What Is ESEA? Passed in 1965, ESEA is the nation’s oldest and largest federal education law. The provisions of ESEA are aimed at making sure that all children – including those with disabilities – have an equal opportunity for a high-quality education. ESEA also provides funding to schools with students underperforming in reading or math.
What Is “Reauthorization”? Most federal laws are not permanent. They must be reauthorized every few years. ESEA is several years overdue for reauthorization, and we have been working with Congress to make sure that when ESEA is reauthorized the interests of students with learning disabilities (LD) are included.
How Does ESEA Help Students With Disabilities? In 2001, ESEA was amended by No Child Left Behind (NCLB) to require that schools account for and support the progress of struggling students, including those with LD. The amended ESEA has several key requirements, including:
Annual assessments in reading and math
Reports on the progress for subgroups such as students with disabilities
Goals for academic achievement for subgroups
Requirements that all teachers be highly qualified
Targeted instruction and intervention for struggling students
Prior to NCLB, many schools didn’t account for the progress and well-being of students with disabilities. These students were often shut out of the general curriculum and left out of state assessments. NCLB was by no means perfect, but the law was successful in pushing schools toward including students with disabilities in assessments and academic goals. The law also held these students to the expectation that they could learn with their peers.
How Does ESEA Reauthorization Affect My Child? Some opponents of ESEA want to water down the law’s requirements for accountability and support. If they succeed, you’ll probably see school administrators become less responsive to the needs of students with LD. You could also see the end of programs and interventions that are targeted at students that are struggling with reading and math.
Where Do We Go From Here? Over the past decade, partly as a result of the ESEA’s focus on accountability and support, education results have improved for students with disabilities. For example, the rate of graduation for students with specific learning disabilities, while still unacceptably low, increased from 57 percent in 2002 to 68 percent in 2011; the dropout rate decreased from 35 percent to 19 percent.
Congress can continue this progress for students with disabilities by reauthorizing ESEA using three core principles:
Students with disabilities must be fully and equitably included;
All students with learning disabilities must stay on track to graduate with a regular high school diploma; and
The law must increase access to early intervention and effective instruction.
What’s Happening Right Now in Congress?Congress is voting on the Student Success Act, H.R.5, which allows unlimited alternate assessments on alternate standards for students with disabilities—which could take millions of students off the path to a regular high school diploma.Take action to stop this bill.