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National Center for Learning Disabilities Calls New Education Law Opportunity to Close Achievement Gaps

Written by NCLD Public Policy & Advocacy Team | December 9, 2015

On December 9, 2015, the National Center for Learning Disabilities issued the following statement upon Senate passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act Conference Report and in anticipation of President Obama signing the legislation into law:

The National Center for Learning Disabilities is hailing the Every Student Succeeds Act, passed by the Senate today and sent to President Obama for signature, as an opportunity to renew our nation’s commitment to promoting educational excellence for the 1 in 5 children with learning and attention issues and their families.

This bi-partisan legislation rewrites the No Child Left Behind Act, replacing many of its most prescriptive requirements with strong federal guardrails States must adhere to, in an effort to balance state and local control with the historic civil rights focus of the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.

This balance represents a compromise and gives States and school districts an opportunity to tailor their educational systems to meet the needs of their students, including those with disabilities.  With this opportunity comes significant responsibility to close achievement gaps and improve outcomes.  NCLD and our nationwide parent community stand ready to partner with States and school districts to reach these goals and ensure children with learning and attention issues receive the education they deserve.

ESSA includes several NCLD supported provisions that support schools in reaching the goal of providing a quality education for all students, including those with disabilities.  These provisions include those that:

  • Reinforce high expectations for students with disabilities by promoting meaningful access to general education through access to standards that lead to postsecondary education and workplace readiness; access to educators who receive professional development in special education; and by only allowing students with the most significant cognitive disabilities –1% of the total student body – to be eligible to take the Alternate Assessment based on Alternate Achievement Standards.
  • Promote greater transparency for parents of students with disabilities on key metrics aligned to a high-quality education, such as performance on annual assessments, access to advanced coursework, and measures of school climate.
  • Focus on improving literacy instruction by creating a comprehensive literacy grant program for states and establishing a new comprehensive center to provide educators and parents with evidence-based strategies to effectively teach reading and writing, including for students who have learning disabilities such as dyslexia, and resources to identify and intervene when students are struggling.
  • Require school districts to implement evidence-based interventions when students with disabilities consistently underperform and to evaluate schools based on criteria that strongly emphasizes academic performance.

The Every Student Succeeds Act must live up to its name.  Despite the fact that students with learning and attention issues spend the majority of their school day in the general education classroom, they continue to lag behind their peers without disabilities in critical areas of student achievement, including performance on statewide assessments, high school graduation rates, and access to rigorous coursework.

The passage of this bi-partisan legislation through both chambers is a momentous occasion. Its forthcoming enactment by the President presents a valuable opportunity – one that cannot be wasted – to change the future of countless children with learning and attention issues.  As the nation embarks on this crucial work, NCLD remains committed to helping states and district ensure that all students are given every opportunity to succeed.

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