Just 18 States in Compliance with DOE Special Needs Guidelines

A stricter set of guidelines for states’ special needs programs set by the US Department of Education (DOE) has brought the number of states in compliance down from 41 at this time a year ago to just 18.

A press release from the DOE states that a new framework, known as Results-Driven Accountability (RDA), will now use educational results for students with disabilities in determining each state’s annual funding.  Previously, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) asked states to comply only with proper evaluation timelines, due process hearings, and preschool services transitions.

“Every child, regardless of income, race, background, or disability can succeed if provided the opportunity to learn,” US 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.”

The DOE currently allocates $11.5 billion annually throughout the states to serve 7 million students with disabilities.

The framework requires the DOE to place states into one of four categories: meet requirements, need assistance, need intervention, or need substantial intervention.  If a state is not placed in the meet requirements category for two years in a row, the state may be identified as high-risk.  Three years in a row and the DOE will require a corrective action plan be placed, or even withhold some of the state’s funding.

Maryland is one of the states placed in the needs assistance category.  Officials have asked the state to seek help and create a plan for improvement, writes Lyndsey Layton for The Washington Post.

The DOE hopes the change in accountability will help reverse the decreasing graduation rates for students with disabilities, as well as their grades in math and reading.

“Less than 10% 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,” said Michael Yudin, acting assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services. “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.

The DOE will also look at test results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), something it has never done before.  For states like Maryland, who consistently exclude students with disabilities from taking the test, this could be a problem.

Currently, no states or territories are on the list for “needs substantial intervention, but there are six names on the list of “needs intervention”:California, Delaware, Texas, the District of Columbia, the US Virgin Islands and the Bureau of Indian Education.