Maryland blocked more than half its English language learners and students with learning disabilities from taking national reading tests, as the state excluded 62% of students in two categories — learning-disabled and English learners — from the fourth-grade reading test and 60% of those students from the eighth-grade reading test.
Maryland led the nation in excluding students on the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress, posting rates that were five times the national average and more than double the rate of any other state. The state's superintendent of schools Lillian Lowery said she will review the state's exclusion rates and their effect on the state's test performance, writes Lyndsey Layton of The Washington Post.
"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 [being] college- and career-ready. It is certainly data that we need to unpack and review," Lowery said.
Maryland's percentage of excluded students is very high. The state has been increasing the percentage during the past decade, while every other state has moved in the opposite direction. The governing board that administers the test has been encouraging states to include as many students as possible and set a goal that they exclude just 15% of learning-disabled and English language learners.
"States that opt out the largest percentages of students on NAEP tend to end up with higher scores relative to other states; so parents in Maryland may be misled as to how well their schools are doing compared to other states around the country," said Timothy Shanahan, a professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who is an expert in reading and reading tests.
The National Center on Education Statistics, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education, estimated how every state would have performed on the reading test if it had included those with learning disabilities and English language learners.
For most states, the change would have resulted in a point or two difference in average scores on the test, which is graded on a point scale from zero to 500. If Maryland had included its learning-disabled and English learners, the state's average score would have dropped approximately eight points — from 232.1 to 224.5 — for fourth-grade reading and about five points — from 273.8 to 269 points — for eighth-grade reading.
The estimated change would drop Maryland from having the second-highest state score in fourth-grade reading to 11th place and Maryland would fall from sixth place in eighth-grade reading to 12th place.
Clayton Best, Maryland's NAEP coordinator, said the state excludes so many students because it offers an accommodation known as "read aloud" to learning-disabled students on annual state exams. When a read-aloud accommodation is made, a person or a computer reads the text to the student.
If a learning-disabled student uses read-aloud, it is likely included in a legally binding agreement between the student and the local school district — known as an individualized education plan — that spells out the kinds of accommodation a student will receive in the classroom and on tests.
NAEP does not allow the read-aloud accommodation so Maryland can exclude such students. The Maryland Department of Education first decided to offer the read-aloud accommodation in 1991.