The Advocacy Institute released the following statement to the House Education and the Workforce Committee at its July 18, 2017 hearing on ESSA Implementation: Exploring State and Local Reform Efforts.

JULY 18, 2017


The Advocacy Institute is watching with interest the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) with a particular focus on how the law’s new provisions can be used to improve services and outcomes for the nation’s 6 million students with disabilities. Our organization, in collaboration with the National Down Syndrome Congress, has reviewed more than 30 state plans (drafts or submitted) and provides detailed analyses at

The purpose of ESSA—to provide all children significant opportunity to receive a fair, equitable, and high-quality education, and to close educational achievement gaps—can only be realized for students with disabilities if states and districts do the following:

  • Ensure the interests of students with disabilities are represented in all levels of planning and implementation in respectful, meaningful ways. Many states have not included representatives of students with disabilities in plan development activities.
  • Place a high level of both importance and urgency on improving results for historically underperforming groups of students in order to close achievement gaps. Students with disabilities are most frequently the lowest performing student group on state assessments and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Too many states seek to merely continue past trends or accelerate only slightly.
  • The improvement activities already underway through State Systemic Improvement Plans (SSIP) and the Results-Driven Accountability (RDA) initiative are integrated with ESSA plans and implementation. Few state ESSA plans reflect any coordination with the SSIP and RDA.
  • Adopt policies that ensure maximum accountability for performance of student groups. Key among these are establishing a minimum subgroup size (N-size) that ensures that, to the extent practicable, each subgroup of students is included at the school level for annual meaningful differentiation and identification of schools in need of improvement and rigorously enforcing the annual measurement of achievement requirement. Many states are adopting N-sizes that will leave far too many schools unaccountable for historically underperforming student subgroups and are not fully adhering to the requirements regarding annual measurement of achievement.

In addition, the U.S. Dept. of Education (ED) must continue to fulfill its critical role of monitoring ESSA planning and implementation through statutorily required Peer Review and Secretarial Approval. To date, ED interim feedback letters and peer review notes reflect valid finding in some respects but should be more consistent across states. Further, as this is within the Secretary’s authority, it should also scrutinize each plan for adherence to ESSA’s equity requirements.


See also: Statement from the National Down Syndrome Congress