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Press Release: Sec. Spellings Addresses Global Education Summit, Announces $7.5 Million in Grants for More Innovative, Effective Tests for Students With Disabilities and Limited English Proficiency

54 Countries Represented; Over Two Dozen Special Olympics Athletes Present

Originally published: 9/2008

September 19, 2008

Contact: Samara Yudof, Jim Bradshaw
(202) 401-1576

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, addressing an international conference today on special education entitled "2008 Global Summit on Education: Inclusive Practices for Students with Disabilities" at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C., stated that measuring the academic progress of students with disabilities and including students with disabilities in regular classrooms delivers results. During her remarks, Spellings also announced $7.5 million in grants to help develop more innovative and effective tests for students with disabilities and those with limited English skills.

"By measuring achievement every year, No Child Left Behind encourages schools to focus on the needs of students with disabilities like never before. This approach is clearly working," said Secretary Spellings. "Our latest National Report Card shows that the percentage of fourth graders with disabilities who have fundamental math skills nearly doubled between 2000 and 2007, from 30 to 60 percent."

A factor in that progress, she said, has been the growing practice of including students with disabilities in regular classes -- the concept known as "inclusion." "There are many who would prefer to return to what I call the 'aspirational approach' –- when we aspired to teaching all children, but we didn't measure results," said Secretary Spellings. "They say that teaching students with disabilities means ignoring other students, and that education is a zero sum game. I disagree. The truth is, research shows that including kids with disabilities in the classrooms so they can learn side by side with their peers helps all students do better in school."

Additionally, Secretary Spellings noted that a new technical assistance center to help colleges and universities develop and expand programs for students with intellectual disabilities will be located at the University of Massachusetts at Boston.

More than 400 representatives from 54 countries were expected to attend the U.S. Department of Education's two-day conference aimed at helping promote educational excellence for the world's students with disabilities, including the ministers of education from the United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, the Bahamas, Bermuda, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Papua New Guinea, Nigeria, Liberia and Taiwan. More than two dozen Special Olympics athletes were also on hand.

The $7.5 million in Enhanced Assessment Instruments grants are being awarded to Nevada, Minnesota, Utah, New Hampshire and the District of Columbia. The funds will help educators and researchers develop better ways to measure academic progress, as well as enable the grantees to collaborate with higher education institutions, research facilities and other organizations to improve the quality, validity and reliability of state academic assessments.

For example, the District of Columbia is working with the 17-state World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment Consortium to develop and implement a standards-based English language proficiency alternate assessment system that facilitates the inclusion of English language learners with significant disabilities in education.

For more information on the Enhanced Assessment Instruments grants, visit http://www.ed.gov/programs/eag/applicant.html. For more information on the "2008 Global Summit on Education: Inclusive Practices for Students with Disabilities," please visit https://www.osep-meeting.org/2008globalsummit/default.aspx.

ICI: promoting inclusion for people with disabilities