Assessing Special Populations in High School (Secondary Grading and Reporting)

Guidance on grading high school students receiving services such as: special education, ESOL, Homebound instruction or home based instruction.

Students Receiving Special Education Services 

The Individualized Education Program (IEP) team determines service delivery options and the appropriate placement for students eligible to receive special education services. Teachers/teams who work with these students need to consider students’ individual needs when assessing performance, utilizing accommodations and reporting to parents/guardians. The following guidelines are used in assessing the progress of students receiving special education services:

  • All students, including those with disabilities with an IEP or 504 plan receive The High School Report Card when reporting grades for students receiving special education services. 
  • Instruction for students receiving special education services should be guided by the Program of Studies (POS), which includes the SOL, and the goals and objectives defined in each student’s IEP. Special education students receiving instruction in the general curriculum are required to meet POS objectives. Accommodations and modifications to instruction are provided based on student needs as defined by the student’s IEP or 504 plan.
  • Accommodations are instructional techniques, additional supports designed to help a student make progress or demonstrate learning. 
  • Modified instruction occurs when content and performance expectations are adjusted for individual students’ needs and prevent the student from accessing or demonstrating grade level knowledge.  
  • The grades of students receiving special education services will reflect achievement of defined grade-level expectations selected from the general curriculum based on student need. In addition, students are assessed according to individual rates of progress toward attainment of IEP goals and objectives. 

English Learners & Former English Learners

School divisions must provide equal access and opportunities for English learners (ELs), ELP levels 1-4, and former ELs (ELP level 6) to meaningfully participate in the core curriculum. As outlined in the FCPS Language Instruction Educational Program (LIEP), ELs are placed in age appropriate classrooms and provided access to the same rigorous grade-level curriculum as their non-EL peers. ELs with developing levels of English proficiency require deliberate scaffolds to support their understanding and use of emerging language as they engage in grade-level content.  
FCPS High School EL programming is designed so that ELs can attain both English language proficiency and parity of participation in the standard instructional program within a reasonable length of time. Federal guidance describes a “reasonable length of time” as a recently arrived EL being able to earn a high school diploma in four years.  Per Regulation 2442, Credit for Secondary Students with a Home Language Other than English, ELD courses may be used to satisfy certain English, World Language or elective requirements. In addition, ELs and students with a home language other than, or in addition to, English may be awarded credit for courses taken in international schools. All ELs have the opportunity to submit international transcripts for review by the school counselor and/or an FCPS Student Registration office staff member. The school counselor and/or Student Registration office staff member will award credits toward graduation based on transcript evaluation guidelines.

In addition to earning a high school diploma, ELs must also be provided the same educational opportunities as their non-EL peers so that they are competitive in meeting college entrance requirements. Thus, FCPS High School EL Programming provides equal opportunities for ELs to meaningfully participate in curricular, co-curricular and extracurricular programs and activities so that ELs have access to the same rigorous curriculum as their non-EL peers. EL services and programs are offered to all ELs until they are designated as former ELs (ELP level 6).

FCPS high school EL programming is flexibly designed to meet the needs of individual students and schools and supports a variety of instructional models which include: English Language Development (ELD), Content, Language & Literacy (CLL) in EL designated sections, co-taught classes, and general education classes using sheltering techniques and targeted interventions. High school programming supports ELs at all proficiency levels through appropriate and deliberate scaffolds to support ELs’ understanding and use of academic language in grade-level content. 

High school programming is intentionally designed to provide more intensive support at the lower proficiency levels and to provide less intensive support at the upper proficiency levels. To achieve this, students at the lower proficiency levels may be enrolled in EL designated sections while students at the intermediate and advanced proficiency levels are enrolled in course sections with their non-EL peers.

To provide parity in programming, grade-level content instruction is scaffolded using sheltered instruction strategies and techniques, so as to make rigorous classroom instruction comprehensible for ELs. ELs access rigorous grade level curriculum, with content-certified teachers, through various instructional models, including: EL designated sections, co-taught general education sections, and general education classes using sheltering techniques so that students develop English language proficiency and content understandings in tandem.

Teachers and parent(s)/guardian(s) should maintain realistically high expectations for ELs. When provided with appropriate scaffolding and differentiated resources, ELs can master and demonstrate understanding of rigorous content. Regular collaboration and consultation with ESOL teachers can apprise content teachers, teams, and parents/guardians of the student’s language development goals and academic expectations. By attending to students’ English language proficiency levels, the WIDA Performance Definitions, and the WIDA Can Do descriptors, teachers adjust instruction and assessment to the ELs specific language development needs. 

Appropriate accommodations and/or alternative assessments increase equitable access to instruction and assessment and are used to ensure that evaluations are true measures of what an EL knows, understands, and is able to do. Scaffolds, supports, and accommodations should be a routine part of instruction and assessment practices. Accommodations may include changes to the process, the response format, or the task itself with a goal of making the assessment accessible to and leveling the playing field for ELs. 

Accommodations provide linguistic support such as the use of dictionaries, read aloud, and plain English versions of assessments. Specific testing accommodations for English learners are published annually by the Virginia Department of Education.  For large scale assessments, the EL Committee makes and documents assessment participation decisions for ELs and Former ELs on the English Learner Student Assessment Participation Plan (ELSAPP). The accommodations offered on these assessments should be regularly practiced in classroom activities to determine effectiveness.

Homebound and Home-based Instruction

The current versions of Policy 2140, Homebound Instruction and Regulation 2140, Homebound and Home-based Instruction for Students set policy and procedures regarding homebound and home-based instruction.