Ensuring that Students with Disabilities Receive a High-Quality Education:The No Child Left Behind Act
Archived Information

The No Child Left Behind Act:
Ensuring that Students with Disabilities Receive a High-Quality Education

(Released March 20, 2002 by Kathryn J. Hayes, Office of Public Liaison, The White House) dotted line

On January 8, 2002, President Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, the most sweeping reform of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) since ESEA was enacted in 1965. It redefines the federal role in K-12 education and will help close the achievement gap between disadvantaged, disabled and minority students and their peers.

The Act is based on four basic principles: stronger accountability for results, increased flexibility and local control, expanded options for parents and an emphasis on proven teaching methods. There are 6.1 million students with disabilities in the United States and this new law will help ensure they all receive a quality education.

The following are provisions in the new law that will help students with disabilities:

  • The No Child Left Behind Act provides unprecedented new flexibility for all 50 states and every local school district in America in the use of federal education funds. States will receive the freedom to target up to 50 percent of federal non-Title I dollars under the Act to programs that will have the most positive impact on the students they serve, including students with disabilities.

  • Assessments must provide for adaptations and accommodations for students with disabilities as defined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

  • Assessment results and state progress objectives must be broken out by student groups based on poverty, race and ethnicity, disability and limited English proficiency (LEP) to ensure that no group is left behind.

  • States' definitions of "adequate yearly progress" (AYP) must include separate measurable annual objectives for continuous and substantial improvement for the achievement of groups of students, including students with disabilities.

  • If a Title I school fails to make AYP, provisions in the Act authorize what steps are to be taken to improve the situation, depending on the length of time the school fails to achieve AYP.

  • The Act provides increased support for supplemental services for students attending persistently failing Title I schools (those that have failed to meet the state standards for at least 3 of the 4 preceding years). Districts must provide Title I funds (approximately $500$1,000 per child) for low-achieving disadvantaged students in the school to obtain supplemental services, tutoring, after school services, or summer school programs from the provider selected by parents from a state approved list. If the child has a disability, services have to be consistent with the goals in the child's individual education program.

  • The local education agency (LEA) plan, which is required in order to receive a subgrant under the No Child Left Behind Act, must be coordinated with other federal programs, including the IDEA. The plan must describe how the LEA will coordinate and integrate services under Title I with other education services such as services for students with disabilities to increase program effectiveness, reduce duplication and reduce fragmentation of the instructional program.

  • To meet the principle that resources must focus on proven educational methods, one of the seven required uses of an LEA's subgrant of Reading First funding is to provide a research-based program of reading instruction to children from K-3 grade who may have reading difficulties, are at risk of being referred to special education based on these difficulties, have been evaluated but not identified under the IDEA, are being served under the IDEA as a child with a severe learning disability (SLD) related to reading, are deficient in essential components or reading skills, or have LEP.

  • LEA applications must describe how the LEA will provide training to enable teachers to teach and address the needs of students with different learning styles, particularly students with disabilities and students with LEP.

  • States are required to include in their applications for a grant a description of how the professional development activities will be coordinated with professional development activities provided under other federal, state and local programs. Under the IDEA the U.S. Department of Education is currently funding 36 State Improvement Grants and expects to fund 8 or 9 more this year so almost every state will have one. Grantees must spend 75 percent of the funds on professional development.

  • The Early Childhood Educator Professional Development grant applications must include a description of how the project will train early childhood educators to meet the diverse educational needs of children in the community, including children who have LEP and children with disabilities.

In addition to the new requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act referenced above, President George W. Bush's commitment to children with disabilities is exemplified in the creation last October of the President's Commission on Excellence in Special Education.

The president has charged the Commission with collecting information and study issues related to federal, state and local special education programs with the goal of recommending policies for improving the education performance of students with disabilities. Among its many duties, the Commission will also look at the current effectiveness of teacher training and professional development not just for special educators, but also for regular educators who work with students with disabilities in their classrooms. With a report due to the president on July 1, 2002, another major step will have been achieved to assure that no child will be left behind.

For more information about the No Child Left Behind Act, please visit www.ed.gov/nclb.

Last Modified: 09/02/2003