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   IDEA 2004

Archived Information

Special Education

Administrative Advisory SPED 2004-2:
AYP and Students with Disabilities

To:Special Education Administrators, Charter School Leaders, and Other Interested Parties
From:Marcia Mittnacht
State Director of Special Education
Date:December 26, 2003


The recent release of "Mid-cycle AYP Determinations" for Massachusetts schools and districts has prompted a renewed discussion of the implications of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), and the complexity of serving students with disabilities. A central goal of NCLB is for all students to attain proficiency in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics by the year 2014. Schools and districts are expected to meet specific annual performance goals and to demonstrate Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for all student subgroups, including students with disabilities.

Generally: AYP determinations, made separately for ELA and mathematics, are based on meeting targeted goals in each of the following areas:

  • MCAS participation rates
  • MCAS performance (standard form tests and MCAS Alternate Assessments)
  • Changes in MCAS performance results compared to prior years
  • Attendance rates for elementary and middle schools and for districts, and graduation rates (competency determination attainment rates until 2006) for high schools.

This advisory will focus on the MCAS performance aspect of AYP for students with disabilities and some of the unique features in the law that may affect AYP for your school or district.

Other informational materials related to the 2003 mid-cycle AYP determinations for schools and districts are available on the DESE website at 2003 Accountability Documents webpage.

The "1% Rule"

On December 9, 2003, the federal government released final regulations related to inclusion of students with significant cognitive disabilities (SWCDs) in the calculation of school and district AYP determinations. This new rule allows the state to accommodate SWCDs in their AYP calculations by setting different performance expectations for up to 1% of the student population.

The achievement of SWCDs must continue to reflect challenging academic goals that are aligned with the same goals that we hold for "typical" students. Massachusetts accomplishes this through the MCAS Alternate Assessment program (MCAS-Alt) and the alignment of the MCAS-Alt with state learning standards.1

The MCAS-Alt Index

In calculating AYP, schools and districts are awarded points based on each student's MCAS results in a given content area. Massachusetts has developed an alternate "index" for the awarding of points for students taking MCAS-Alt that parallels the index for students taking standard MCAS tests. The two tables below show the comparable award of points for students taking the standard MCAS tests and the MCAS-Alt for the purposes of calculating AYP in relation to performance. The MCAS-Alt index will allow schools to receive recognition for the progress and achievements of SWCDs, even if these students do not reach "proficiency" as defined for a typical student.

At this time, all SWCDs performing at the Awareness, Emerging, and Progressing performance levels on the alternate assessment are considered eligible to be included in the alternate award of points described in Table 2. For district level calculations, when the number of students achieving these performance levels exceeds 1% of the district population, calculations for AYP will be adjusted. District level calculations may reflect up to a maximum of 1% of the district population using the MCAS-Alt Index, with the remainder awarded points according to the MCAS Index shown in Table 1.2

Table 1: MCAS Proficiency Index
For students taking standard MCAS tests (and MCAS-Alt for students who do not have significant cognitive disabilities)
Failing/Warning - Low0
Failing/Warning - High25
Needs Improvement - Low50
Needs Improvement - High75
Table 2: MCAS-Alt Index
For students with significant cognitive disabilities taking MCAS-Alt
(up to 1% of all assessed students in a district)
Portfolio not submitted0





Point totals are reflected in a Composite Performance Index (CPI) for each school and district using indices shown in Tables 1 and 2. A school's or district's Composite Performance Index is calculated by:

  1. determining the number of students who took either the standard MCAS test or MCAS-Alt, and those who took MCAS-Alt considered to be SWCDs, up to 1% of the district's student population;
  2. multiplying the number of students who took each assessment by the number of points associated with each performance level in the corresponding proficiency index (Table 1 or 2 above);
  3. adding together the point totals from step two, then dividing that sum by the total number of students assessed through both standard MCAS tests and the MCAS-Alt.

The result is a number between 0 and 100 that constitutes the school's or district's Composite Performance Index.

The federal "1% rule" allowing states to include SWCDs in making local AYP determinations, and to recognize the progress and performance of these students, represents a significant policy shift for Massachusetts. Previously, students taking the MCAS-Alt and performing at the levels reflected in Table 2 had been counted only as Warning/Failing in the state's accountability system. It is our belief that this policy and the flexibility for calculating AYP will ensure that schools are appropriately acknowledged for their efforts on behalf of SWCDs, as well as continuing to ensure high standards and high expectations for all students.

We hope this information is helpful. Additional information on NCLB and AYP can be found on the Department's website at: Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)

Thank you in advance for your careful reading of this advisory and for ensuring that students with disabilities receive appropriate services.


Last Updated: December 26, 2003
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