Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Will the reauthorized "No Child Left Behind" help students with disabilities?

The "No Child Left Behind" Act, which requires states to develop tests in basic skills to be given to all students in certain grades in order to receive federal funds for schools, was signed into law in 2002 and provides the largest amount of funding to schools through Title I. Under the 2002 act, students with disabilities were listed among the five sub-groups schools were required to report performance on.

On March 15, President Obama released "A Blueprint for Reform, The Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act," which is basically "No Child Left Behind." It appears the new administration will use the Elementary and Secondary Act and not "No Child Left Behind" when referring to the reauthorization. Among the five cross-cutting priorities listed in the Blueprint for Reform is Supporting English Learners and Students With Disabilities:

“Schools, districts, and states must be held responsible for educating all students, including English Learners and students with disabilities, to high standards, but more work could be done to develop and scale up effective strategies for these students. Priority may be given to programs, projects, or strategies that are designed to specifically improve the performance of English Learners or students with disabilities.” 

(Click here for the full text: A Blueprint for Reform, The Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Act).

According to the Washington Post article "The administration keeps the right principles in amending No Child Left Behind", the administration has embraced the principals of accountability, disaggregating data, which means that students with disabilities should remain a sub-group for accountability reporting. The administration's plan would scrap the much-maligned adequate yearly progress reports of schools for a new accountability system requiring that all students by 2020 be on a path toward college and career readiness, although this goal is more aspirational than definitive. Students would still be tested every year in math and reading, but other measures, such as graduation rates or scores in other subjects, could factor into the picture of a school's success. Schools would be judged by how much progress students make year by year. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is set to testify on these matters before Congress the week of March 22.

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