Special Services Update


Have you heard of ESSA?

Last month Congress rewrote No Child Left Behind, now known as the Every Student Succeeds Act. The bipartisan law has been written to correct some of the unintended consequences of NCLB, while keeping some of the positive aspects of it, and returns educational power back to the states.

Recently, USA Today provided a comparison of the two laws, identifying the changes that have taken place. Here is a modified version of that article.

The goal:

NCLB was originally written to address the persistent achievement gaps in education among poor and minority students as well as students with disabilities.through strict accountability measures.

The change:

ESSA strives to preserve this important goal, but gives control and decision making authority for achieving this goal back to states and school districts.


NCLB required testing in Math and English in grades 3 through 8, and once in high school. It also required at least one Science test in elementary, middle, and high school.

The change:

ESSA preserves the testing in the same grades, but allows for flexibility in how and when the tests are offered. ESSA also emphasizes the importance of finding tests that are the most accurate measure of student learning

Common Core:

NCLB required standards, but not the Common Core, which emerged much later than NCLB and was actually led by state, not federal effort. However, Common Core was strengthened through NCLB when it was required for states to receive a waiver to the accountability requirement of NCLB.

The change:

ESSA takes a neutral stance on Common Core, giving states the ability to select the standards without influence, coercion or incentives form the federal government for Common Core.


Perhaps the most controversial aspect of NCLB was its one size fits all approach to accountability, requiring all students to be proficient by 2012. However, this was also one of the greatest strengths in the law, as it required schools to look at student subgroups and be held accountable for their performance, including poor and minority students as well as students with disabilities.

The change:

ESSA preserves the accountability measure of NCLB, but leaves the decisions on how accountability will be measured up to the states, with a focus on strengthening schools that are low performing, have high dropout rates, or have significant achievement gaps.

What's new:

ESSA will also strengthen student learning by enhancing early childhood opportunities for the first time, helping states provide access to high quality preschool.

What does all of this mean for our students with disabilities? ESSA maintains the important accountability measures for students with disabilities that have been extremely beneficial, ensuring access to the general education curriculum and high standards for achievement. As ESSA changes the accountability measures from punitive to supportive, ESSA presents a clear path to high achievement for all students, including our students with disabilities.

Here's your tool of the week: Alternative Means to the Same End: Strategies for Students. This chart provides a list of common disruptive behaviors along with alternative behaviors that can be taught as goals. You can find it at: http://www.tooloftheweek.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/TOW-1-25-16-When-behavior-makes-learning-hard.pdf

Jennifer F Connolly, PhD

Director of Special Services