In January, Congress took up reauthorizing our nation’s largest federal education law – ESEA (also called No Child Left Behind). Since then, over 1,000 parents of children with learning and attention issues have used the National Center for Learning Disabilities’ action center to send a letter to their senators. The message? Set high expectations for ALL our children.
The actions of individual parents like you who reached out to share your child’s story and your hopes for their future had a collective impact here in D.C. Thanks to your efforts, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee released a bipartisan ESEA bill this week called The Every Child Achieves Act. Senators from both sides of the aisles, such as HELP members Sen. Murphy (D-CT), Sen. Casey (D-PA), and Sen. Cassidy (R-LA), have been discussing students with learning and attention issues. As we head into the Senate Committee markup of the bill next week, we are hopeful that ESEA/The Every Child Achieves Act will maintain and expand high expectations for students with learning and attention issues through three key ways.
- Training on early screening and interventions
You may have noticed your child’s learning or attention issue as early as preschool. Parents know that these signs must not be ignored. The sooner a child is identified with having a learning disability, the sooner she can receive critical evidence-based services and interventions to support her success. We hope to see ESEA expand the use of regular screening to determine whether a child needs a special education evaluation followed by appropriate interventions.
- Professional development for general educators
If your child has learning or attention issues, she probably spends most of her day in an inclusive, general education classroom. Given this, it is essential that all educators are trained on evidence-based practices to address the unique needs of their students. We are hopeful that ESEA will provide expanded professional development opportunities to classroom teachers, support staff, and other school professionals.
- Include students with learning and attention issues fully and fairly in a strengthened accountability system
When provided with appropriate support services, children with learning and attention issues can be highly successful students. Schools must recognize the strengths and challenges of students with learning and attention issues while providing them with meaningful access to the general curriculum and advanced courses. In order to make decisions, parents need to know how their child is doing. We are optimistic that the reauthorized ESEA will include the vast majority of students with disabilities in regular, annual statewide assessments with any accommodations and services that are needed.
Listen for our Disability Leaders in the Senate
Throughout this process, Senators Murphy (D-CT), Casey (D-PA), Cassidy (R-LA), and Murray (D-WA) have been strong advocates for students with disabilities. During the Committee markup, we will look to them as leaders on our most important issues. If you hear them standing strong for our kids, be sure to relay the message to others and help us thank them on Twitter and Facebook!
As we move full-steam ahead, it is especially important that Congress hear from parents. You can watch the markup live on Tuesday, April 14th starting at 10 AM EST. Make sure to follow us at @LD_Advocate for live tweets of the event.