On December 15, 2015, President Obama replaced No Child Left Behind (NCLB) with Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ESSA transfers more control of education to state and local agencies. States have begun to implement state plans. The full transition should occur by the 2017-2018 school year.
States are required to adopt challenging academic content standards and aligned academic achievement standards in mathematics, reading/language arts, and science. These standards must apply to all public school students.
States are allowed to adopt alternate academic achievement standards for student with the most significant disabilities. However, these standards must still align with the state academic standards and provide access to the general education curriculum consistent with IDEA.
Standards for disabled and non-disabled students must ensure that they are on track to pursue a post-secondary education. Only 1% of the total student body, and approximately 10% of students with disabilities, is eligible to take the alternate assessments to receive their high school diploma.
Each state must look at how students are performing and make these results accessible to the public. Schools cannot use academic assessments as the sole basis for their data. Reports must be given on the results of disabled students as compared to non-disabled students.
The ESAA supports a multi-tiered system of support and requires local education agencies to provide evidence-based interventions to students with disabilities.
The ESAA requires evidence-based strategies to effectively teach reading and writing to all students, including those with learning disabilities such as dyslexia. Resources are also provided to identify and intervene when students are struggling.
The ESAA authorizes the establishment of a Comprehensive Literacy Center for parents and educators to better support children who are at-risk for challenges with reading, writing, and language processing. The Comprehensive Literacy Center would serve five functions:
- Develop/Identify tools to detect challenges early.
- Identify evidence-based literacy instruction, strategies, accommodations, and assistive technology.
- Provide Information to support families.
- Develop/Identify professional development for teachers on early indicators and instructional strategies.
- Disseminate resources within existing federal networks.
It will take time to get the center up and running.
“Highly Qualified Teacher” in IDEA Eliminated:
IDEA has been amended to remove the definition of a “highly qualified teacher”. The definition has been replaced with the definition for “personnel qualifications”. Teachers under IDEA must now obtain a full state certification as a special education teacher or have passed the state special education teacher licensing exam, hold a license to teach special education, have at least a bachelor’s degree, and not have had certification or licensure waived on an emergency, temporary, or provisional basis.
Discipline and Positive Behavior Interventions:
State plans must address support for local educational agencies to reduce the overuse of discipline practices that remove students from the classroom. Funds may be used to implement programs and positive behavioral interventions to reduce exclusionary discipline practices.
Comprehensive Mental Health Services:
States must consult school psychologists and other specialized instructional personnel in the development of mental health services. Mental health plans must include evidence-based, whole-school improvement. The goal of these strategies is to improve the school climate and safety, with a reduction in bullying and harassment.