June 29th, 2021

June 2021 Policy News Round-Up

States’ plans for spending federal relief funds were released, legislation to address school climate and student wellbeing was introduced, and LD advocates and allies came together for a Day of Action. See how NCLD worked on behalf of students with disabilities this month. 

The Department of Education (ED) Releases State Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Plans

While two-thirds of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) ESSER funds were distributed to states in March when the ARP was passed, the remaining one-third of ESSER funds will be distributed upon Department approval after review of individual state plans. These plans were due to ED on June 7th and, to date, 34 state plans have been submitted and are currently under review. In developing state plans, ED called on state education agencies to engage in meaningful consultation with stakeholders and the public to develop their plans that are responsive to the needs of students, families, and educators.  

States have significant flexibility in how they choose to spend their funds, and NCLD has encouraged states and districts to use recovery funds to support students with disabilities by investing in high-quality, accessible, and inclusive academic instruction, inclusive and culturally responsive social-emotional learning, effective progress monitoring and accurate evaluations for specialized instruction, and meaningful family support engagement. Read our full recommendations here. To review your state’s plan and track its approval status, see here

Legislation is Introduced to Address School Disciplinary Disparities 

Students with disabilities, students of color, and other historically marginalized groups are disproportionately affected by punitive school disciplinary measures. NCLD supports three bills that have recently been introduced in Congress to address these harmful practices: 

ED releases report on the Disparate Impacts of COVID-19 on America’s Students

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights released a report earlier this month that highlights disparities in educational opportunities that existed before the pandemic and the devastating impact of pandemic disruptions on students from historically marginalized groups. For students with disabilities, COVID-19 has had a profound impact on the aids and services to support their academic progress. 

Some findings from surveys highlighted in the report include:

  • In a survey of nearly 1600 parents, parents of children with IEPs were more than twice as likely than parents of children without IEPs to say that their child was doing little to no remote learning and that distance learning was not going well 
  • A Virginia school district had a 111% increase in the number of students with disabilities receiving Fs in two or more subjects in the first quarter of the 2020-2021 
  • Twice as many 6th graders with disabilities in a Maryland school district received failing grades in English than in the previous year

Read the full report here

LD Day of Action 

On June 22nd and 23rd, learning disability advocates and allies came together to envision the future of the LD movement. NCLD and our partners at Eye to Eye National hosted a public town hall for the LD community called “Together We Stand.” The event called on advocates to share their visions for making school different, dismantling ableism and stigma, and building an inclusive, intersectional, and just community. The event recording can be viewed here

Additionally, advocates met with their Members of Congress to share their stories and ask for their support on issues related to education funding, college access, and LD research. Advocates also came together to hear directly from Members of Congress and Congressional and White House staff about their priorities and commitment to disability and educational equity issues. You can join these advocates by sending your own email to your Members of Congress here

New Research Sheds Light on Academic Growth of Students With Disabilities 

Recent research from NWEA found that students with disabilities had more growth in reading in math during certain school years than their peers without disabilities. However, assessment data also showed greater academic losses over the summer for students with disabilities. The implications of this research suggest that summer slide and lost instructional time due to the pandemic can and will have a disproportionate impact on academic growth of students with disabilities. Therefore, it is essential that schools develop methods of accelerating learning (rather than continuing with remediation) using the recent influx of federal funding. 

Earlier this month, Meghan Whittaker, NCLD’s Director of Policy & Advocacy, was a panelist for a webinar that highlighted this research and put forward recommendations for using federal aid to transform education for students with disabilities. View the webinar here

In case you missed it:

Unfortunately, students with disabilities are often not fully considered in SEL initiatives. NCLD has been working hard to change this. We released a new set of resources including 7 principles for inclusive SEL, a parent advocacy toolkit, a state policy brief, and case studies showcasing inclusive SEL practices.

Read and learn more here

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