Monday, June 10, 2013

Strengthening America's School Act

Family Voices Indiana shares the following action alert from AUCD:

Amendment Harms Access to Graduation for Students with Disabilities Vote No!


SUMMARY:
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) last week, called the Strengthening America’s Schools Act (SASA). The bill makes a number of important improvements for students with disabilities and is strongly supported by AUCD and other disability advocates.

The bill is scheduled to be considered in Committee tomorrowTuesday.  Republican Members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) may offer an amendment that would allow schools to significantly lower the academic expectations for students with disabilities by allowing an overuse of alternate assessments.  We urge you to join us in helping to defeat this amendment.

BACKGROUND:  Under current law, States can use a set of assessments and modified standards for children with disabilities who may not able to achieve based on regular assessments and standards.  This is commonly referred to as the 2% regulation.  Under ESEA and ESEA waivers, States are permitted to only use a limited percent of the assessment results in their accountability systems – totaling about 20% of students with disabilities. States with waivers are required to phase out the use of this assessment by 2014-2015.  Sen. Harkin’s bill eliminates this modified assessment consistent with the waiver provision.

Current law and the Democratic ESEA bill also allows states to use alternate assessments on alternate standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities – limited to approximately 10% of students with disabilities.  This is commonly referred to as the 1% regulation.  When states do not abide by the required limits, it dramatically lowers student expectations and seriously compromises their ability to graduate high school ready for a career or college. 

AMENDMENT:  The anticipated amendment would re-instate the modified (2%) assessment and remove the 1 and 2 percent limits on how many students with disabilities can be counted as making sufficient progress using these two less challenging systems of standards and assessments.  This amendment would allow schools to take millions of students with disabilities off track for a regular high school diploma as early as 3rd grade when assessment decisions are made in schools, relegating them to lower career and college expectations—simply because they receive special education services. 

TAKE ACTION:
Call your Representative/Senator/Member of Congress:
·         Dial the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask for the office of your Representative/Senators
·         Visit AUCD’s Action Center to find out the name of your Senators (scroll down and enter your zip code)
·         Message: “I am calling to ask Senator _________ to urge him/her to vote NO on the assessment amendment during the markup of the bill to reauthorize the ESEA and to vote YES on the Strengthening America’s Schools Act as currently written
TALKING POINTS
The Republican amendment
·         unleashes States and school districts to officially marginalize every student with a disability (and their academic potential), and expect less of them by virtue of having a disability.
·         INCORRECTLY promotes that most students with disabilities can’t learn or achieve when most students with disabilities are able to learn and achieve, just like all other students, when provided appropriate services and supports.
·         promotes abuse and overuse of alternate assessments by allowing any student with a disability to be tested through these assessments.
·         conflicts with the U.S. Department of Education’s ESEA flexibility waivers which require States to phase out the modified 2% assessments by 2014-2015 as well as Chairman Harkin’s bill.
·         turns back the clock on the advances made in educating students with disabilities:
·         Most students with disabilities are taking the general state assessment
·         Improved results in reading and math
·         Increased graduation from high school, fewer drop outs and higher college attendance rates
You can also email your members of Congress using AUCD’s Action Center 

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