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April 2006

Dear Colleague:

Educating children with disabilities is a central mission of any school. It's also central to your success under the No Child Left Behind Act. Your students and their families count on you for clear guidance and support. You deserve the same from us. That is the purpose of the Tool Kit on Teaching and Assessing Students With Disabilities.

The keys to educating children are instruction and assessment, relying on the most current and accurate information on how children learn, while also measuring student performance to ensure continuous growth and progress. Last April at Mt. Vernon, I said that if states and educators stood up for kids by providing better instruction and assessment, we would stand by them. And we have.

To continue moving forward with the implementation of NCLB, we are proposing a commonsense policy on assessing some students with disabilities based on modified achievement standards. Associated with that policy, we have made available $14 million for technical assistance to states and for long-term research on the assessment of students with disabilities. And now this Tool Kit will help you address the needs of more of your students in meeting high expectations.

The Tool Kit provides up-to-date guidance on designing and implementing high-quality assessments for students with disabilities. We have also included a set of technical assistance products that offer practical, research-based approaches to the challenges schools are facing in the areas of assessment, instruction, behavioral interventions, and use of accommodations for students with disabilities. In addition, you will find information about research now under way to further expand our knowledge about how best to support teaching, learning, and assessing.

Under No Child Left Behind, our nation has committed to providing every single child with a quality education—something that's never been done before. Today, test scores are rising and student achievement is improving. Students with disabilities are receiving more classroom time and attention than ever before. As a result, the decades-old “achievement gap” is finally beginning to close.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act has also improved the way schools teach students with disabilities. Together, President Bush and Congress have worked to update the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act so that it closely fits the goals and vision of No Child Left Behind.

Teachers have made great strides in educating students with disabilities. Students with disabilities are far more likely to stay in school, attend college, and find employment than a quarter-century ago. We want to keep this progress going strong.

As you use this information, the Department of Education will continue to work closely with you. We will base our decisions on proven research and data. We will help you measure performance so that no child is ever ignored or left behind. We are committed to providing more help and information as we move forward together.

Above all, we will never forget our mission and yours: to give every child a quality education so every child can enjoy the brightest possible future.

Sincerely,

/s/

Margaret Spellings