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Groups Alarmed By Request To Ease Education Standards

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Disability advocates are crying foul after some school districts sought flexibility under federal education rules, a move they say could prove harmful to students with disabilities.

Many states have received waivers in recent years alleviating them from the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act. But after California was denied a waiver, several school districts within the state banded together earlier this year to ask the U.S. Department of Education to grant them exemptions independent of the state.

That isn’t sitting well with disability and civil rights advocates who are concerned that without statewide standards, the bar could be lowered for students in special education.

In a letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan this week, eight groups including Easter Seals, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates and the National Center for Learning Disabilities are urging the Obama administration to decline requests for flexibility at the school-district level, insisting that statewide standards are best.

“Moving away from a system of statewide accountability and state-led commitment to improving student outcomes will result in different expectations for students from one district to the next,” the letter reads. “Considerable experience tells us that for low-income students, students of color, Native students, English language learners and students with disabilities, different expectations far too often means lowered expectations.”

The Education Department said in March that it would review the California school districts’ request, but noted a “strong preference” to work with states to enhance flexibility. At the same time, the agency indicated that in order to receive a waiver, “districts must meet a high bar, similar to the one the department has set for states.”

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  1. R Howarth says:

    While it is possible for students with all manner of disabilities to keep up and even excel academically, a great many experience barriers to education due to frequent moves, homelessness, and blows to their emotional security. The testing demands of No Child Left Behind directly conflict with the IDEA. In addition, the charter school movement has creamed off the best and the brightest of inner city school children and expel those who present challenges. Inner city public schools are the schools of last resort. High expectations are very important in motivating students, but until we get a handle on neighborhood disintegration, flexibility in meeting standards is paramount. The turmoil of high principal and teacher turnover in schools due to No Child Left Behind is actually lowering the ability of these schools to serve children.

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