The No Child Left Behind Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: A Progress Report

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Letter of Transmittal

January 28, 2008
The President
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

The National Council on Disability (NCD) is most pleased to present you with a copy of a report entitled The No Child Left Behind Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: A Progress Report. Thanks to the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, with its push for improved student outcomes, as well as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), educators across the United States are reexamining their practices to find ways to close the achievement gaps between groups of students. Students with disabilities are a focus of this attention as schools and states work hard to improve their academic outcomes. Policymakers are studying the ongoing implementation of both NCLB and IDEA to determine the most effective means for serving students with disabilities.

NCD commissioned this study to assist policy leaders and stakeholders in assessing the impact of NCLB and IDEA on schools, including student outcomes produced. This report provides a detailed analysis of such key questions as (a) How has student achievement status changed since the laws were (re)authorized? (b) What impact have the laws had on assessment systems, accountability systems, and systems of personnel development? and (c) Which barriers are impeding the achievement of students with disabilities, and how can those barriers be overcome?

In our evaluation of NCLB and IDEA, students with disabilities appear to be doing better academically, and they also appear to be graduating with diplomas and certificates at higher rates than in prior years. Data suggest, however, that there is still certainly concern about the dropout levels of students in the states. Regardless of whether that concern is definitional or real, we ultimately need to better understand the manifestations of new rules and regulations on these students. According to our analyses, one of the most important results of NCLB and IDEA appears to be that students with disabilities are no longer ignored. To that end, NCLB and IDEA have had a significant, positive impact. Teachers, administrators, and the community are becoming aware of what students with disabilities are capable of achieving if they are held to the same high standards and expectations as their peers.

As our nation's policymakers continue their work on NCLB Act reauthorization, it is important to recognize the complex interplay among the federal law, state laws and regulations, and actual practice at the district and school levels. Some of the requirements in NCLB have had unintended consequences, and any proposed changes to the law should be carefully considered to ensure that additional unintended consequences are not created, especially for students with disabilities.

It is also important to provide flexibility with regard to student performance while holding on to the idea of meeting a high standard. High expectations with differentiated learning and instruction should be the twin foundations for the law.

Thanks to your Administration's leadership on NCLB, we are confident that the nation can continue to fight against low expectations for students with disabilities, and can continue to win.

On behalf of all students with disabilities in America, NCD stands ready to provide you and your Administration with whatever resources we have to further implement these two vital federal public education laws.

Sincerely,

John R. Vaughn
Chairperson

(The same letter of transmittal was sent to the President Pro Tempore of the U.S. Senate and the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.)

National Council on Disability Members and Staff

Members
John R. Vaughn, Chairperson
Chad Colley, Vice Chair
Patricia Pound, Vice Chair
Milton Aponte, J.D.
Victoria Ray Carlson
Robert R. Davila, Ph.D.
Graham Hill
Marylyn Howe
Young Woo Kang, Ph.D.
Kathleen Martinez
Lisa Mattheiss
Lonnie Moore
Anne M. Rader
Cynthia Wainscott
Linda Wetters

Staff
Michael C. Collins, Executive Director
Martin Gould, Ed.D., Director of Research and Technology
Mark S. Quigley, Director of Communications
Julie Carroll, Senior Attorney Advisor
Joan M. Durocher, Senior Attorney Advisor
Sharon M. Lisa Grubb, Special Assistant to the Executive Director
Geraldine Drake Hawkins, Ph.D., Senior Program Analyst
Brenda Bratton, Executive Assistant
Stacey S. Brown, Staff Assistant
Carla Nelson, Secretary

 

Acknowledgments

NCD also wishes to express its sincere appreciation to Scott Swail of the Educational Policy Institute (EPI) and Betsy Brand of the American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF) for their incisive research in preparing this report.