On July 16, 2015, the Senate passed the Every Child Achieves with a truly bipartisan vote of 81-17. This is the first time since 2001 (when they passed No Child Left Behind) that the Senate has been able to build consensus on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
How did we get here?
Over the last several months, Senators Alexander (R-TN) and Murray (D-WA) have been working hard to move forward a bill that would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, also known as No Child Left Behind). This bill – the Every Child Achieves Act – has gone through a long process to get where it is now, and we still have a ways to go!
The Every Child Achieves Act was first debated and passed by the Health, Educational, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee with multiple amendments in April. The bill that came out of the Committee was a step in the right direction, but it didn’t get our full support. Then, with a few more changes, the bill moved on to the full Senate for a vote, where it passed 81-17.
What Do We Like About the Bill?
The bill passed this week retains many important protections for students with learning and attention issues. Specifically, the Every Child Achieves Act continues to:
- include students with disabilities in annual assessments;
- cap participation in the alternate assessment at 1% of all students;
- require transparent reporting of student performance to parents and the public; and
- provide professional development for educators to meet the needs of students with disabilities.
A new addition to the Every Child Achieves Act is a provision that would allow for the creation of a Comprehensive Center to help students struggling with literacy. This Center – a first-of-its-kind for students with reading disabilities – would provide resources to educators and parents so they can better support and instruct children who are at-risk of not attaining full literacy skills due to a disability, such as dyslexia or disabilities related to reading, writing, language processing, comprehension, or executive functioning.
What Needs to Change?
Unfortunately, the Every Child Achieves Act still lacks any meaningful accountability measures for students with disabilities. Even though it requires states to report on how schools and districts are doing and how students are performing, there is no requirement that the schools or states find an intervention that will work to improve outcomes. Parents expect and students deserve some guarantee that schools, districts, and states will work tirelessly to ensure that all students succeed – not just some students. The accountability provisions within the bill must be strengthened to support students with disabilities and other subgroups of students.
Senators Murphy (D-CT) and Booker (D-NJ), along with a few other Democrats, introduced an amendment that would put in place some more specific requirements for schools to take action to help their failing students. The amendment did not pass but had a solid number of Senators supporting it. We are hopeful that the House and Senate may be able to work out their differences and strengthen accountability later in this process.
NCLD has been a steady voice throughout this process and as the bill moves forward, NCLD continues to call for stronger protections for students with disabilities. We have joined with other advocates in our quest to ensure equality in education, opportunity, and improved outcomes for all students. We have succeeded in many ways, but the process is not over. We will continue to work to make this bill the best it can be for students with learning and attention issues.
What Happens Next?
The House has passed their own version of ESEA, which they have called the Student Success Act (HR 5), and the Senate has passed the Every Child Achieves Act. Now, the two chambers must join in conference to resolve the differences and create one bill. If and when they are able to do that, each chamber must then vote on the newly agreed-to bill. Finally, the President will decide whether to sign the bill into law or to veto it.
For more information on this process and what you can expect in the coming months, you can join NCLD for a Parent Advocate and Community call on Monday, July 20th at 12:00pm ET. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org to receive the dial-in info.