The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), the latest version of the largest federal law governing public education in the U.S., contains several key provisions important to students with learning disabilities (LD) and their parents. Understanding these opportunities is critical to maximizing the potential they hold for students with LD.

NCLB is intended to improve the academic achievement of all students attending the nation’s public schools, with a particular focus on children of low-income families. As such, the Act’s requirements regarding parental options apply to schools that accept federal grants under Title I of NCLB.

Recently, Candace Cortiella, founding director of The Advocacy Institute, and an expert on legislative issues that affect people with learning disabilities, talked about opportunities for supplemental services under NCLB.

Q: How can parents determine if their child’s school is a “Title I school”?

A: Any school that is eligible for and accepts funds under any programs authorized by Title I of NCLB is a “Title I school” for purposes of the parental choice provisions of the law. Schools may receive grants to support targeted services for specific children or school-wide programs that include all children in the school. Parents can determine if their child’s school is a “Title I school” by searching the Public Schools database supplied by the National Center for Education Statistics.

Finding information about the Title I status of your child’s school:

  1. Visit the National Center for Education Statistics search page.
  2. Enter the school name in the “name” field.
  3. Click “Public Schools” under “Institutions.”
  4. Click “Search.”
  5. Click on the School name in the search results.
  6. Click on “More information” at the top of the school data page.
  7. The school’s “Title I” status is listed in the “School Characteristics” section of the page.

Q: Under what conditions are supplementary education services available to students under the provisions of NCLB?

A: NCLB requires that schools make steady progress toward the ultimate goal of all students performing at a “proficient” level in reading, math, and science by the year 2014. This progress is defined as “adequate yearly progress,” or AYP. Title I schools that do not achieve AYP for three or more consecutive years must notify parents and make available “supplemental educational services” to students from low-income families, including those with disabilities.

Supplemental educational services are additional academic instruction designed to increase the academic achievement of students in low-performing schools. Services may include tutoring, remediation, and other educational interventions. Services must be provided outside of the regular school day and must be aligned with the State’s academic content standards. Eligibility for supplemental services is not dependent on whether the student is a member of a subgroup whose performance resulted in the school not making AYP.

States must provide a list of providers who are “approved” to provide such services and the parents select a provider from the list. States must insure that approved providers have a “demonstrated record of effectiveness in increasing the academic proficiency of students.”

Q: Must approved providers also provide the necessary accommodations for students with disabilities?

A: States must insure that eligible students with disabilities have access to supplemental educational services. Accommodations must be available, but not necessarily from each provider. If no provider is able to offer the supplemental services with the necessary accommodations, the school district must provide such services, with necessary accommodations, either directly or through a contract.

Q: Do supplemental educational services for eligible students with disabilities become part of a student’s IEP?

A: No. Supplemental services must be provided in addition to any specialized instruction the student is receiving as part of the IEP. As such, these services should not be included on the student’s IEP. Supplemental services should not be considered a substitute for special education services. However, any supplemental services delivered to eligible students with disabilities must be consistent with the students’ IEPs. Parents should have the opportunity to select a provider that best meets the needs of their student with a disability.

For example, if a student with a reading disability is receiving special education services that involve instruction using a specific reading program, such as the Wilson Reading System®, and is eligible for supplemental educational services, parents may want to look for an approved provider who is trained in that methodology.

Q: Are supplemental services providers given access to the educational records of students they serve, including IEPs?

A: Once a provider has been chosen by the parents, a student’s educational records may be disclosed to supplemental service providers by the school district. However, such disclosure requires the written consent of the parents. The consent must specify the records that may be disclosed, such as an IEP or other IDEA-related records, the purpose of the disclosure, and the identity of the party to whom the disclosure may be made. Parents of students with disabilities should make sure that the records being disclosed are relevant and necessary for the provision of supplemental services.

Providers are prohibited from disclosing the identity of any students receiving supplemental services, including students with disabilities, without the written permission of the parents.

Q: How are supplemental educational services monitored for results?

A: Once parents select a provider, the school district must develop an agreement with the provider that includes:

  • The development of specific achievement goals for the student
  • How the student’s progress will be measured
  • A timetable for improving achievement that is consistent with the student’s IEP
  • How the student’s parents and teacher will be regularly informed of the student’s progress

It is important for parents to remember that the NCLB-mandated supplemental educational services their child receives result from a contract between the school district and the approved provider – not between the parent and the provider. As such, the district may terminate the supplemental services a provider is providing to a student if the provider is unable to meet the student’s specific achievement goals and the timetable set out in the agreement. School districts may also allow parents who are unsatisfied with the academic progress their student is making with a provider to change to a new provider. However, this option is not required by NCLB.

Q: May eligible students with disabilities receive supplemental educational services during the summer?

A: Generally, supplemental services should be provided during the school year as a way to increase the student’s academic achievement and enhance the benefit of the instruction being received in both general and special education. However, states may include providers who deliver summer services among their “approved” list.

Such additional instruction, provided during the summer, may be of great benefit to students with disabilities, particularly learning disabilities. However, access to such programs should not be provided in lieu of the extended school year services required for eligible students under the IDEA.

Q: How long must schools provide supplemental educational services?

A: The opportunity for supplemental services for eligible students continues until the school has met AYP goals for two consecutive years. As stated earlier, Title I schools that have been designated as “in need of improvement” for two consecutive years must provide supplemental services to eligible students, including students with disabilities. While not required by NCLB, schools in their first year of “in need of improvement” are encouraged to offer supplemental services, particularly if school choice is not possible.

Endnote: The author wishes to thank Suzanne Heath for her review of this article. Heath is co-author (with Peter and Pamela Wright) of the publication, Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind.

Reviewed January 2010