Advocates press disability voice in NCLB rewrite implementation

Advocates Push for Voice in Policy Implementation
Advocates Push for Participation in Education Policy

The National Disability Rights Network is working to ensure that disability rights advocates have a voice in new regulations implementing the recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act, the nation’s first major overhaul of federal education policy in a decade and a half.

“We are deeply concerned about the potential impact of the changes…for children and youth with disabilities, who have benefitted in important ways from the federal oversight that the (No Child Left Behind Act) provided,” the comments state. “(Protection and Advocacy organizations) and other civil rights stakeholders have an important role in the development of state plans and their local implementation.”

While retaining the NCLB’s basic testing structure, the ESSA provides states significantly more discretion when dealing with schools that fail to meet the testing standards. In public comments issued January 11 [PDF], the NDRN called on the DOE to issue guidance for states when creating their state development plans, to ensure “stakeholder input” as they move forward.

As to the law’s report cards for measuring the performance of states and local educational agencies, NDRN calls for the DOE to further clarify a variety of key terms used to determine when federal intervention is required, including “consistent underperformance” and “the time period used by the State to determine consistent underperformance.”

In a victory for disability advocates, the ESSA imposes new limitations on the use of alternative tests for special educations students, which are widely viewed as a way for states to sidestep their accountability obligations. Specifically, the ESSA bars states from diverting more than one percent of their students toward these tests.

In the comments, the NDRN seeks further clarification on the alternative test’s impact on high school diploma and parental notification requirements, as well as informed the DOE it would be submitting further comments on this issue. It also seeks further clarification on the sample sizes used for determining demographic data, and the law’s school quality and success indicators, among other issues.

Finally, the NDRN demanded that DOE issue guidance on the appropriate use of restraint and seclusion techniques by educators, a key priority for disability advocates that was not included in the final version of the ESSA.

Disability Rights Washington, the publisher of Rooted in Rights, is the designated protection and advocacy agency in Washington, and a member of the National Disability Rights Network.