Special Needs | News

Department of Ed Will Now Include Educational Outcomes as Part of IDEA Determinations

The U.S. Department of Education yesterday announced a major shift in the way it will oversee the effectiveness of states’ special education programs. The Department’s primary focus had been to determine whether states were meeting procedural requirements such as timelines for evaluations, due-process hearings and transitioning children into preschool services. Under the new framework known as Results-Driven Accountability (RDA), the Department will also include educational results for students with disabilities in judging states’ compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, “We know that when students with disabilities are held to high expectations and have access to the general curriculum in the regular classroom, they excel. We must be honest about student performance, so that we can give all students the supports and services they need to succeed.”

To make this year’s IDEA determinations, the Department used multiple outcome measures that include students with disabilities’ participation in state assessments, proficiency gaps between students with disabilities and all students, and performance in reading and math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to produce a comprehensive and thorough picture of the performance of children with disabilities in each state.

Last year, when the Department considered only compliance data in making annual determinations, 41 states and territories met requirements. This year, however, when the Department included data on how students are actually performing, only 18 states and territories met requirements.

As part of the move to RDA, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) will fund a new $50 million technical assistance center — the Center on Systemic Improvement — to help states leverage the $11.5 billion in federal special education funds which they currently receive to improve outcomes for students with disabilities. OSERS will also work with states to develop comprehensive plans designed to improve results for children with disabilities.

Michael Yudin, acting assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services, concluded, “Less than 10 percent of our nation’s eighth graders with IEPs are scoring proficient in reading, according to the best available data. We can and must do better. RDA is about using the accountability framework to provide states with incentives and support to implement evidence-based strategies to improve results and outcomes for students with disabilities.”

About the Author

Christopher Piehler is editor in chief of THE Journal.

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