Psychologists Testify at IDEA Hearing

In May, two psychologists testified before the Disabilities Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources, in support of Part B of the Individuals With Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA). This legislation, now up for reauthorization, seeks to improve educational opportunities for children with disabilities. The hearing in May specifically focused on assessment issues relevant to IDEA.

One concern that proponents of IDEA have is that some states exclude children with disabilities from assessments. James E. Ysseldyke, PhD, a psychologist at the National Center on Educational Outcomes, University of Minnesota, addressed this issue. Dr. Ysseldyke noted that this exclusion occurs at three levels: lack of participation by students with disabilities, use of accommodations or alternative assessment measures for students with disabilities, and the underreporting of these students' scores. Such exclusion tends to inflate the scores from a given state and is therefore common. The ultimate issue is one of responsibility--by excluding students with disabilities from assessments, they are placed 'out of sight' at the statistical level, thereby disavowing the state of its responsibility for the educational progress of these students. Moreover, an effort to integrate all students remains perfunctory without the participation of every student in statewide assessments.

G. Reid Lyon, PhD, a psychologist at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), testified on the importance of understanding the relevant research on reading disabilities. A clear understanding of the research findings on the part of the teacher, Dr. Lyon argued, fosters better treatment of students with this common disability. Conversely, if instructors do not understand or recognize reading disabilities, poor student performance and low self-esteem are likely to result.

Future issues that are likely to arise include whether to add an amendment that addresses student discipline; teacher training; and the funding of this legislation. Science Directorate staff will continue to monitor this legislation as it progresses.

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