The NCLD Public Policy Team in Action, Fighting for You

With work, kids, and family, many parents barely have time for themselves, much less time for staying on top of what’s happening in Washington D.C. The workings of government can seem so far away from the routine of daily life, yet what Congress does has a very real impact on you and your family. When Congress takes up laws that invest in childhood literacy or that protect students from restraint and seclusion at school, children all around the country are affected. That’s why we’re here – to keep you informed, to alert you to important issues affecting your child, and to advocate for you and for all children with learning disabilities (LD). We are the NCLD Public Policy team and we fight for you, each and every day.


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NCLD’s Laura Kaloi presents Diplomas at Risk

In the last month, we’ve focused intensely on high school graduation with our new report Diplomas at Risk: A Critical Look at the Graduation Rate of Students with Learning Disabilities. Nationally, only 68 percent of students with specific learning disabilities (SLD) graduate from high school with a regular high school diploma. In a few states, the situation is even worse. In Nevada, for example, only 25 percent of students with SLD graduate with a regular high school diploma. Yes, you read that right, only 25 percent. Our report includes data for every state so that parents can check where their state stands. Although parents may think that high school is a long way off, we’ve found that children as young as 2nd and 3rd grade are at risk for being tracked into educational paths that do not lead to a regular high school diploma.

Following the release of Diplomas at Risk, news media around the country began to cover the challenges for students with LD in graduating from high school. Education Week published a story titled “Diplomas Elusive for Many Students With Learning Disabilities” that pulled data findings directly from our report. Parenting sites such as Boston Parents Paper ran articles with direct links to our work. This media coverage helps start a national conversation that will resonate in Washington D.C.

Ross Chapman, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, and NCLD Executive Director James Wendorf
Anne Ford Scholar Ross Chapman, Rep. Carolyn
McCarthy (NY-4), and NCLD Exec. Dir. James Wendorf

Last week, we brought the issue of high school graduation directly to lawmakers with a Diplomas at Risk hill briefing where NCLD Public Policy Director Laura Kaloi called for action. Laura echoed the report’s recommendations that states should limit multiple diploma options that can lead to fewer students with disabilities graduating with a regular diploma. She said that federal and state law should include incentives to increase the graduation rate of students with LD.

Our hill briefing also included Anne Ford Scholar Ross Chapman, a high school senior with LD, who spoke passionately about the challenges he has faced. His comments resonated with the report’s findings that 88 percent of students with LD expect to graduate with a regular diploma, but only 59 percent of parents expect the same.

Our efforts at raising awareness had immediate results when Representative Carolyn McCarthy of New York joined with us to call on Congress and states to make high school graduation for students with LD a national priority. At the briefing, she shared her personal story of overcoming dyslexia and becoming a Congresswoman:

I have dyslexia and I have struggled with it over the course of my life. If you told me years ago that I would be a member of Congress, I would have been shocked. Today, as a senior member of the Education and Workforce Committee, and as a ranking member on the House Education Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education, I am in a unique position to promote policy that will help improve the lives of people with learning difficulties. And I’m going to work with NCLD to do just that.

Representative McCarthy applauded NCLD’s work and the progress made so far, but said that there was much more work to do.

 Rep. Carolyn McCarthy applauds NCLD’s work
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy applauds NCLD

Following the hill briefing, we held a Diplomas at Risk webinar with noted educational experts Bob Balfanz, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University, Candace Cortiella of The Advocacy Institute, and Colleen Riley of the Kansas State Department of Education, to discuss what parents, educators and policymakers can do to make sure every child with LD graduates from high school. Nearly 1400 people registered for the report and webinar, leading to a wide-ranging and informative online discussion. You can get free access to the report and recorded webinar on

This is the NCLD Public Policy Team in action. We do our homework by gathering research and data on issues important to the LD community. We raise awareness by educating Congress and policymakers. We push for change by fighting for laws that make a difference. We work for you – to keep you informed and aware about developments that affect your family. How can you get involved? If you haven’t already, please subscribe to our LD Action newsletter to get the latest news and action alerts on laws that affect you. Read up about how the law protects people with LD. Finally, check out our extensive resources on how you can be an LD Advocate.