The Every Student Succeeds Act Signed Into Law
The Individuals with Disabilities Act – IDEA – is the federal education law that applies to students ages 3-22 who have been identified as having a need for specialized instruction due to a disability. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act – ESEA – is the federal law that applies to ALL students in America’s public schools. When the ESEA was last reauthorized in 2002, it became known as No Child Left Behind. On December 10, 2015, the newest reauthorization was signed into law by President Obama and is now known as the Every Student Succeeds Act.
The law has a goal of fully preparing students for success in college and careers and Congress feels it will be more workable for schools and educators than No Child Left Behind. According to Education Week, it puts “states and districts back at the wheel when it comes to teacher evaluation, standards, school turnarounds, and accountability”.
According to a White House fact sheet, it will help by “reducing the often onerous burden of testing on students and teachers, making sure that tests don’t crowd out teaching and learning, without sacrificing clear, annual information parents and educators need to make sure children are learning”.
The law does retain accountability for students with disabilities. It includes a 1% limit for the number of students overall that can be given alternative tests.
Family Engagement Policy
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Education have issued a draft policy statement about engaging families in their child’s development, learning, and wellness, across early childhood and elementary education settings. They say that family engagement is enabled by positive relationships between families and staff in the institutions where children learn.
Strong family engagement is central – not supplemental – to promoting children’s healthy development. Healthy development includes social-emotional and behavioral development and supporting academic achievement. The draft policy says that “there is a growing recognition that early childhood programs and schools cannot reach their full potetntial in preparing chidren for school success without partnering with families”.
The principles put forth in the draft policy are:
· Create continuity for children and families
· Value equal partnerships between families and professionals
· Develop goal-oriented relationships that are linked to development and learning
· Prioritize engagement around children’s social emotional and behavioral health
· Ensure that all family engagement opportunities are culturally and linguistically responsive
· Build staff competencies in engaging with families
· Build families’ capabilities and connections
· Systemically embed effective family engagement strategies within programs, schools, and with community partners
· Continuously learn and improve
Supporting and Responding to Behavior
On November 17, 2015, the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice released a new toolkit on evidence-based classroom strategies for teachers entitled Supporting and Responding to Behavior. Although designed for teachers, the information can help parents articulate what they feel would promote desirable behaviors in their child, including such things as:
-establishing predictable patterns and activities
-recognizing student success in following routines and procedures
-posting list of things to do when work is completed
-offering guided practice opportunities
-posting a list of expected behaviors
-teaching expectations using examples and non-examples
-asking students how they are doing, showing an interest in their responses
Supporting and Responding to Behavior
New Website with Resources for Preparing Children and Youth with Disabilities for Success
The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) launched a new website entitled IDEAs that Work: Preparing Children and Youth with Disabilities for Success on November 17, 2015. Parents and educators can access resources to assist them in supporting the academic, social, emotional, and behavioral needs of students as they become college and career ready.
IDEAs that Work: Preparing Children and Youth with Disabilities for Success
Ensuring Children with Disabilities Reach Grade Level Standards
Research has demonstrated that children with disabilities can successfully learn grade-level content and make significant academic progress when appropriate instruction, services, and supports are provided. IEPs (Individualized Education Programs) must be aligned with the State’s academic content standards for the grade in which the child is enrolled. Alternate academic achievement standards are only to be used for those children with the most significant cognitive disabilities.
Each IEP must be designed to enable the child to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum – the same curriculum as for nondisabled children. Each child with an IEP receives specially designed instruction that is appropriate to the needs of the child which can include adaptations to the content, methodology, and delivery of instruction.
This information is the focus of a Dear Colleague Letter issued November 16, 2015 by the United States Department of Education. The letter also addresses what should be happening if a child is performing significantly below grade level. The letter explains that ambitious annual goals should be set, and specialized instruction should be adequate, in order to close the gap between that student’s achievement and others of the same grade.
DEAR COLLEAGUE LETTER
The U.S. Department of Education’s “Rethink Discipline” campaign aims to create supportive school climates and decrease suspensions and expulsions. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said at a press conference on October 30, 2015 that “schools must be safe havens. They must be filled with compassion and love. But it’s clear that as a nation, we are severely underestimating the traumatic impact of our children being subject to, or even just seeing or witnessing, unnecessary physical force and arrests in our schools and classrooms. If we want to maintain the trust of parents and communities in our schools, we must start by treating our children with respect and human dignity.” He added “Schools must be productive places for teaching and learning, but we also have to rethink how we create safe and supportive learning environments for all of our students, and for the adults in school, and the staff. Our schools must be a pathway to opportunity, not a pipeline to prison. And no student should feel unsafe or fearful of being harmed while in school, in class.”
Click on the area of this map where your school district is located to see the rate of out of school suspensions in your district:
No More Than 2% of Classroom Time to be Spent Taking Tests
On October 24, 2015 the U.S. Department of Education released guidance on the testing of students. The recommendation is that children will spend no more than 2% of their classroom instruction time taking tests. The Council of Great City Schools found that students currently take an average of eight standardized tests per year. The U.S. Department of Education states: “One essential part of educating students successfully is assessing their progress in learning to high standards. Done well and thoughtfully, assessments are tools for learning and promoting equity. They provide necessary information for educators, families, the public, and the students themselves to measure progress and improve outcomes for all learners. Done poorly, in excess, or without clear purpose, they take valuable time away from teaching and learning, draining creative approaches from our classrooms.”
Schools are Not Prohibited from Using the Terms Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, and Dysgraphia
A Guidance Letter was issued by the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services on October 23, 2015 stating that there is nothing in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act that would prohibit the use of the terms dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia in IDEA evaluation, eligibility determinations, or IEP documents. The letter includes this statement: “There could be situations where the child’s parents and the team of qualified professionals responsible for determining whether the child has a specific learning disability would find it helpful to include information about the specific condition (e.g., dyslexia, dyscalculia, or dysgraphia) in documenting how that condition relates to the child’s eligibility determination. “
The letter also states that “if a child’s dyslexia, dyscalculia, or dysgraphia is the condition that forms the basis for the determination that a child has a specific learning disability, OSERS believes that there could be situations where an IEP Team could determine that personnel responsible for IEP implementation would need to know about the condition underlying the child’s disability”.
Illinois Can Proceed to Close Murray Developmental Center
On October 15, 2015 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that the State of Illinois can close Murray Developmental Center in Centralia, IL. Equip for Equality released a statement explaining the actions taken to date, including:
-The State’s proposal to close the institutional facility
-An appeal filed in federal district court seeking to stop the closure
-Rejection of the appeal by the district court
-An appeal filed to the U.S. Court of Appeals
-The Courts rejection of the appeal
The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals points out that ONLY New Jersey and Texas have more people than Illinois in institutional care. Illinois has the second lowest percentage of developmentally disabled persons living in apartments that house six or fewer persons. The ruling points out that “evidence and academic studies reveal that even persons who are severely disabled mentally or behaviorally or both do better in community-based facilities”.
Inclusive Educational Services during the Early Childhood Years
On September 14, 2015 the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services released a policy statement highlighting the importance of making sure all young children with disabilities have access to inclusive high-quality early childhood programs.
The Executive Summary of the new policy notes that attitudes and beliefs are “the most frequently reported barrier to early childhood inclusion, and may be influenced by misinformation of the feasibility of inclusion, resistance to changing existing practices, stereotyping of children with disabilities, and lack of awareness of the benefits for all children.” The summary goes on to state that “Families are children’s first and most important teachers and advocates. Schools and programs should ensure all families are knowledgeable about the benefits of inclusion and include them in policy development, advocacy efforts, and public information initiatives.”
On August 24, 2015, a new law in Illinois was signed that limits the use of suspensions and expulsions for students. Public Act 099-0456 will go into effect on September 15, 2016 and it states, in part, that:
Read the law at www.ilga.gov/legislation/publicacts/fulltext.asp?Name=099-0456
High Expectations for All Students During Standardized Testing
Starting in third grade, students are assessed annually using standardized tests. Students in Illinois are now given the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). School districts are allowed to provide some limited accommodations to those tests if a student qualifies based on a disability. Students with the most significant cognitive disabilities (1% of students) may be assessed using alternate achievement standards. Starting in 2007 some states also started using modified academic achievement standards for another 2% of students. Illinois did not start this practice. This allowance for another 2% of students to be given a modified test was eliminated in an amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) on August 21, 2015.
Background information for this recent amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act states:
· High standards and high expectations for all students and an accountability system that provides teachers, parents, students, and the public with information about students’ academic progress are essential to ensure that students graduate from high school prepared for college and careers in the 21st century.
· In 2007, the Department amended the Title I regulations to permit States to define modified academic achievement standards for eligible students with disabilities and to assess those students with alternate assessments based on those modified academic achievement standards.
· Since these regulations went into effect, additional research has demonstrated that students with disabilities who struggle in reading and mathematics can successfully learn grade-level content and make significant academic progress when appropriate instruction, services, and supports are provided.
· Nearly all States have developed new college and career-ready standards and new assessments aligned with those standards.
· For these reasons we (The U.S. Department of Education) believe that the removal of the authority for States to define modified academic achievement standards and to administer assessments based on those standards is necessary to ensure that students with disabilities are held to the same high standards as their nondisabled peers and that they benefit from high expectations, access to the general education curriculum based on a State’s academic content standards, and instruction that will prepare them for success in college and careers.
Read about this amendment in an article from Disability Scoop: www.disabilityscoop.com/2015/08/24/new-rule-ends-modified-tests/20589/
Inclusive Services as a Pathway to Employment
A "Dear Colleague" letter issued by the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) on July 29, 2015 states that "youth and young adults with disabilities must have access to career preparatory experiences that can bolster their careers".
ODEP created a guide for youth service professionals interested in helping young people pursue volunteer opportunities. The guide explores the benefits of volunteering and offers a framework for youth service professionals to find service opportunities that are good fits for their customers.
Fostering Inclusive Volunteering and Service Learning Guide: www.ncwd-youth.info/sites/default/files/Fostering-Inclusive-Volunteering-and-Service-Learning.pdf
Poverty Harms Brain Development in Children
A new study provides more tangible detrimental effects of growing up in poverty on brain development. Children living 1.5 times below the federal poverty level had smaller volumes of several brain regions critical for cognitive and academic performance.
Read an article by Dorothy L. Tengler, MA about the study: http://exclusive.multibriefs.com/content/study-poverty-harms-brain-development-in-children/medical-allied-healthcare
Learn about the study in the article from The JAMA Network – The Journal of the American Medical Association:
Picky Eating May Suggest ADHD, Depression, or Anxiety
A new study published in Pediatrics has found an association between eating habits and neurological conditions. Rachel Rabkin Peachman wrote an article about the study in Motherlode - New York Times. She emphasized that Nancy Zucker, lead author of the study and professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Duke University School of Medicine, noted that this doesn’t mean picky eating causes psychological issues or vice versa; it only shows a correlation between the two. “Their sensory experience is more intense in the areas of taste, texture and visual cues” says Dr. Zucker.
Also read about the study in the ADDitude Magazine: http://www.additudemag.com/adhdblogs/19/11484.html
Breaking The School to Prison Pipeline for Students with Disabilities
The National Council on Disability released a report on June 18, 2105 that examines the policies and practices that push the nation’s schoolchildren into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. The findings and recommendations in the Breaking the School-to-Prison Pipeline report are based upon testimony given at a stakeholder forum in October 2014, interviews with experts, and review of available research.
NCD has concluded that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) can and should be an important part of the solution. The report focuses on ways to improve special education delivery and enforcement systems to better meet the needs of students with disabilities.
The full report can be found at: www.ncd.gov/site/default/files/Documents/NCD_School-to-PrisonReport_508-PDF.pdf
Rethinking School Discipline
Over 3 million students are suspended or expelled every year in this country. The U.S. Department of Education hosted a conference on July 23, 2015 related to creating positive school climates and effective discipline practices. Creating a supportive school climate requires close attention to the social, emotional, and behavioral needs of all students. Attendees addressed positive alternatives to suspensions and expulsions to keep students at school and engaged in learning.
To learn more about the work achieved at the conference, go to: www.ed.gov/rethinkdiscipline
Listen to Michael Yudin from the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services discuss this topic:
Life After Special Education
The 2015 edition of Education Week’s Diplomas Count report – Next Steps: Life after Special Education released June 4, 2015 highlights the challenges and opportunities awaiting youth as they leave the education system. The report underscores that “early and comprehensive transition planning that fully involves the youths and their families can be a crucial step in identifying ambitious but realistic goals for students with disabilities, and helping them navigate the often-unfamiliar terrain of the post-high-school world”.
The report shares the profiles of five youth with a range of disabilities and features the latest graduation rates for the nation and states.
The full Diplomas Count 2015 report and interactive tools is located at: www.edweek.org/go/dc15
Illinois results can be found at: http://www.edweek.org/ew/dc/2015/map-graduation-rates-by-state-student-group.html
New Parent Checklist to Help Children Thrive at School
Engaging with educators is one of the first steps in supporting a child’s education. On July 17, 2015 the U.S Department of Education, America Achieves, National Council of La Raza, National PTA, and the United Negro College Fund released a checklist offering key questions for parents to ask their child’s school to help their child thrive. Answers to the questions will indicate if a child is getting a quality education.
Questions on the parent checklist I have a Question…What Parents and Caregivers Can Ask and Do to Help Children Thrive at School relate to:
-Preparation for Success
-Safety and Health
-Equity and Fairness
Find this parent checklist at: http://www2.ed.gov/documents/family-community/parent-checklist.pdf
Additional resources to supplement this guide: Disability Issues: www.parentcenterhub.org
Early Childhood Learning: www.ed.gov/early-learning
The checklist follows the June 26, 2015 release of a set of rights for families related to their child’s education. Learn more at:
Children with Disabilities with High Cognition
Some students may be doing well academically at school, but still qualify for special education services. The U.S. Department of Education is concerned that some school districts are hesitant to conduct initial evaluations to determine eligibility for special education and related services for these students. The Department noted that this seems to be happening for students with emotional disturbance or mental illness in particular. On April 17, 2015, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services issued a memorandum to the State Directors of Special Education reminding them of the federal regulation that states, in part –
…in determining whether a child has a disability…the IDEA requires the use of a variety of assessment tools and strategies to gather relevant functional, developmental, and academic information about the child, and prohibits the use of any single measure or assessment as the sole criterion for determining whether a child is a child with a disability and for determining an appropriate educational program for the child.
The Department requested that their Letter to Delisle, issued on December 20, 2013, be widely distributed to school districts reminding them of their obligation to evaluate all children, regardless of cognitive skills, suspected of having one of the 13 special education eligibility categories.
Read the Letter to Delisle here: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/memosdcltrs/122013delisletwiceexceptional4q2013.pdf
Read more about the special education eligibility categories in the parent guide from the Illinois State Board of Education: http://www.isbe.net/spec-ed/html/parent_rights.htm
Respecting the Parental Right to File a State Complaint
Parents who are unable to reach an agreement with their school district on what constitutes a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) for their child, have specific formal options for resolving disputes. Those options include mediation, State complaints, and due process hearings.
Some issues that may be resolved through a State complaint, could also be addressed in a due process hearing. If a State complaint is filed over the same issues that are part of a current due process hearing, the State must set aside those issues in the formal complaint resolution process until a final decision or dismissal is issued by the hearing officer assigned to the due process. It has come to the attention of the U.S. Department of Education that some schools may be filing due process complaints against parents concerning the same issue that is the subject of an ongoing State complaint resolution to delay the State complaint process and force parents to participate in, or ignore at considerable risk, due process hearings.
A “Dear Colleague” letter was released April 15, 2015 from the U.S. Department of Education strongly encouraging schools to respect parents’ reasonable choice to use the State complaint process rather than a due process hearing.
Read the letter here: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/memosdcltrs/dcl04152015disputeresolution2q2015.pdf
"Stay Put" Remains in Effect Through Final Resolution
When a parent disagrees with an educational placement decision made by the IEP team for their child, and files for mediation or a due process hearing to work out the issue, the child is allowed to remain in the current setting until the case is resolved. This rule applies unless the child has possessed a weapon, possessed illegal drugs, or inflicted serious bodily injury to another person.
The United States Supreme Court was recently asked to determine if the “stay-put” rule remained in place when a case is taken to the district court level or even when a case is appealed to a federal district court. On May 18, 2015 the Supreme Court declined to grant the Ridley School District’s petition to allow them to change the placement of a student whose case had been appealed to a federal district court. This denial means that the “stay-put” rule remains in effect through every stage of the appeal process.
The “stay-put” rule is found at 34 CFR 300.518: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CFR-2011-title34-vol2/xml/CFR-2011-title34-vol2-sec300-518.xml
Read the Supreme Court case here: http://www.nsba.org/sites/default/files/reports/13-1547NSBA%20Amicus%20Brief.pdf
Kids and Reading
In January 2015, Scholastic released its annual survey related to children’s reading. A summary of the findings from www.edcentral.org/4-surpreise-scholastics/ show:
1-Boys and older teenagers are reading books for fun with less frequency than 4 years ago.
2-Parents and preschoolers place high importance on reading aloud to their children, but less than 2/3 do so daily.
3-Kids want books in print – as opposed to electronic format – even more than they did 2 years ago. So do their parents.
4-Kids wish their parents had continued to read to them after they reached school age.
Read the Scholastic report here: www.scholastic.com/readingreport/
Are We Closing the School Discipline Gap?
The Center for Civil Rights Remedies published a report in February 2015 about the effect of disciplinary suspensions on student success. The report concludes that “if we ignore the discipline gap, we will be unable to close the achievement gap”. Suspensions have a negative impact on both student achievement and graduation rates. The report determined children with disabilities have the highest suspension rates. Read the full report at:
Social and Emotional Learning: Skills for Life and Work
Independent researchers in the United Kingdom have found that it is important to focus on social and emotional skills early in a child’s life. Those skills include self-perceptions, self-awareness, self-direction; motivation; self-control, self-regulation; relationship skills, communication skills; and resilience and coping. The studies indicate that social and emotional skills matter for adult mental health, life satisfaction, socio-economic reasons, and employment. Read the 2015 summary of findings at:
Harsher Penalties for Truancy of Students with Disabilities
House bill 3402 was introduced in the Illinois Legislature in February 2015. It would increase the maximum penalty for parents whose child with a disability is truant. Parents of students can be fined up to $500 and jailed for up to 30 days under current Illinois law. HB 3402 would increase those maximum penalties to $1,000 and a six months in jail for parents of children with disabilities and leave the maximum penalty the same for other parents. You can monitor the status of this Bill at www.ilga.gov/legislation/billstatus.asp
Professional Development for Educators and School Staff
The BEST Act – Better Educator Support and Training Act – was introduced on March 31, 2015. U.S. Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island said “If we want our children to have a quality education, with top-notch instruction and support, we’ve got to invest in our teachers as well as our classrooms.” U.S. Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania noted that the BEST Act “aims to provide comprehensive resources that educators need to help students achieve their academic best.” If enacted the Act would provide educator mentoring and professional development to the entire educational team – librarian, counselors, principals, and teachers. Learn more at:
Educational Services for Youth in the Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Systems
Children involved in the foster care system or in the juvenile justice system experience hardships related to “trauma, changes in placement, family mobility, disabling conditions, and economic disadvantage”. The National Evaluation and Technical Assistance Center for the Education of Children and Youth Who are Neglected, Delinquent, or At-Risk lists these hardships in their new guide entitled “Quality Education Services Are Critical for Youth Involved With the Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare Systems”. The guide is designed to assist child-serving agencies address barriers and challenges for the children and families they serve. The guide offers policy-related recommendations and actionable items that staff can use to ensure better outcomes for youth.
View or download the guide at: http://www.neglected-delinquent.org/sites/default/files/NDTAC_Correctional_ED_Practice_Guide_508.pdf
Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act
On December 19, 2014 the ABLE Act was signed into federal law. Regulations or guidance related to the new law will be issued by June 2015. Each state will decide whether to offer an ABLE program.
The ABLE Act allows families to create a savings account for their family member with a disability to save for future disability-related expenses. These ABLE accounts resemble the 529 accounts that parents can set up to save for their children’s college tuition. The new accounts protect eligibility for Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, and other federal benefits. The money can be used for housing, transportation, employment training, assistive technology, education, funeral and burial expenses, and other approved expenses.
Learn more details from The Arc of Illinois: https://files.ctctcdn.com/92d3c2d6001/c0d1c5c0-d9cc-4cae-83e9-9404ce412f19.pdf
A Vision for the Future of the Education in the United States
On January 14, 2015, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan outlined what he wants to see change as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is reauthorized. He calls for increasing the opportunity for quality preschool, increasing funding and assistance for school and educators, reducing time spent on testing, and informing parents, teachers, and students about progress toward college and career readiness.
Find all Duncan’s comments here:
The Arc of Illinois New Assitive Technology Program
The Arc of Illinois, through a generous donation, has developed a new Assistive Technology Program. This program will fund, or partially fund, the purchase of assistive technology for individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, such as an iPad, for social and communication skills. There must be an evaluation/assessment completed by a qualified provider to prove need and reason for the requested device.
The goal of The Arc of Illinois Assistive Technology Program is to enhance and improve the quality of life for persons with intellectual/developmental disabilities by providing opportunities for individuals to receive technology to help with education, employment, community living and independence. With today’s technology, there are assistive features on devices, such as iPads, that can really improve learning for students with special needs. One mom recently told us, “I am so excited about the possibility of this program especially for people like my son, who has autism. A device like an iPad would mean such a difference to him in being able to communicate with the people in his life.”.
The maximum amount funded will be $500.00 per person or family. Upon approval, the device will be shipped directly to the applicant. Once the device is received it is the responsibility of that person and/or family to make sure it is used in the appropriate manner and that an evaluation is filled out to assure future funding for this project. There are not many programs like this in the state of Illinois and The Arc of Illinois is overjoyed to be able to provide this much needed assistive technology for people with intellectual/developmental disabilities.
Go here to apply: The Arc of Illinois Assistive Technology Application.
The Arc of Illinois is a non-profit statewide advocacy organization representing individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families and has emerged as a leading advocacy organization in Illinois. The Arc is committed to enhancing the quality of life for children and adults with disabilities and their families and insuring persons with disabilities have services and supports available to them when needed. For more information about The Arc of Illinois visit our website: www.thearcofil.org or call the office at 815-464-1832.
Equal Access At School For English Language Learners
The U.S. Department of Education and Justice released guidance on January 7, 2015 explaining how school districts can meet their obligations to English learner students. The guidance explains the schools’ obligations to:
A fact sheet about obligations of the school is available in English at:
A fact sheet about obligations of the school is available in other languages at: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/ellresources.html
To view the entire guidance document, go to: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-el-201501.pdf