Congress: Thank You for Listening...Don’t Step Back From ESEA’s Promise!
Monday, April 13, 2015
Senate ESEA bill makes strides for students with disabilities but still lacks strong accountability
WASHINGTON, DC – Denise Marshall, executive director of The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Inc. (COPAA) released the following statement regarding the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA) amending the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) scheduled for mark-up on April 14, 2015 by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
“In January, COPAA made recommendations to improve the Senate ESEA draft proposed at that time. Today, we want to thank Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray for listening because most of the pivotal provisions we requested are now part of the ECAA -- including a 1% state cap of all students on the use of alternate assessments based on alternate achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. Giving standardized tests to all students, including children with disabilities, is essential to identifying whether public schools are effectively educating our children. Students with disabilities can learn, graduate, go to college, work and contribute to society. We know that the biggest challenge they face is low expectation. Limiting the number of students on the alternate assessment is critical to keep expectations high.”
In a letter to Senators Alexander and Murray, COPAA highlighted several provisions as major progress for students with disabilities such as: requiring annual statewide, standardized assessments; prohibiting states from developing additional alternate or modified standards; and, adding importing clarification so parents understand the decision to place a student in an alternate assessment. COPAA’s letter also stated that without strengthened accountability for students not making gains, COPAA would be unable to support the bill.
“Despite the bill’s progress,” Marshall continued,” the ECAA still lacks strong accountability when student groups fail to meet state-set goals. One purpose of testing is to highlight where districts and schools are successful and where they are not – so that the state can identify where to help target effective intervention. Without accountability, students in schools and/or districts who are making little or no progress may never receive the attention, support or intervention they need. This is unacceptable. States must be held accountable via Title I dollars for the achievement of all groups of students.”
COPAA also asked for:
· Requiring states and districts to report results including data related to enrollment and performance for all student groups with the only exception being if an “n” size in a cell falls below 10.
· Allowing the Secretary to regulate on key provisions in ESEA to protect the civil rights of students and enforcing the written law.
Marshall concluded, “Many students with disabilities have learned to read, do math and graduate from high school because of the higher expectations and accountability under current provisions of ESEA. Congress must maintain the important historical commitment ESEA makes to our nation’s children who are most in need of the instruction and support that leads to academic achievement. Achievement for every child really matters and when students are struggling, we need assurance that something will be done about it. We urge Congress not to step back from this important promise.”
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