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States Show Improvement In Special Education


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A growing number of states are meeting their responsibilities to provide special education services, federal officials say.

In letters sent to each state this month, the U.S. Department of Education indicated that 38 states met their obligations to serve students with disabilities for the 2011-2012 school year. That’s up from 29 the year prior.

Each year, the Education Department assesses how well states fulfill their plans under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and assigns one of four ratings: “meets requirements,” “needs assistance,” “needs intervention” or “needs substantial intervention.”

States are graded based on a number of factors including whether or not special education evaluations are conducted in a timely manner as well as dropout and graduation rates and performance on assessments.

For the seventh year in a row, the Education Department said that the District of Columbia “needs intervention.”

The remaining states — Colorado, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana and New York — were deemed to need assistance in implementing the IDEA.

If a state fails to meet requirements for two or more consecutive years, federal law requires that the Department of Education take enforcement action which can include requiring a corrective action plan or withholding funds, among other steps.

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Comments (11 Responses)

  1. F. Dang says:

    The Special Education laws started in the mid to late 1970’s. After 40 years our state leaders still can’t get it right. Some people complain that there is too much involvement by the Federal Government in state matters, I wonder why that is. The state leaders are essentially denying the rights of disabled students that is protected under IDEA and 504 laws. Why would the state leaders need assistance in implementing IDEA, aren’t the educated, don’t they have college degrees?
    Parents who have disabled children have to contend with these leaders as they try to prepare their children to become independent adults and active citizens of the United States.

  2. Ellen Chambers says:

    Am I supposed to feel good about this improvement? Well, I don’t. Far from it.

    Listen to what we’re saying, folks! 38 states met their obligations to serve students with disabilities for the 2011-2012 school year. That’s up from 29 the year prior. Really? Ummm, hate to break it to our country, but we have had federal special education regulations in place for 37 years now. And we still can’t get it right. I think it’s outrageous.

    I am in Massachusetts. According to my data (and I’ve only looked back as far as 1991) Massachusetts has failed to meets its obligation to serve its students with disabilities in (wait for it …..) 1991, 1995, 1997,
    2000, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2013.

    This abysmal record, in any other sector of society, would have people up in arms. Instead, we just let it happen and the feds keep handing out money.

    What I want to know (seriously, if anyone cares to weigh in) is WHY aren’t parents in the streets revolting against this injustice?????

    Ellen M. Chambers, MBA
    Disability Advocate

  3. Deborah Blair Porter says:

    Ellen and F. Dang I agree with you 100%! Here in California the 2013 letter from US DOE found that California “meets the requirements of Part B” when only last year California had moved downward from needing assistance to needing intervention. I wonder how California made such amazing improvement (and what “intervention” US DOE gave), particularly when California continues to fail to include students with disabilities in the graduation assessment required for all students under state law (thus violating both IDEA and Section 504), is forcing more and more students into alternate assessments in violation of all federal standards, is up to its ears in litigation by parents fed up with their languishing students and even submitted a request for a waiver under NCLB that was such a poor example of a request that US DOE wouldn’t even post it on its website or post any of the communications regarding it publicly. So much for accountability and transparency. The reality is that US DOE is just as much a part of the problem and considering their recent proposal to purportedly improve the monitoring and enforcement requirements that are part of Section 1416, when it is nothing more than a rehash of what IDEA 2004 already required, it is no wonder they claim so many states “meet requirements”. When the federal and state education agencies engage in the very same low expectations IDEA warns about, you know things are not good.

  4. Tania Whiteleather says:

    For some unexplicable reason, California is NOT on the list of states that needs improvement or is not meeting its obligations under IDEA.

    It is clear that “the feds” are playing the three-monkeys game… “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil,” and ignoring the blatant and obvious problems in California, where the school districts often work hard to avoid IDEA compliance, where students with disabilities continue to lack academic and vocational skills and are routinely denied services to help them gain those skills, and where the statistics continue to establish those facts.

    It appears that the Department of Education doesn’t really want to admit what is going on in California.

  5. Docife says:

    I echo some of the thoughts here. I doubt the studies findings and validity in part due to the fact that California should most definitely be on the needs improvement and intervention list. I agree we are regressing here in CA. We are spinning our wheels in special education. We have new terms, new procedures and yet the purpose of IDEA is far from being met. One huge issue is that districts hire savvy attorneys to frustrate parents and do as little as possible. They follow the letter of the law. This ignores the spirit and principles of IDEA. We have a long way to go.

  6. Ford says:

    Same here in Texas. Some prominent attorney firms specifically teach how to use the law *for* education. The last time I checked, attorneys do not study education in law school. “Liability” steals the show.

  7. Stephanie Nelson says:

    California gets by with the absolute minimal. It is a sad commentary to realize they made the cut. But from everything I read it’s probably sad any of the states make the cut. The attitude I’ve seen the most in CA is you should be thankful for the minimal services your child gets. If you challenge the district they feel free to use bully and scare tactics. Typically the only children who get the actual services every child has a right too are the ones who’s parents fight continuously. Usually having to hire a lawyer and not many have the resources. My experience is the special ed department is there to give the illusion they want to help the kids but parents sadly realize they are there to protect their funds and not get sued. I have seen them treat more than one family with seemingly disregard of what is actually best for the child. They fight parents at every turn on much needed services leaving them frustrated, exhausted and desperate for the services their kids need and deserve.

  8. Carolyn says:

    Yes, Boston Public Schools in Massachusetts is a real HORROR STORY concerning Special Education. I just cannot believe what I deal with on a daily basis trying to assist parents and students with this program.
    I just hope it does not get worse..

  9. Cherry Six says:

    That is a good sign, states improving in providing special education and ancillary services to children and young adults with disabilities. Kinda late, though, isn’t it? Should have happened a long time ago, as the special education laws, beginning with PL 94-142 in 1975. That’s 38 years ago. Seems like some administrators either could give a crap for children with disabilities, or they continue to be ignorant as hell, when it comes to the special education laws.

    The federal Office of Civil Rights handled over 28,000 complaints during the last four years. Wonder if that has anything to do the improvement in how schools are beginning to do what it right. Those over 28,000 civil rights complaints during the last four years, were up a whopping 25% over the four years from 2004 to 2008. Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, and we are improving in 38 states. Where is the rest of the states. Goes to show my estimation of the special education systems within america is not what it should be. Thirty eight years of civil rights violations to children with disabilities, most time with OCR blessings, without providing a FAPE to these same children and young adults, is hard to swallow.

    Two faced SOBs!

  10. Cherry Six says:

    Thirteen states are not in compliance with IDEA regulation. District of Columbia, for the seventh year in a row has not been in compliance.

    “If a state fails to meet requirements for two or more consecutive years, federal law requires that the Department of Education take enforcement action……….”

    My question is, what actions are being caused to occur for these states, that are not in compliance with IDEA?

    IDEA requires an FAPE be provided to all children with disabilities, yet over 6,000 students between the years 2009-12 has been recorded, filing complaints on their behalf by their parents and others. Fifty-five percent of the civil rights complaints during this time period, has been special education related, and the 6000 complaints are for LEAs not providing a free appropriate public education.

    Granted, I am not aware which states these 6000 civil rights complaints filed are, but it would be interesting to learn what states these over 6000 civil rights complaints encompass.

  11. Cheryl says:

    Maybe the $ for the new technical assistance center needs to be spent on the students. Let’s give the parents more of the dollars to use on services that the schools refuse to provide. Is this called a voucher in this case?

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