OCR’s guidance letter issued October 17, 2008 In Re: Report Cards and Transcripts for Students with Disabilities, 108 LRP 60114 (OCR 2008) clarifies that references to special education services received by a student are acceptable on report cards intended for parent use in measuring student progress, but not acceptable on transcripts that may be disclosed to employers and post-secondary institutions.
The letter from OCR notes that local education agencies (LEA’s) frequently make distinctions on report cards between general education classes, Advanced Placement, honors, and remedial levels, and special education classes may be similarly noted on report cards. For example, OCR uses the case of a modified 10th grade literature curriculum noted by using an asterisk or other symbol meant to reference the modified curriculum “as long as the statements on the report card, including the asterisks, symbols or other coding, provide an explanation of the student’s progress that is as informative and effective as the explanation provided for students without disabilities”.
Special notations, such as asterisks or symbols, are also permissible on report cards for students with disabilities receiving accommodations under Section 504 not affecting course content or curriculum, such as sign language interpreters, alternative materials, or extra time on tests. Further, in response to the question as to whether a report card for a student with a disability may simply refer to another document that more fully describes the student’s progress, OCR responded “yes”.
On the other hand, a transcript of student grades may not inform the reader that the student has a disability, has been enrolled in a special education program, or has received special education and related services. Why? “A student’s transcript generally is intended to inform postsecondary institutions or prospective employers of a student’s academic credentials and achievements. Information that a student has a disability, or has received special education or related services due to having a disability, does not constitute information about the student’s academic credentials and achievements.”
However, it is still permissible, according to OCR, for the transcript of a student with a disability to indicate, through notations or asterisks or other symbols, that the student took classes with a modified curriculum or alternate education curriculum. This is consistent with the ability of the transcript to reflect other levels of classes, such as Advanced Placement, honors, basic, and remedial instruction.
The transcript may not contain notations that a general education student received accommodations in general education under Section 504 such as use of Braille materials, because such a notation is irrelevant to the question of whether the student mastered the curriculum of the class and would only be for the purpose of identifying the student as a student with a visual impairment.
The transcript may indicate that the student received a certificate of attendance or other similar document, if such a notation does not disclose whether the student has a disability.