Great Things Continue to Happen

By Dr. Jacqueline Rodriguez

Reflecting on my first several months with NCLD, I am moved by the accomplishments made in this short time and even more enthusiastic about the work to come in the next few months. Leading NCLD is especially important to me as a former special education teacher. I am thankful to have a fantastic team alongside me in this journey to advocate for meaningful change for individuals with learning disabilities.

Since January, our dedicated team has been diligently working to keep the momentum in our advocacy, research, and programming efforts for the learning-disabled community.

  • We have laid out our policy priorities for the 118th Congress and Biden Administration, including enhancing inclusion and achievement in Pre-K–12, supporting the well-being and protecting the rights of individuals with disabilities, driving postsecondary access and success, eliminating barriers to employment, and seeding innovation with research and data. We cannot do this work alone. Learn more about our top policy priorities and how you can help us take necessary action.
  • We have released our 2023 Assessments Report, which includes principles that policymakers and assessment developers should consider when creating new assessments, an overview of current proposals, and policy recommendations to realize equity within assessment systems for all learners. Because of the ongoing tension around the value of summative assessments, NCLD sought to discover what’s working and not working for students with disabilities in the current assessment system and to forge a path forward that’s more inclusive and equitable. NCLD surveyed and conducted focus groups with educators, caregivers, and students to understand their perceptions toward statewide summative assessments. NCLD also interviewed various assessment and disability rights experts to identify trends in innovative assessments and the benefits and risks for all learners, especially students with disabilities.
  • NCLD’s Professional Advisory Board and Young Adult Leadership Council members met in New Orleans with The GRAD Partnership, local educators, administrators, caregivers, and parents to discuss “Building Student Success Systems to Support Students with Learning Disabilities.” We collaboratively explored current trends and issues in supporting students’ paths toward graduation.
  • While in New Orleans, we also conducted our staff retreat, where we enjoyed team-building activities while determining NCLD’s future goals and objectives.
  • We wrapped up our annual LD Day of Action, which brings young adults from our Young Adult Leadership Council and Eye to Eye’s ND Alliance to advocate for learning accessibility and disability rights on Capitol Hill. This year our young leaders held 73 Congressional meetings, participated in 20+ hours of training, and motivated more than 100 LD champions to advocate from home.

I am in awe of the outstanding work, passion, and energy the NCLD team continues to bring to work every day! Our theme for 2023, going slow to go fast, stems from the concept of improvement science, a problem-solving approach centered on continuous inquiry and learning. “Ultimately, using improvement science to address challenges can lead to an organizational culture of continuous learning and improvement,” (The Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, December 2017, blog)

We are further identifying the work ahead for NCLD. We will operationalize our strategic plan to update our governance and fundraising strategies to support our mission of advancing life outcomes for all people with learning disabilities. We’ve also hired several individuals to help us fuel our mission: Dr. Saashya Rodrigo, Principal Researcher; Shayna Harris, Research Associate; Victoria Royal, Project Manager; and Patti Cook, Executive Assistant.

As we look toward the second half of 2023, we remain excited to serve and work alongside our community of champions to create more equitable futures for those with learning disabilities. I am grateful for your support and look forward to sharing plans for our disability rights journey and partnering with you to achieve success in advocating for much-needed change in the coming year.