Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA): Core Principles for Reauthorization
The National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) improves the lives of all people with learning difficulties and disabilities by empowering parents, enabling young adults, transforming schools, and creating policy and advocacy impact. NCLD’s goal in providing Core Principles for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (also known as No Child Left Behind) is to help guide the discussions related to students most at-risk for being identified with LD and those already identified and receiving services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Principle 1: Students With Disabilities Must Be Fully and Equitably Included
The progress for students with disabilities—about forty-one percent of whom have LD—must not be compromised. The provisions that have clearly been at the center of improvements for students with disabilities must remain intact. These include:
- Access to general education curriculum and grade-level content aligned with the state’s academic standards
- Participation requirements that apply to all students
- Annual performance goals and proficiency targets for academic achievement on grade-level standards for ALL students
- Targets for graduation rates to ensure students with disabilities and other at-risk subgroups are on track to graduate
- Targeted instruction or intervention for struggling students in ALL schools
- Full and equal accountability as a student group
- Attention to student outcome data
While these critical elements are sure to receive thorough scrutiny and debate during the reauthorization of ESEA, any reform efforts must be done with care and attention to the consequences that could result from loosening certain requirements. Proposals for the adoption of new and expanded accountability provisions in the name of flexibility must not undermine the progress or discriminate against students with disabilities.
The negative consequences of accountability components made allowable through administrative approval and/or regulatory procedures should be thoroughly examined and reviewed. The “accountability killers” that have surfaced during implementation of ESEA and the waivers granted by the U.S. Department of Education have allowed states, districts and schools to weaken the accountability for students with LD. In some cases, separate accountability measures or standards for these students that are not the same as other students have been established.
The policies that continue to threaten the future academic progress of students with LD are:
- Alternate assessment on modified achievement standards (AA-MAS)
- Assessment accommodations policies and allowing assessment participation rates to slip so students are not included in standardized testing
- Allow for different annual measurable objectives for different subgroups (so, students with disabilities can have different/lower targets compared to their white, black, Hispanic, poor peers)
- Confidence intervals
- Requiring intervention in only the bottom 10-15% of schools which leaves 85% of schools without resources; and students are left to flounder.
- Counting performance of students who have exited special education eligibility