Promotion and Retention of Students with Disabilities
May students with disabilities be retained?
Yes, students with disabilities may be retained; however, careful consideration in the development, implementation, and revision of the student’s individualized education program (IEP) should prevent student failure in most cases.
“Research indicates that neither grade retention nor social promotion (the practice of promoting students with their same age-peers although they have not mastered current grade level content) is likely to enhance a child’s learning. Research and common sense both indicate that simply having a child repeat a grade is unlikely to address the problems a child is experiencing.”
Do local governing board-adopted standards for promotion apply to students with disabilities?
Local governing board adopted standards for promotion apply to students with disabilities; however, IEP teams should consider whether the student’s disability adversely impacts the student’s potential for learning or rate of learning. If so, the IEP teams should consider whether accommodations or curricular modifications can minimize this impact.
Are individualized promotion standards determined by the location where services are provided to students with disabilities?
No, for example, a student with significant disabilities who spends all or most of the instructional day in general education classrooms learning social or communication skills may have individualized promotion standards. Yet, a student with emotional or behavioral disabilities who spends most or part of the instructional day in a more restrictive environment may be held to the regular promotion standards.
What if a student with a disability fails to meet board-adopted or individualized promotion standards?
If a student with a disability fails to meet board-adopted or individualized promotion standards, the IEP team should reconvene immediately to consider the following:
- Is the current IEP for the student's academic, linguistic, social, emotional, and behavioral needs appropriate?
- Is the manner of assessment appropriate, including accommodations and modifications identified in the IEP?
- Were all the services required by the student to make progress in the general education curriculum appropriately identified in the student's IEP?
- Were the linguistic needs of English Learners appropriately identified?
- Did the student receive all the services identified in the IEP?
- Was the assessment conducted consistent with the IEP?
- Was the student's promotion standard appropriate and clarified in the IEP?
What if the IEP was written to consider the student’s individualized needs, but the student still failed to meet the promotion standards?
If the questions in item #5 above were answered positively, but the student still failed to meet the promotion standards, then the student should participate in intensive supplemental instruction developed by the local board pursuant to Education Code 37252.2 – 37252.8. The IEP team should document all the supports and related services the student will need to benefit from supplemental instruction.
If after intensive supplemental instruction, the student still does not meet the board-adopted or individualized promotion standards, an IEP meeting should be held to develop an appropriate plan to support student progress.
If the questions in item #4 were answered in the negative, the IEP team should determine why such supports were not provided, develop an alternate plan, amend the IEP, provide intensive supplemental instruction, and consider not retaining the student because the district did not provide the supports and services necessary for the student to benefit from the educational program.
May students with disabilities participate in intensive supplemental instruction pursuant to Education Code 37252.2 – 37252.8 and Extended School Year (ESY) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) simultaneously?
Yes, a student may participate in the two programs simultaneously, but only if the need for supplemental instruction is documented in the student’s IEP. In order to receive both services, ESY and supplemental instruction, the IEP must reflect that the student needs to participate in an intensive supplemental instruction program as part of the ESY services necessary for the provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE). In other words, the student is receiving supplemental instruction in order to meet the standards-based goals of the IEP, and special education and related services will be provided in order for the student to benefit from that instruction.
Where can more detailed information on pupil promotion and retention and related supplemental instruction be found?
Detailed information on pupil promotion and retention and related supplemental instruction can be found on the CDE Pupil Promotion & Retention Web page.
Grades, Report Cards, and Transcripts for Students with Disabilities
Should a student’s grade reflect that accommodations have been made for that student to access the general education curriculum?
No. A student’s grade should not reflect that accommodations have been made. Accommodations provide students with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate in the general education curriculum.
An accommodation is a change in the course, standard, test preparation, location, timing, scheduling, expectation, student response, or other attributes that provides access for a student with a disability to participate in a course, standard or test, and it does not fundamentally alter or lower the standard or expectation of the course, standard or test.
May a student’s grade reflect that modifications have been made for that student to access the general education curriculum?
Yes. If modifications have been made to the curriculum of any course, it is important that the student’s grade reflect the student’s achievement in the modified curriculum, as long as modified grades are available to all students. However, any modifications to programming, instruction, and grading must be documented in the student’s IEP and be directly related to the student’s disability. To automatically give modified grades to all special education students would be discriminatory and potentially violate Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
A modification is a change in the course, standard, test preparation, location, timing, scheduling, expectation, student response, or other attribute that provides access for a student with a disability to participate in a course, standard or test, and it does fundamentally alter or lower the standard or expectation of the course, standard or test.
May some type of symbol or code be used on a student’s report card to indicate that the student has had a modified curriculum in the general education classroom?
Yes. A symbol or code may be used on a student’s report card to indicate that the student has had a modified curriculum in the general education classroom. However, this type of coding should not be used solely for students with disabilities. A policy should be developed that applies to all students.
May pass/fail grades be used for students with disabilities in the general education classroom?
Yes. A student with disabilities may be given a pass/fail grade as long as participation in this grading system is voluntary and is available to all students. In addition, the grading system must meet the student’s special needs and must be documented in the IEP.
May a student’s transcript indicate that the student participated in a modified curriculum?
Yes. The purpose of the transcript is to present an accurate picture of a student’s coursework. If the curriculum content has been modified, the transcript may reflect that modification through some type of symbol or code that indicates that the student received modified grades or completed work at a lower grade level. The explanation of the symbol or code can not indicate that the student has a disability or that the student is in special education.
Anderson, Gabrielle E., Whipple, Angela D., & Jimerson, Shane R. (2002). Grade Retention – Achievement and Mental Health Outcomes (PDF). National Association of School Psychologists.
Eggert, Dean B. (2001). Grading Students with Educational Disabilities (PDF). New Hampshire: Wadleigh, Starr & Peters, P.L.L.C.
Freedman, Miriam Kurtzig, M.A., J. D. (2008). Grades, Report Cards, etc….and the Law. Boston: School Law 1 2 3.
Iowa Department of Education, Bureau of Children, Family and Community Services (1999). Grades, Diplomas and Transcripts for Students with Disabilities.
National Association of School Psychologists. Jimerson, Shane R. PhD, NCSP and Sarah M. Woehr, & Amber M. Kaufman, MA (2007). Grade Retention and Promotion: Information for Parents. (PDF; 2MB)
Quenemoen, R.F., Lehr, C.A., Thurlow, M. L., Thompson, S. J., & Bolt, S. (2000). Social Promotion and Students with Disabilities: Issues and Challenges in Developing State Policies. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, National Center on Educational Outcomes
Salend, Spencer J. & Duhaney, Laurel M. Garrick (2002). Grading Students in Inclusive Settings. TEACHING Exceptional Children, 34(3) 8-15.
Stump, Colleen Shea (2001). Grade Retention: The Great Debate. San Francisco: Great Schools, INC.
Thompson, Charles L. & Cunningham, Elizabeth K. (2000). Retention and Social Promotion: Research and Implications for Policy. ERIC Digest.