This week, the U.S. House of Representatives will debate and vote on H.R.5, the Student Success Act, a bill that will reauthorize our nation’s primary federal education law, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Amazingly, this is the first time that all members of either House or the Senate will vote on an education bill since 2001.
Yes, it’s been 12 years since Congress passed the last update to ESEA, called No Child Left Behind. The law is outdated and everyone agrees that it is in serious need of reform; however, what people cannot agree on is how to update it while continuing to support our most disadvantaged students. In short, NCLD believes H.R. 5 is not the answer and we need your help to let Congress know why.
NCLD as a Leading Voice for Students With Disabilities As ESEA bills have come forward for discussion in the past few years, NCLD has partnered with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Council for LaRaza, The Education Trust and other civil rights, business and disability organizations to analyze the bills and understand their impact on our nation’s most disadvantaged students. It’s our collective belief that for every child in public school – especially your child with a learning difficulty or disability – the stakes are high if Congress does not pass a law that does the following:
set reading and math targets and graduation goals;
hold every school accountable for the learning of ALL students; and
require that schools provide intervention and targeted support for any student not meeting the targets and goals.
H.R. 5 does not do this and therefore we have vigorously opposed it.
Why Accountability Matters Since 2002 – and for the first time in modern education history, schools have been required to include every child in annual reading and math tests in grades 3-8 and once in high school to see if students are learning and achieving state-set standards. If students are not meeting standards, schools and districts were held accountable and expected to do something about it. This has given you the opportunity to discuss your child’s progress in a way that the special education law currently doesn’t require.
Because of ESEA, if you’re child wasn’t achieving to grade level standards, they have typically had more access to targeted instruction, interventions, supplemental services and other supports because of the expectation that ALL students would make progress in reading and math – not just a select few. Schools were also limited in counting students as making progress on the alternate assessments on alternate standards (tests that can take students out of the regular curriculum and off track for a regular diploma) to assure that only a limited number of students with disabilities were considered for this alternate track. Because of these requirements and protections, many more students with learning disabilities have achieved grade level standards and have graduated from high school with a regular diploma.
H.R.5 is Not the Answer For Students With Learning Disabilities So, rather than change the parts of the law that aren’t working, H.R.5 would take away these foundational accountability provisions. As a result, schools, districts and states won’t be required to do anything for our most vulnerable and disadvantaged students. If this occurs, many students would be taken off of the graduation track – as early as third grade – and may not receiving a regular diploma. It also means that students who struggle to read or do grade level math won’t have access to the targeted instruction and intervention they need to achieve their full potential.
The Miller Substitute Amendment Fortunately, there is a substitute amendment being offered by George Miller (D-CA) on the House Floor that would update the law by providing more flexibility for states in deciding how they intervene in districts/schools, while maintaining the protections we know are so important for our children.