The National Advocate for People with Down Syndrome Since 1979

National Down Syndrome Society
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Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA)


Former President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) into law in January of 2002. NCLB was not a new concept, it actually amended or “revised” Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which requires school accountability (especially for disadvantaged students). The new 2002 provisions for assessment and accountability were designed to focus increased levels of attention on under-performing groups of students, including students with disabilities. The NCLB law is considered historic because it holds schools accountable for how well they teach students with disabilities the curriculum, not just the skills on the Individualized Education Program (IEP).

As with any important laws, ESEA will always be in the process of being amended through the reauthorization (revision) process. Throughout its history, NDSS has engaged with all levels of government to influence ESEA and other education laws to improve educational opportunities for students with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities. NDSS has testified before Congress, and met with former President Bush, past and current secretaries of education, senior Administration officials and members of Congress and their staff to protect accountability and promote educational improvements for students with disabilities.

NDSS has also provided ongoing recommendations for the national NCLB commission and participated in the development of a report regarding the measurement of individual student growth under NCLB/ESEA for all students, including students with Down syndrome. Recent achievements include a Congressional briefing and many high level Administration as well as participation in a meeting with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, three assistant secretaries and their deputes to provide input on the reauthorization.

Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA) 2013 Reauthorization


The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP) committee passed their version, the Strengthening America's Schools Act (S. 1094), introduced by Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA). During the markup, the committee voted against an amendment by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) that would have eliminated the cap on the percentage of students allowed to take alternate assessments.

Senator Harkin's bill takes many important steps to ensure a high quality education for students with disabilities. It confirms performance targets for schools, eliminates alternate assessments based on modified achievement standards (AA-MAS) and limits the use of alternate assessments based on alternate achievement standards (AA-AAS) to 1% of students. NDSS is supportive of this bill. You can read a short summary of the disability-related provisions in the bill.


The House Education and the Workforce committee passed the Student Success Act (H.R. 5), which was introduced by Congressman John Kline (R-MN), Chairman of the Committee. NDSS has concerns that H.R. 5 would remove accountability provisions for students with disabilities. The bill also would eliminate more than 70 education programs and consolidate others; eliminate federal accountability standards for students with disabilities; and eliminate requirements for "highly qualified teachers". Congressman George Miller (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Committee, has offered a bill that is more aligned with the Senate bill, except that it will include the entire text of the Keeping All Students Safe Act, a bill to reduce the use of restraints and seclusion in schools.

NDSS has joined 200 other organizations opposing Chairman Kline’s Student Success Act and supporting Congressman Miller’s legislation, especially for the inclusion of protecting children from restraint and seclusion as part of ESEA, emphasizing the benefits of ESEA’s requirement to measure their academic achievement for students with disabilities, and his support in the potential of students with disabilities during the reauthorization process.


NDSS Resources

External Resources

  • Buddy Walk
  • NDSS Yourway
  • My Great Story
  • NDSS DS-Ambassadors