Considerations for grading students with severe cognitive disabilities are the same as for all students with disabilities.  The focus of IDEA 2004 is to provide all students access to general curriculum. Students should earn grades based on activities for which they are accessing the standards, not based on progress toward goals and objectives. The expectations for what these students should achieve in the grade-level content may be different from what is required in grade-level achievement standards due to needed modifications; however, the essence of the content at grade level should not change.

ARD Committees start with the PLAAFP (present levels of academic achievement and functional performance) in order to determine such appropriate accommodations and modifications that will allow the student to successfully access and progress in the curriculum at the appropriate depth. Upon the implementation of special education services, teachers can grade students on the work the students complete.

The material in this post was excerpted from Grading and Progress Monitoring for Students with Disabilities: A Resource for Teachers by Education Service Center, Region 20.  You can read and download this resource at