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Disability Advocacy Coalition Criticizes ESEA Waivers

A coalition of groups representing people with intellectual and developmental disabilities outlined its concerns with the waivers from certain requirements in the No Child Left Behind law that the U.S. Department of Education has granted to states.

The Collaboration to Promote Self-Determination released its letter Thursday, the same day a Senate committee held a hearing on the waivers, which have been issued using the education secretary's broad waiver authority—and without much Congressional oversight. The collaboration, formed in 2008, includes groups such as the National Down Syndrome Society, the Autism Society, the National Fragile X Foundation, and the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Among its concerns are that states haven't made a strong effort to get meaningful from people who represent the disability community; the waivers diminish subgroup accountability by allowing states to consolidate them into so-called "super-subgroups;" and that states are failing to address in detail how they plan to transition severely cognitively disabled students who are taking alternate assessments to common college- and career-ready standards.

The waivers "were really complex and hard to understand," said Ricki Sabia, the associate director of education for the National Down Syndrome Society Policy Center. NDSS is a founding member of the coaliting. "Parents asked to be part of the input and weren't involved."

Many of the group's concerns mirror those brought forward by the Education Trust, which my colleague Michele McNeil wrote about earlier today. Education Week also covered the Senate panel hearing, where senators offered their own critiques of the Education Department's waiver initiative.

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