EDS 632 Project

In looking at changes to NCLB, it is important to understand 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 new changes to the law should be carefully considered to make certain 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.

The following recommendations are based on the advice and comments of the interviewees:

  1. Maintain high expectations for students with disabilities and continue to disaggregate outcome data by subgroups. The most important recommendation gathered from the interviews is to maintain high academic expectations for students with disabilities and continue to report student outcome data by subgroup. Not a single interviewee suggested that we return to pre-NCLB days, when students with disabilities were not included in academic accountability systems. Interviewees acknowledged that not every student with a disability can achieve to high standards, but they recommended holding firm to high expectations, continuing to report disaggregated data, and keeping the pressure on the system to deliver higher-level instruction. School leaders must create the environment of high expectations for all students and create supports and incentives for teachers to help all students reach higher levels of achievement.

  2. Develop the capacity of teachers to provide differentiated instruction and a more rigorous curriculum. In order for students to benefit from a higher-level curriculum, teachers must have the content knowledge and pedagogical skills to work with a diverse group of learners, particularly students with disabilities. All teachers must have strong academic content if they are the lead teacher, or be paired with a content expert if they bring strong pedagogical skills, as many special educators do. Teachers need to be trained in using benchmark assessments to influence how they provide instruction to each student.

    All teachers, especially general education teachers, must be trained to work with students with disabilities and other diverse students. Teachers should be trained to identify students with disabilities and know about various instructional approaches and universally designed curriculum. States should be held accountable for ensuring that teachers are trained to work with different types of students.

  3. Create incentives to attract, recruit, and retain special education teachers. As special education teachers retire and leave the profession, more attention needs to be paid to how to develop the profession and maintain adequate numbers of teachers with the skills and knowledge to work with students with disabilities.

    No Child Left Behind should be amended to include provisions such as early intervention services, response to intervention, individualized education plans for lower-performing students, and transition planning for needy students. These are key elements in IDEA, yet they affect all students, not just those with disabilities. All students would benefit from being provided early intervention and differentiated services, as well as a stronger focus on transition planning. Currently, 15 percent of IDEA funding can be used to support the early intervention activities for students who do not have IEPs. Because these students are not technically covered by IDEA, NCLB should cover the costs of these services.

  4. Align NCLB and IDEA data systems and definitions. NCLB and IDEA require data collection and reporting on various student outcomes and program characteristics, but the laws use different definitions and reporting formats, which should be brought into closer alignment so that states, districts, and schools are not duplicating data collection efforts. NCLB should also be amended to require that post-school outcomes be reported, as that is a critical indicator of success for all students.

    Redefine the proficiency target to recognize that a certain percentage of students, such as students with severe disabilities, will not meet grade-level proficiency. Options could include changing the 100 percent target to a slightly lower number, allowing waivers for certain defined categories of students, allowing students with disabilities to be tested on out-of-grade-level material, extending the time to reach proficiency, or setting the goals of the IEP as the proficiency target for certain categories of students with disabilities.

    Change the four-year graduation requirement to allow students with disabilities a longer period of time to achieve high school completion. Because IDEA allows students with disabilities to stay in high school until age 21, NCLB must be amended to be consistent with IDEA and prevent students with disabilities from appearing as non-completers if they do not graduate in four years. 

    Continue to require states to meet AYP, but balance it with credit for improved academic performance for lower-performing subgroups. States and schools should ensure that their students are making progress toward proficiency, but they should have more flexibility in determining AYP and should be recognized for improving academic performance and for closing achievement gaps.

  5. Ensure that students with disabilities are measured on more than just academic skills attainment. The definition of what is assessed for students with disabilities should be broadened to include occupational, employability, and life skills.

  6. Increase funding for special education. Helping students with disabilities access a higher-level curriculum requires more support services, potentially more learning time, better-trained teachers, collaborative teaching, and new instructional approaches. The current requirement to spend 15 percent of IDEA on early intervention services on non–special education students diverts funding from an already needy population.

This information was obtained from the following source: 

National Council on Disability. (2008). The no child left behind act and the individuals with disabilities education act: a        

            progress report.National Council on Disability, Washington, DC: U.S.