WASHINGTON, DC – Denise Marshall, executive director of The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Inc. (COPAA) released the following statement regarding 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. 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 you on developing a reasonable compromise. Although we have concerns about certain provisions of S. 1177, we write to let you know that 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.”
Marshall concluded, “Thank you for your bipartisan leadership and partnership to complete the work on ESSA. We will strive to promote every tenet of ESSA that will fully support students in their journey to obtain a quality public education and achieve high standards with their peers.”