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NDSC Governmental Affairs Action Alert
February 10, 2015

Respond TODAY to Congressman Kline's Introduction of the Student Success Act - House Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Reauthorization Bill 
 
Action Needed
Chairman Kline of the Education and Workforce Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives and Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee Chairman Todd Rokita recently introduced the Student Success Act. Please contact your Representative if he or she is on the Education and Workforce Committee. We just heard that this Committee is meeting tomorrow at 10am to debate and amend the bill, so NOW is when you can make a difference.  A phone call is best with the short time frame we have. The Committee members are listed at: http://edworkforce.house.gov/committee/subcommitteesjurisdictions.htm (If you click on the Committee Member's name you will be taken to his or her website where you can find contact information.)

Message
Simple request: Let your Representative know there are significant concerns about the Student Success Act, as discussed in the NDSC letter to Chairman Kline, which is posted at http://bit.ly/1z4tCLM. NDSC sent the letter Chairman Kline's office earlier today. Urge your Representative or his/her education staff to review this letter.

If you can do more: Please share all or some of the recommendations for changes to the Student Success Act, in the bulleted list below. The first three bullets specifically affect students who take alternate assessments, many of whom have Down syndrome.

Questions: If the Representatives or their staff have any questions, they can contact Ricki Sabia at ricki@ndsccenter.org.
  • Language that says students who take the alternate assessment "are included in the general education curriculum, to the extent practicable" should be changed to "are included and make progress in the general education curriculum for the grade in which the students are enrolled."
  • Language about alternate academic achievement standards that says "promote access to the general curriculum" should be changed to "provide access to and ensure progress in the general education curriculum for the grade in which the student is enrolled, consistent with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act."
  • Language should be added to require states to allow students who take the alternate assessment to attempt to complete the requirements of a regular high school diploma and the exception to the definition of regular high school diploma for these students should be eliminated.
  • A cap equal to 1% of all students assessed (approximately 10% of students with disabilities) must be required on alternate assessments based on alternate academic achievement standards to prevent large numbers of students from being inappropriately placed in this assessment.
  • Language should be added to require state and local education agencies to provide support to ensure that general and special educators have the skills and knowledge necessary to instruct diverse learners, including how to use the universal design for learning principles.
  • Language should be added to require state and local education agencies to develop interventions that address achievement gaps between students with disabilities and nondisabled students.
  • Language should be added to prohibit the use of restraint and seclusion in non-emergencies that do not threaten physical safety.
Background
NDSC has consistently held the position that the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), as the 2001 reauthorization (amendment) of ESEA was known, is a very important law for students with Down syndrome and other disabilities. It is made even more important by the fact that the language that ends up in ESEA will impact how the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) reauthorization bills will be written.

Unfortunately, many states spent the years after the enactment of NCLB trying to find ways around its accountability requirements, especially for subgroups like students with disabilities. In addition, state implementation of some provisions in the ESEA regulations that govern the alternate assessments for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities have created a barrier to these students being included in and making progress in the grade-level general education curriculum. In many states students who take the alternate assessment have been removed from diploma track, often as early as third grade. For more context, you can read the NDSC summary of ESEA/NCLB's requirements, as they evolved from 2001-2014 at http://bit.ly/1vpdjNA.

2015 National Down Syndrome Congress
NDSC envisions a world with equal rights and opportunities for people with Down syndrome.


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