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National Council on Disability Says No Child Left Behind and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Having Positive Impact

Monday, January 28, 2008

January 28, 2008

NEW ORLEANS—The National Council on Disability (NCD) today released a report (/publications) analyzing the progress of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that says students with disabilities are no longer ignored. To that end, NCLB and IDEA have had a significant, positive impact.

According to NCD Chairperson John R. Vaughn, “Thanks to NCLB, with its push for improved student outcomes, as well as the 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 IDEAto determine the most effective means for serving students with disabilities.”

NCD commissioned this study entitled The No Child Left Behind Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: A Progress Report, to assist policy leaders and stakeholders in assessing the impact of NCLB and IDEA on schools, including student outcomes produced as a result of changes mandated in the laws. 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 suggests, however, that there is still cause for concern about the dropout levels of students with disabilities nationwide. Regardless of whether that concern is definitional or real, we need a better understanding of 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,” Vaughn stated.

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.

We are confident that the nation can continue to fight against low expectations for students with disabilities, and can continue to win,” Vaughn concluded.

NCD is an independent federal agency and is composed of 15 members appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. NCD provides advice to the President, Congress, and executive branch agencies to promote policies, programs, practices, and procedures that—
(A) guarantee equal opportunity for all individuals with disabilities, regardless of the nature or severity of the disability; and
(B) empower individuals with disabilities to achieve economic self-sufficiency, independent living, and inclusion and integration into all aspects of society.

An official website of the National Council on Disability