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Feds To Emphasize Student Performance In Special Education


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Federal education officials are looking to reshape the way they evaluate each state’s compliance with special education law to put a heavier focus on student performance.

The U.S. Department of Education reviews how well states perform under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act annually, determining whether the state “meets requirements,” “needs assistance,” “needs intervention” or “needs substantial intervention.”

The evaluations take into account a variety of factors including dropout and graduation rates, whether or not students with disabilities are disproportionately suspended or representative of certain racial groups and post-high school outcomes.

Now, in a new proposal, the Education Department says it plans to make changes to the way compliance is assessed.

The existing system is “heavily focused on compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements, with limited focus on how the requirements (impact) results for students with disabilities,” the department indicated.

Under the proposal — which is up for public comment through June 14 — the agency said it plans to balance “the focus on improved educational results and functional outcomes for students with disabilities while considering compliance as it relates to those results and outcomes.”

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Comments (9 Responses)

  1. mom, thats enough says:

    I would suggest that ‘progress’ be measured against their typically developing peers. Schools tend to shout improvement if there is not loss. Proper remediation in a timely fashion will create appropriate, measureable progress. The earlier the better.

  2. Ann says:

    There is little doubt that the federal education agency should focus on improved educational results per se, but the agency must, at the same time, closely examines the key “ engines” which should drive a successful special education program for eligible students: fiscal, legislative and program compliance together. Yes, please examine the huge need for quality parent partnership together to successfully implement the student’s education plan–especially for those students most at risk medically! California special education programs are tired of such poor federal funding for a state like California over 700.000 enrolled in special education system!

  3. dk says:

    … and to mom, how can kids with learning disabilities be compared to typically developing peers when successes take much more time and interventions? We do need to be realistic as the costs of accommodations can be extremely high as well. As an educator, I do work many extra hours every week to make a difference with each child but each one learns individually. Parents with students identified with an eligibility too need to ask for extra information as to how to help as parents of typically developing parents may.

  4. volleyballgranny says:

    Maybe they should just back off. We (special educators and general educators) already spend hours planning and implementing accommodations and then more hours documenting said accommodations (for state and federal review). While I admit that teachers, like everyone else, work at different skill levels and different effectiveness levels, you can’t legislate dedication. More laws, more regulations, only punish those who are already doing what they are supposed to do–they have no real impact on those who do not care to follow the law.

  5. Diana Sheeks says:

    I feel as long as every teacher will have kids with IEPs in their classrooms, then every teacher must be licensed in special education not just get a typical teaching degree and only have had one intro to special ed class in order to get their degree. Had this very discussion with an elementary school principal years ago who agreed 110% with me…it starts with the professional license. Higher education institutions are not preparing these new teachers for the real life in an educational setting. Too many teachers or teaching students tell me they aren’t going to be a special ed teacher, so they don’t need those classes. But they do if they are going to implement IEPs, understand the unique individual needs of their students properly in today’s world under federal laws. Every teacher today is a special education teacher.

  6. Vera ( says:

    As a parent of a child with autism, I believer that greater focus on student performance should be rooted in meaningful (rather than formalistic) IEPs, and in teaching to the child’s true potential, rather than to the allocated budget. The goal of special education is to circumvent the effect of the disability so that students can make gains at a rate commensurate with their innate ability. However, many special education administrators unilaterally lower the bar for students with autism and claim that they are inherently unable to make progress at a rate commensurate with their non-disabled peers. With such preconception, the schools are prone to take a minimalistic approach to “appropriate” education, reducing it to just loosely defined “educational benefit”. Tragically, the school districts can easily get away with this attitude, since the federal regulations guarantee only a basic floor of opportunity to the disabled students, consisting of specialized instruction and related services, and do not require to educate to maximum potential or even to achieve some substantive progress. In its current form, FAPE remains inefficient, fragmented, expensive, and based only weakly on scientific evidence. Most importantly, it is not grounded in the unique ways that ASD students learn. Despite the best efforts of many committed and hard-working special education teachers and therapists, there is little evidence of dramatic improvement or recovery by these children within the constraints of FAPE. Until we shift our paradigm, and critically examine whether the current system of education truly meets the needs of special needs students, we will not be able to substantially improve their performance

  7. Pat MacNeil says:

    Novel idea to focus on outcomes! It seems ridiculous when you say it out loud. Duh? Shouldn’t that be what is looked at to begin with. State departments of educations and local districts have found creative ways (lawyers, lobbyists, cheating on standardized tests) of complying with the regulations with no regard to the education of the students. Revamping the recourse that parents have is the only way that we will see true compliance. Parent s need to be a meaningful part of the process.

  8. california mom says:

    Many students with SLD (specific learning disabilities) can achieve at a level equal to their neurotypical peers if given appropriate instruction and supports. Our experience is that many special education teachers assume that a child with SLD will lag behind naturally, and there is no urgency to solve problems to allow a child to achieve at grade level. What bothers me is that there is no urgency to do things differently, and many teachers employed by the school district lag behind teachers who leave for private practice in training and natural curiosity about new thinking on improving outcomes. My child learned the most from teachers who left the school district because they realized that to stay was to become a gatekeeper rather than a teacher. Special education departments need to upgrade the training of their staffs and put a premium on outcomes. This proposed change comes too late for many students, including my child.

  9. Brenda Devine says:

    I have an 18 y.o. daughter with intellectual disability. I am also a soon to be Occupational Therapy graduate. Every year I have to independently and strongly advocate for my daughter during her annual IEP meeting for educational goals. I am disappointed that the general approach is to focus more heavily on independent living skills. While this is important as well, particularly for those retained beyond the senior year of high school, I hate that many times educators are unmotivated or not equipped (with personal care aids or accommodating academic resources) to continue academic achievements. The general attitude is that they have “plateaued” and that they are unlikely to make continued progress. This is NOT always the case and it is a disservice and discrimination bias for those that may still make academic gains with more skilled intervention. This in turn, facilitates support of independent and productive futures for those individuals. I will always advocate for full, accommodating inclusive education and participation for ALL people with disabilities.

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