Educational Accountability and Students with Disabilities: Issues and Challenges

Margaret J. McLaughlin, Martha L Thurlow

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

31 Scopus citations


This article reviews current accountability policies pertaining to students who receive special education. The 1997 amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Title I of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 contain provisions that mandate the participation of students with disabilities in large-scale assessments and the public reporting of those students' performance along with other important educational outcomes. These new accountability requirements represent a major change from the traditional model of special education accountability that has been focused on system compliance with procedures. The article also discusses the technical, legal, and practical challenges to implementing the new accountability mandates. The authors conclude that despite the unknowns associated with new and more rigorous public scrutiny of special education outcomes, emerging evidence suggests that the changes will result in better educational outcomes for students with disabilities as well as a new, more integrated model for special education.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)431-451
Number of pages21
JournalEducational Policy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 2003


  • Accountability
  • Assessment policy
  • Students with disabilities

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