Education: Higher Education Act Reauthorization Introduced in House

On October 15, Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA) introduced the College Affordability Act (H.R.4674). This bill provides federal funding to states that provide free community college education, increases Pell grants, and makes various improvements to student loan programs, among other things. Additionally, it contains a provision requiring colleges to accept an individualized education plan or a 504 plan as evidence of a disability when a student is seeking accommodations. Learn more from the Committee on Education and Labor website. The Arc supports this legislation.

Education: NCEO Releases Report on State-Defined Alternate Diplomas

The National Center on Education Outcomes released a report titled “Status of State-Defined Alternate Diplomas in 2018-19.” State-defined alternate diplomas were established in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015 as the only credential other than a regular high school diploma that can be included in calculating graduation rates. State-defined alternate diplomas may only be made available to students with the most significant cognitive disabilities who take the alternate assessment aligned to alternate academic achievement standards (AA-AAS). The report found that eight states (AR, LA, MS, NV, NH, TN, UT, and WV) currently have alternate diplomas for students with significant cognitive disabilities. It also found that these states are clearly defining the requirements for earning the diploma, but they are not providing informational resources that help educators implement the requirements or that help families decide whether to pursue the option. Among other things, the authors recommend states report on the number of students pursuing the alternate diploma, receiving the alternate diploma, and their post-school outcomes.

Education: USCCR Releases Report on School to Prison Pipeline

On July 23, the United States Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) released a report titled “Beyond Suspensions: Examining School Discipline Policies and Connections to the School-to-Prison Pipeline for Students of Color with Disabilities.” The report notes that students of color and students with disabilities are disproportionately subjected to suspension. Additionally, it notes that few empirical studies have evaluated the intersection of race and disability when it comes to discipline. Recommendations include continued guidance and enforcement from the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) and Congressional appropriations to help states and school districts train and support teachers and provide an adequate number of counselors and social workers in all schools.

Education: GAO Report Finds Significant Underreporting of Restraint and Seclusion

On June 18, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report detailing the underreporting of restraint and seclusion in public schools. According to the report, 70 percent of the nation’s school districts reported zero incidents of restraint or seclusion during the 2015-2016 school year. However, closer analysis found many school districts are recording zero when data is not collected or is collected improperly. The report concludes with recommendations for the Department of Education to improve accuracy in data collection and reporting.

Education: Bill to Improve Access to Accommodations in College Introduced in the House

On June 4, Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Larry Bucshon (R-IN), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), and Kim Schrier (D-WA) introduced the Respond, Innovate, Succeed, and Empower (RISE) Act (H.R.3086). The Senate version, S.1585, was introduced in late May. This bill would require institutions of higher education to accept a student’s individualized education plan (IEP), 504 plan, or prior evaluation as sufficient proof of disability. Additionally, it requires institutions to provide transparent information regarding the process of determining eligibility for disability services and to disseminate the information in an accessible format. It also requires institutions to report information on the number of students with disabilities served, their outcomes, and the accommodations provided. The Arc supports this legislation.

Education: SPLC Report Highlights Disproportionate Use of Corporal Punishment on Students of Color and Students with Disabilities

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has released a report on the continued use of corporal punishment in public schools. The report found that over half of schools that still use corporal punishment use it disproportionately on students with disabilities. Furthermore, the report found that black boys were almost twice as likely as white boys to be subject to corporal punishment and black girls were nearly three times as likely as white girls. Recommendations include banning corporal punishment in public schools and replacing it with evidence-based practices such as positive behavioral supports. 

Education: Senators Introduce Bill to Improve Access to Accommodations in College

On May 22, Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Todd Young (R-IN) introduced the Respond, Innovate, Succeed, and Empower (RISE) Act (S.1585). This bill would require institutions of higher education to accept a student’s individualized education plan (IEP), 504 plan, or prior evaluation as sufficient proof of disability. Additionally, it requires institutions to provide transparent information regarding the process of determining eligibility for disability services and to disseminate the information in an accessible format. It also requires institutions to report information on the number of students with disabilities served, their outcomes, and the accommodations provided. The Arc supports this legislation.

Education: GAO Blog Notes Disparities on 65th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education

May 17, 2019 marked the 65th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 Supreme Court Case that held public school segregation based on race was unconstitutional. In light of this anniversary, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a blog post discussing three recent reports on disparities that still exist in education. The first report noted the rise in the percentage of schools where 75% or more of the students were black or Hispanic and eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. The second report discusses the disproportionate use of discipline against black students, boys, and students with disabilities. The third report discusses the limited course offerings at high-poverty schools.

Education: LPI Releases School Discipline Report

On April 18, the Learning Policy Institute (LPI) released a report titled “Protecting Students’ Civil Rights: The Federal Role in School Discipline.” The report discusses the negative impacts of zero-tolerance policies and discrimination in discipline. It notes guidance documents and regulations the Trump administration has targeted for elimination, such as the discipline guidance and the significant disproportionality rule. Additionally, the report discusses strategies to reduce the use of exclusionary discipline, such as teaching social-emotional skills.