to measure how well students have mastered specific content standards or skills.
A process and a document that is framed by state standards and that contains goals aligned with, and chosen to facilitate the student's achievement of, state grade-level academic standards.
STATE EDUCATION AGENCY
An SEA is the component of state government that is primarily responsible for the state supervision of public elementary and secondary schools.
STUDENT (CHILD) WITH A DISABILITY
In the Individuals with Disabilities Act, a child with a disability is defined as “a child evaluated in accordance with §§300.304 through 300.311 as having mental retardation, a hearing impairment (including deafness), a speech or language impairment, a visual impairment (including blindness), a serious emotional disturbance (referred to in this part as “emotional disturbance”), an orthopedic impairment, autism, traumatic brain injury, an other health impairment, a specific learning disability, deaf blindness, or multiple disabilities, and who, by reason thereof, needs special education and related services.”
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 defines a "handicapped person" (outdated terminology) as "any person who (i) has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities, (ii) has a record of such an impairment, or (iii) is regarded as having such an impairment."
A coordinated set of activities for a child with a disability that--
(1) Is designed to be within a results-oriented process, that is focused on improving the academic and functional achievement of the child with a disability to facilitate the child’s movement from school to post school activities, including postsecondary education, vocational education, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation;
(2) Is based on the individual child’s needs, taking into account the child’s strengths, preferences, and interests; and includes--
(ii) Related services;
(iii) Community experiences;
(iv) The development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives; and
(v) If appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and provision of a functional vocational evaluation.
Transition services for children with disabilities may be special education, if provided as specially designed instruction, or a related service, if required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education [34CFR §300.43].
Under the section on the IEP, the IDEA law also provides that:
Beginning not later than the first IEP to be in effect when the child turns 16, or younger if determined appropriate by the IEP Team, and updated annually, thereafter, the IEP must include-
(1) Appropriate measurable postsecondary goals based upon age appropriate transition assessments related to training, education, employment, and, where appropriate, independent living skills; and
(2) The transition services (including courses of study) needed to assist the child in reaching those goals [34CFR §300.320(a)(7)(b)].
TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY
Traumatic brain injury means an acquired injury to the brain caused by an external physical force, resulting in total or partial functional disability or psychosocial impairment, or both, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. Traumatic brain injury applies to open or closed head injuries resulting in impairments in one or more areas, such as cognition; language; memory; attention; reasoning; abstract thinking; judgment; problem solving; sensory, perceptual, and motor abilities; psychosocial behavior; physical functions; information processing; and speech. Traumatic brain injury does not apply to brain injuries that are congenital or degenerative, or to brain injuries induced by birth trauma [34 CFR §300.8(c)(12)].
The extent to which a test measures what it was designed to measure. Multiple types of validity exist. Common types of validity include the following:
Construct validity: The extent to which the characteristic to be measured relates to test scores measuring the behavior in situations in which the construct is thought to be
an important variable.
Content validity: The extent to which the stimulus materials or situations composing the test call for a range of responses that represent the entire domain of skills, understandings, or behaviors that the test is intended to measure.
Convergent validity: The extent to which the assessment results positively correlate with the results of other measures designed to assess the same or similar constructs.
Criterion-related validity: The extent to which test scores of a group or subgroup are compared to other criterion measures (ratings, classifications, other tests) assigned to the examinees.
Face validity: Concept based on a judgment concerning how relevant the test items appear to be, it relates more to what a test appears to measure than to what the test actually measures.
VISUAL IMPAIRMENT INCLUDING BLINDNESS
Visual impairment including blindness means an impairment in vision that, even with correction, adversely affects a child’s educational performance. The term includes both partial sight and blindness. [34 CFR §300.8(c)(13)].
The Primer definitions were compiled by the authors from many sources. Some of the assessment terms were quoted with permission from a publication of the Council of Chief State School Officers' ASES SCASS Project.