The regulations the Department proposed in May are a good first step towards ensuring that all students are counted and that parents and communities can hold their schools accountable for meeting the needs of their students. While we continue to prepare more detailed comments both together and as separate organizations, we wanted to highlight areas where we think the Department took important steps to protect the interests of low-income students, girls and boys of color, students with disabilities, English learners, and other historically marginalized students, and to identify areas where the Department should go further. We have long supported the authority and responsibility of the Department to regulate and we are encouraged by the direction this regulation has taken.
Among the issues in the draft regulation we support, but about which we may submit comments to further strengthen, are:
- Requiring states to consult in a timely and meaningful way with parents and families, community-based organizations, civil rights organizations, Indian tribes, teachers, and school leaders.
- Reinforcing that individual groups of students must each count in accountability systems and that “super subgroups” are not allowed.
- Ensuring that school ratings are summative and also ensuring schools, parents, and communities have access to data regarding multiple school quality measures to support their efforts to strengthen and improve schools.
- Reinforcing the inclusion of all students in the state’s assessment system through the 95 percent participation rate requirement.
- Clarifying important guardrails around the meaningful use of the ‘other indicator of school quality or student success.’
- Reinforcing the focus on student academic achievement and high school graduation, even while multiple measures of school performance are used.
- Defining ‘consistent’ in the ‘consistent underperformance’ definition as no more than two years.
We believe the draft regulations fall short in these areas:
- Some of the options for measuring ‘underperformance’ in the ‘consistent underperformance’ definition undermine the expectation to provide supports and interventions when any group is not making progress toward state goals in any school.
- Although setting an upper limit for ‘N-size’ (the minimum number of students needed to include a subgroup of students) is critically important to unmasking subgroup performance, a maximum ‘N-size’ of 30, as allowed in the draft regulation, is far too high.
- The regulations should include a time period for English language acquisition which, in order to be consistent with the definition of ‘long-term’ English learners, should be five years.
- A state’s ‘regular high school diploma’ should only be one that is fully aligned with state standards and a state’s ‘alternate diploma’ should only be one that is standards-based and meets all other criteria as required by the statute. Basing any diploma wholly or in part on meeting Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals, regardless of whether a student’s IEP goals are standards-based, is contrary to the purpose of an IEP, undermines the definition of both a ‘regular high school diploma’ and the ‘alternate diploma,’ and equals a ‘lesser credential,’ as stated in the statute.
- The regulations should provide more direction on how states should assist local educational agencies with improving school environments for student learning, including by reducing incidences of bullying and harassment, school disciplinary practices that push students out of school, and seclusion and restraint.
We look forward to working with the Department to strengthen this regulation and move this process forward so that states, districts, schools, and advocates have the information they need to comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act and preserve its civil rights legacy.
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
American Association of University Women (AAUW)
Association of University Centers on Disabilities
Children’s Defense Fund
The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates
Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund
The Education Trust
Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
League of United Latin American Citizens
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
National Center for Learning Disabilities
National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools
National Council of La Raza
National Down Syndrome Congress
National Indian Education Association
National Urban League
National Women’s Law Center
Southeast Asia Resource Action Center
Southern Poverty Law Center
Stand for Children
Teach For America