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How the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 Affects Your Child with Special Needs



(page 1 of 2)

On Dec. 10, 2015, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015, which reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, a civil rights bill that ensures an equitable education for all students. The ESSA replaces the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, and its provisions will go into effect over the next four years.

Academic standards

Similar to NCLB, under ESSA each state must develop, or demonstrate that it currently has, “challenging academic standards” in mathematics, reading/language arts and science for all public school students, including students with disabilities. ESSA further requires that the academic standards be aligned with the entrance requirements of state colleges and universities and with relevant state career and technical education standards.

Local impact: ESSA does not require the Common Core curriculum but allows states to use it. Currently, New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania all have aligned their standardized assessments to that curriculum.

Standardized tests

The ESSA changes the testing requirements of NCLB and adds other provisions to help children with disabilities reach parity with typically developing students and be career and college ready.

States must administer annual math and English/language arts assessments to students in grades 3-8. High school students must take only one annual standardized assessment. ESSA also calls for one science assessment in elementary, middle and high school.

The new legislation provides more flexibility in assessments :

• Schools can use the ACT or SAT for high school students.

• Districts can cap the amount of instructional time used to prepare for standardized testing.

• Schools have the option to use projects and portfolios as part of assessments.

Local impact: ESSA also leaves it up to the states whether students may opt out of standardized testing. Delaware and New Jersey do not currently have opt-out provisions. However, in Pennsylvania, parents can excuse their children for religious objections if they submit a letter to their school district.

See page 2 for test accommodations and more. 

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