Bennet, Alexander, Franken, Burr Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Improve Student Achievement with Early Intervention

Bill Would Support Proven Programs that Address Academic, Disciplinary Problems Early and Reduce Over-Identification of Students with Disabilities

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) today introduced a bill to improve student academic achievement, reduce over-identification of children with disabilities and reduce disciplinary problems in schools by intervening early.  The Achievement Through Prevention Act makes it easier to implement school-wide programs that create a positive learning environment, as well as a system to provide early interventions tailored to the needs of each child.

“We can improve academic achievement for all students when we create a safe and positive learning environment and identify and respond to problems early,” said Bennet.  “As a former schools superintendent, I have seen firsthand how common-sense, proven programs can transform the learning environment for all students and ensure that every student gets the support they need to be successful.”

“This bill will help struggling students get important educational services so that they can improve their academic performance,” said Alexander. “Instead of creating a bunch of red tape, Washington mandates and rules, this bill will give state education agencies and local school districts greater flexibility to use federal funds in a common-sense way.”

“We need to prevent behavioral problems in schools so that kids can focus on academic success,” said Franken. “ This bill builds on the movement that’s taking place in Minnesota to create positive school environments—these are no-nonsense solutions to help all kids succeed, especially disadvantaged students.”

The bill would allow schools to increase implementation of school-wide positive behavioral intervention and supports (PBIS) and early intervening services (EIS) to enhance academic and behavioral outcomes for all students by identifying and helping those students who require targeted intervention. 

PBIS is a school-wide system to change how schools address the longstanding needs of children who struggle in school.  The data-driven program has reduced suspensions and expulsions and increased student achievement by creating a safe and positive learning environment for all students and providing individualized interventions for the students with the most serious needs.  Currently, it serves more than 300,000 students in Colorado, and this bill would help expand implementation. 

EIS can help catch students who are struggling early and ensure they get the support they need.  Early identification of struggling students and the use of scientifically-based academic and behavioral interventions, as well as evaluations and supports, can ensure academic success. EIS also reduces inappropriate referrals and placements to special education.

Many schools across the country already have these programs in place, and are seeing successful results in their overall learning environments and in student achievement.  This bill will remove red tape and federal obstacles to coordinate funding streams to expand and improve these programs.  Suspensions are reduced in schools implementing PBIS. 

In Colorado’s PBIS schools, the average number of out-of-school-suspensions per school dropped from 45 to 22 in three years, compared to the state average which remained virtually even, from 43 to 42 in the same time period.  One highly impacted school district in Colorado saw a 55 percent reduction in office discipline referrals by its third year of implementation, accounting for more than 1,300 referrals.  As a result, this district’s schools saved more than 650 hours of instructional time.