Letter to the CDE ESSA and Disability Representation June 2016

UPDATE on July 25, 2016: Response from CDE (copied to organizations which signed on)


From: ESSA <ESSA@cde.ca.gov>
Sent: Monday, July 11, 2016 10:07:12 AM

Dear Ms. Small and Ms. Kulzer-Reyes,


Thank you for contacting the California Department of Education (CDE) and for your interest in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). We value your feedback and wanted to take the time to respond to your requests.


Regarding adding members to the California Practitioners Advisory Group (CPAG), unfortunately we are unable to add members to the group at this time. Current CPAG members were appointed in March 2016 for two and three year terms. The State Board of Education, who appoints members to the CPAG, will not request applications for new members until these terms are completed. However, CPAG meetings are open to the public and public comment and participation from advocacy organizations is highly encouraged.


The best way for interested members of the public to stay informed about the development of California’s ESSA State Plan and transition activities is to join the CDE ESSA Update Listserv. Please encourage members of the Family Empowerment Centers and Parent Training and Information Centers to join the listserv by sending a blank e-mail message to join-essa@mlist.cde.ca.gov. If you can provide me with a list of e-mail addresses, I would be happy to add these contacts to the list manually.


Regarding transparency, while we strive to go above and beyond the statutory requirements around public notices and communication, we can always improve. We are working on making our CPAG and ESSA Web pages more user-friendly and we would be open to any specific suggestions you and your colleagues may have about how to do this.


I look forward to a continued dialog with you about how we can support your engagement in California’s transition to the ESSA. If you have any questions, please let us know.




Joy Kessel, Education Programs Consultant

Every Student Succeeds Act Office

California Department of Education

1430 N Street, Suite 6308

Sacramento, CA 95814-5901

Phone: 916-445-7765




Recently CDAC sent this letter to the California Department of Education about the lack of representation on the CDE ESSA California Practitioner Advisory Group – the group tasked with the successful implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).


June 22, 2016
California Department of Education 1430 N Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Ms. Murchison and California ESSA advisory team:

According to the “Building a Grad Nation 2016” report on California from 2016, students with disabilities continue to graduate at much lower rates—21.4 percent lower—than other students and face reduced employment options, impacting their quality of life and independence post- graduation. Additionally, many students with disabilities are segregated from their typical peers during their school years. Further, students with disabilities face expulsion at much greater rates than their typical peers. And in some cases, students with disabilities are allowed to remain enrolled in school but are routinely sent home early for issues that would not normally result in early dismissal, allowing districts to collect apportionment without providing students with a full day of educational services.

The long-term social and economic effects of poor inclusion, routine early dismissal, high expulsion rates, and low graduation rates of individuals with disabilities are detrimental not only to the State of California, but also to the country. Therefore, it is critical that students with disabilities and their families be included as key stakeholders if the California Department of Education is to fulfill the ESSA’s civil rights mandate.

The successful implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is the key to ensuring that ALL students achieve success, thus ensuring California’s future for generations to come.

According to the 2013 Legislative Analyst’s Office Overview of Special Education in California, students with disabilities make up more than 10 percent of the total student population, or approximately 686,352 people. This is far too many Californians to exclude from the conversation.

Under ESSA, states are given more planning discretion; as such, each state has the opportunity to improve outcomes for students with disabilities. Our coalition of California disability rights organizations wants our state to meet students’ needs, improve outcomes, and serve as a “best practice” for other states.

Our organizations understand there are planned regional stakeholder meetings scheduled in June, and we look forward to attending. However, this does not address the absence of parents of students with disabilities on the California Practitioners Advisory Group (CPAG).

Our groups request the following:

  1. The addition of at least two parents of students with disabilities, including one who takes alternate assessments and one who takes the general assessment, to the current ESSA/CPAG planning committee;
  2. The addition of a representative from a disability rights organization;
  3. The dissemination of information about California ESSA implementation and stakeholderinput opportunities by adding Family Empowerment Centers and Parent Training and

Information Centers to the recipients list for all ESSA updates, meetings, proposals, and

information; and
4. Increased transparency in decisions, communication, and planning. The website

dedicated to ESSA is very difficult to navigate. Finding the meeting schedules for CPAG and regional meetings was difficult.

We respectfully request prompt attention to our concerns, prior to the next meeting of CPAG and any other committee that may be involved in ESSA plan development. We would like to request attention to our requests and a response explaining the CDE’s action.


The Arc California
California Down Syndrome Advocacy Coalition
Center for Educational Rights
Club 21 Education and Resource Center
Down Syndrome Association of Orange County
Down Syndrome Association of San Diego
Down Syndrome Connection of the Bay Area
Down Syndrome Information Alliance
Exceptional Family Center
Kern Down Syndrome Network
Parents Helping Parents
South Bay Down Syndrome Association
United Cerebral Palsy

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