ESEA Reauthorization News
CEC responds to Senator Harkin’s Strengthening America’s Schools Act of 2013¸legislation that would rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, known as No Child Left Behind, by highlighting areas of support, such as increased inclusion of students with disabilities, accurate information about student achievement, improved assessments, increased attention to equitable distribution of teachers; focus on gifted education, particularly for students from low income backgrounds; and emphasis on early learning. Areas of concern include over emphasis on teacher evaluation systems at the possible expense of investment in professional development; and allowing individuals to be considered highly qualified before they have completed an alternate route to certification program.
CEC opposes an amendment by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) which seeks to lower qualifications for special education teachers by removing them from the definition of ‘highly qualified teachers’. Carving special education teachers out of the highly qualified system sends a message that students with disabilities do not deserve access to educators who are trained to meet their complex needs. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 94% of special education teachers are highly qualified. Sen. Paul’s amendment ignores this reality and turns back the clock on special education teacher qualifications.
CEC, together with the National School Boards Association, National Association of State Directors of Special Education, and National Center for Learning Disabilities are urging the Senate to reject any amendment that promotes the overuse of alternate assessments and excludes students with disabilities from the accountability system. Not only would such an amendment reverse more than a decade’s worth of progress, this is a moot issue for most states which have already committed to end such a practice as part of their ESEA waiver.