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COPAA Supports ESSA Amending the Elementary and Secondary Education Act

Wednesday, December 02, 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Denise Marshall
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Congratulations on Developing a Reasonable Compromise

Today COPAA supported the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) amending the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). COPAA appreciates the bipartisan approach which Chairman Alexander, Ranking Member Murray, Chairman Kline and Ranking Member Scott led in order to complete reauthorization of the ESEA.

This evening, the House passed the Every Student Succeeds Act, the bill to replace the outdated No Child Left Behind. The chamber passed the bill, S.1177, by a vote of  359 yeas to 64 nays. All House Democrats voted in favor of the measure. A breakdown of that vote can be found here, and Chairman Kline’s and Ranking Member Scott’s statement can be found hereThe Senate is expected to consider this bill next week, and the White House has signaled strong support for signing the bill into law.  

COPAA has worked diligently – as an independent voice as well as in key coalitions with business, disability and civil rights organizations – to inform and support the legislative process to help ensure that every child continues to have equal access to a high-quality education as well as equal opportunity to achieve his or her full academic potential. We congratulate them on developing a reasonable compromise. Although we have concerns about certain provisions of S. 1177, we support the conference report and urge its adoption. COPAA believes the ESSA is stronger than ESEA waivers. It maintains a focus on student academic achievement with requirements to focus Title I dollars on the annual measurement, reporting and basic accountability for the achievement of all students. In particular, COPAA appreciates the emphasis on promoting access to the general curriculum for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. Key provisions seek to prevent the overuse and abuse of applying alternate standards and utilizing alternate assessments through a required state-level participation cap on these tests. The cap will help states work with districts to ensure that only the students for whom it is appropriate are placed on a state’s alternate academic achievement standard and therefore tested via an alternate assessment. 

COPAA also appreciates the new requirement for states to articulate a framework to support districts and improve school conditions by reducing bullying and the overuse of disciplinary practices and aversive practices (e.g. seclusion and restraint)--all of which national data show have a disproportionate impact on students with disabilities. We view this addition as an enormous step toward creating a positive school climate for all students. We are concerned about the flexibility provided to states and districts regarding subgroup accountability. Without federally defined timeframes to guide the implementation of intervention, schools and districts now have to ensure the timely provision of evidence-based support. We worry that the long-held biases against students with disabilities will prevent quick action. Best practice has shown that, when held to high expectations and provided evidence-based instruction and intervention, the vast majority of students with disabilities can work at grade level alongside their peers. Student subgroups who struggle to meet state standards must be closely monitored, and teachers must receive the training and support necessary so that students can make adequate gains.

We expressed concern with Title IV of the ESSA that  includes Pay For Success, a troubling provision that allows federal money to be used in combination with social investment funds as part of the Safe and Healthy Schools grant program among other uses. COPAA is adamantly opposed to Pay For Success  because there have been recent abuses under Pay For Success in a state-run program, which encouraged districts to violate Child Find under the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) while the state looked the other way. COPAA urges you to work with us to ensure the promotion and allowance of Pay For Success in ESSA does not support states or districts in abrogating their responsibilities under IDEA or other federal laws.  We also have concern due to the lack of credible data that supports braiding limited federal funds with private funds for this purpose.

The right to a quality education – that prepares every student for meaningful employment, higher education and lifelong learning – is at the heart of COPAA’s mission. We will strive to promote every tenet of ESSA that will fully support students in this important journey

Read COPAA's Letter

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