Following a summer of inaction by Congress to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, most commonly referred to as No Child Left Behind, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is now moving ahead with granting waivers to absolve states of certain mandates of NCLB. Duncan announced a waiver package will be available in September.
The Race to the Top program is the Administration’s controversial, competitive program that has provided over $4 billion to states who commit to adopting college and career standards and assessments; overhauling evaluation systems to determine teacher effectiveness; adoption of data systems that link students to teachers; a focus on the lowest performing schools; among other reform initiatives.
Questions still remain about how such waivers will impact special education. CEC has cautioned the Department against granting any waiver that would not uphold critical elements of the law which have reinforced equity of educational opportunity, particularly for populations of students whose needs have been traditionally unmet, such as students with disabilities. Such non-negotiable provisions include:
1) maintaining disaggregation of data,
2) subgroup accountability for students with disabilities, and
3) upholding highly qualified teacher provisions, all of which are critical to the educational success of students with disabilities.
Additionally, CEC has actively encouraged the Department to consider the impact of such reforms on students with disabilities and the professionals who serve them and to ensure that any reforms are evidence-based and consider the needs of all students.
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Stay tuned as more information becomes available.