Understanding NCLB and What It Means for Children with Disabilities

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Two girls face one another.Updated, January 2011
Links corrected, April 2013

NICHCY is pleased to connect you with summaries of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, with a special section on how its provisions impact the education of students with disabilities.

The law emphasizes assessment and accountability, and requires states to show Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in raising student achievement. The participation of students with disabilities in large-scale statewide or districtwide testing is required, and a subject of much interest to stakeholders.  Use the links below to find out more about the law in general and how it addresses the needs of students with disabilities. Be sure to take a look at “Reauthorization on the Horizon” (last in the list), because the law is due to be revised in the foreseeable future.


The Law Itself

Want to read the actual law that Congress passed?
Find the print version of NCLB where else but the U.S. Department of Education!

How about the Federal regulations implementing the law?
To see or download the regulations that guide implementation of the law passed by Congress, including an Appendix containing an “Analysis of Comments and Changes” to the draft regulations initially proposed:

The final rule for implementing Title I of the ESEA, as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act, as it appeared in Volume 67 (Number 231) of the Federal Register (issued December 2, 2002):

The final regulations for the inclusion of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities in Title I assessments (issued December 9, 2003):

The entire historical record of the law’s passage by Congress.
From the link below, you’ll arrive at the search page for the 107th Congress, which passed the NCLB. If you enter “PL107-110″ in the first box, labelled “Bill, Amendment, or Public Law Number,” and click on search, the results will be a mountain of links to aspects of this law’s passage, including: a summary of the bills Congress considered along the way to passage, committee actions in the House, related House Committee documents and the conference report, amendments, how Congress voted, and—finally—a link to the text of the legislation.

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Short Summaries

Fact sheets on the law from the Department of Education.

A quick read on how NCLB targets student achievement.
At the core of NCLB are a number of measures designed to drive broad gains in student achievement and to hold states and schools more accountable for student progress. This article from Education Week is a good summary of those measures.

Key points of NCLB.
At the link below, you’ll find two useful summaries from The Education Trust. You can choose the 12-page NCLB User Guide or the NCLB Fact Sheets. The fact sheets address different topics within NCLB in one-page summaries, answering the same three questions each time: What does NCLB have to say? Why is this important? and What can I do? The topics are: Standards, Assessments, Public Reporting, Using and Collecting Data, Accountability, Adequate Yearly Progress, Schools in Improvement, Teacher Quality, High Quality Curriculum, Parents’ Right to Know, Parent Involvement, Students with Limited English Proficiency, School Choice, and Supplemental Services.

Quick Key Facts.
From Learning Point Associates, here’s a series of quick fact sheets on NCLB and its areas of emphasis.

Any summaries for parents?
The Department of Education offers a Parent’s Guide to NCLB, at:

What parents need to know.

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More Detailed Information

Visit the offical No Child Left Behind site at the U.S. Department of Education.

What nonregulatory guidance has the Department of Education issued, to help folks implement the law?
Visit this page of the Department, where policy and guidance documents are nicely organized by NCLB’s key topics, such as: accountability, teacher quality, reading, and supplementary educational services.

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What’s Title I?

Title I provides billions of dollars in financial assistance to schools educating low-income students. Currently, about half (55 percent) of public schools receive funds under Title I. A part of ESEA and now amended by NCLB, Title I’s official name is “Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged.” Here are some links to information about this very important part of the legislation.

A quick summary of Title 1.
This summary comes from the Public Education Network (PEN) and the National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education (NCPIE).

Understanding the basics of Title 1.

Is my school a Title I school?
A Title I school receives government funding and must follow NCLB requirements. Find out if your school is a Title I school. At the link below, enter your school’s name and address, and search. The results will include “School Characteristics,” one of which will be “Title I School” yes or no.

What about supplemental educational services (SES)?
Generally, supplemental educational services (SES) are free tutoring services that must be offered to low-income children who attend a Title I school that fails to make progress for three years (in its second year of “school improvement status”). For a quick read on SES, including the roles and responsibilities of states, local school districts, parents, and SES providers, try:

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NCLB and Children with Special Needs

How does NCLB affect children with special needs? This is an area of great concern to the disability community. The following resources will help you find out more about what the NCLB means for children with disabilities and the school systems who educate them.

NCLB and Its Implications for Students with Disabilities.
by Dr. Judy Schrag, the Special Edge, Spring 2003, Volume 16, Number 2.

A Parent’s Guide to No Child Left Behind.
by Suzanne Heath, Research Editor, Wrightslaw.

Accountability for Assessment Results in NCLB: What It Means for Children with Disabilities.
From the National Center on Educational Outcomes, August 2003.

Myths and realities of involving children with disabilities.
From NAPAS (National Association of Protection & Advocacy Systems), 2005.

Accountability for students with disabilities.
The U.S. Department of Education discusses NCLB’s provisions related to including students with disabilities in achievement measures. Under the regulations, when measuring Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), states, school districts and schools have the flexibility to count the “proficient” scores of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities who take assessments based on alternate achievement standards.

NCLB, IDEA, and Deaf Children.

NCLB and what it means for children with disabilities.

Assessing students with disabilities under NCLB.
The Assessing Special Education Students (ASES) program of the Council of Chief State School Officers supports states in efforts to develop assessment and accountability systems that provide full equity for students with disabilities. As the only national consortium of assessment and special education professionals, ASES addresses the inclusion of students with disabilities in standards, curriculum, instruction, assessment, and accountability systems, and the effects of these systems on education reform efforts.

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How’s Your State Doing?

Who’s who in your state?
Use the map at the link below to choose a state and find out who to contact about NCLB, education matters in general, and disability-related issues (hey! they link to NICHCY, so you’ll end up back here!). Also find state profiles presenting key data about each state’s student and school population and its testing history and results under National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

Want specific NCLB information on your state?
The Education Commission of the States (ECS) offers a one-stop shop for learning the day-to-day status of how state policies match up with NCLB requirements.

Check out your state’s accountability plan.

Alternate assessment: What guidelines does your state have for participation?
Visit NCEO and find out!

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Reauthorization on the Horizon

NCLB is due to be reauthorized, which means it will change—-and probably significantly. On March 13, 2012 the Obama administration released its blueprint for revising the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Clearly, a “name change” is on the agenda… To find out what else is being proposed, visit the U.S. Department of Education, at:

To learn more about the reauthorization process and the discussions that are taking place, check out NICHCY’s resource page on the reauthorization of ESEA/NCLB, at:

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NOTICE: NICHCY is going away, but its resources are not. Find hundreds of legacy NICHCY publications, as well as our training curriculum on IDEA 2004, in the Center for Parent Information and Resources' Library at http://www.parentcenterhub.org/resources. This website will remain available until September 30, 2014. After that date, web visitors will be automatically redirected to http://www.parentcenterhub.org.