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Most States Deficient In Special Education


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With new criteria focusing on student outcomes, the U.S. Department of Education said its latest evaluations found most states are falling short in meeting their responsibilities under IDEA. (Shutterstock)

With new criteria focusing on student outcomes, the U.S. Department of Education said its latest evaluations found most states are falling short in meeting their responsibilities under IDEA. (Shutterstock)

Federal education officials are dramatically altering the way they evaluate compliance with special education law and the change means far fewer states are living up to expectations.

For the first time, test scores and other outcome measures for students with disabilities are a central focus in state assessments conducted under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the U.S. Department of Education said Tuesday.

Under the law, the Education Department determines each year how well states provide special education services and assigns one of four labels: “meets requirements,” “needs assistance,” “needs intervention” or “needs substantial intervention.”

Data released last year indicated that 38 states met requirements, but using the new criteria focusing on student performance federal officials said just 15 states achieved the top rating in the latest round of determinations reflecting data from the 2012-2013 school year.

“Every child, regardless of income, race, background or disability can succeed if provided the opportunity to learn,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “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.”

For this year’s IDEA determinations, the Education Department looked at participation by students with disabilities in state assessments, their performance in reading and math on the National Assessment of Education Progress and proficiency gaps between students in special education and others.

In future years, federal officials said they will expand the measures they consider to include graduation rates and possibly other factors.

The move marks a significant shift. Previously, the IDEA evaluations focused on whether or not states met procedural requirements like completing evaluations, due process hearings or transitioning children into preschool services within an appropriate timeframe.

For states, the stakes are high. IDEA requires federal officials to take action if a state is classified as needing assistance for two or more years in a row and federal funding can be withheld if a state routinely underperforms.

To help states boost their performance under the updated accountability framework, the Education Department said it will fund a new $50 million technical assistance center.

U.S. Department of Education Determinations Based on 2012-2013 Data:

• Meets Requirements: Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming

• Needs Assistance: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, West Virginia

• Needs Intervention: California, Delaware, District of Columbia, Texas

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Comments (22 Responses)

  1. Whitney says:

    I would say that most states have high deficits in general education not just the special education.

  2. Kevin Ohlandt says:

    I wish this was more than just about the tests. They need to do more in Child Find and accommodating those identified.

  3. Gayla Ward says:

    I am in a state that “meets requirements” I wish the feds would investigate the cheating that goes on by school staff with sped students taking state assessments/modified state assessments. I have seen first hand evidence of it with my son with autism. We now opt him out of modified state assessments. I am hearing things that make me believe that paras/staff support sped students by prompting them through testing. They are not necessarily doing independent work. I have also heard from a teacher about sped kids getting 100% on tests, getting better scores than gen ed students. You would think that if the appropriate supports and modifications are made for sped students taking state assessments they would score similar percentages to gen ed students not consistently higher.

  4. Sandra McElwee says:

    I wish they used “access to inclusion” as a criteria. They say in quotes that kids do better when accessing the general Ed curriculum” so how do you access it? Be included in it!

  5. Kristen says:

    I agree with Whitney and Kevin’s comments.

  6. M.F.CRACKER says:

    It is beyond frustrating as a parent to see poorly run classrooms, where if the child with the disability doesn’t progress, it’s because their “disabled”, not because the teachers and schools are doing a terrible job in educating them.

  7. Whitney says:

    There is not enough resources such as text books and funding for education. The lack of progress for non-disabled child is poor learning environment and ill prepared teachers. This is exasperated by people with disabled child. Some teachers are good and some are not. The whole point moot if teachers do not have equipment they to teach with. Most teachers now have to buy their own supplies such chalk for the chalkboard. The resources are stretch thin and how is a teacher is going to teach. They cannot teach as good as they can if they had proper resources.

    Most people feel that education is a way to fleece the tax payers.

  8. cr says:

    There is so much that this article does not begin to address. And once again, let’s start attacking the teacher! Let’s look at a few things, shall we? Over the past 10-15 years, the inclusion rate has increased, class sizes have grown, and the term differentiation (while wonderful in theory) just means: let’s fill a class with all levels of need and expect everyone to succeed.
    In addition, while there are many concerned parents who only want the best for their child and go out of their way to advocate, there are just as many who bend over backwards to keep blinders on and not see the disabilities that are preventing their child from being a successful student. These are oftentimes the students who pose the biggest behavior issues in the class and take away from much needed instructional time.
    It is the rare teacher who does not make accommodations for a student when noticing a need and will do what is necessary to promote success. That being said, there is just too much testing overall for any child. Every teacher is well aware of what their students need in order to advance and grow in the classroom and the only thing that all of the tests do is take away from valuable instruction time and cause stress in all age groups. If anything, parents of all students need to advocate for less testing and more valid instruction.

  9. Susanne says:

    Schools make money off special ed kids by getting extra funding, where is the money going then?
    Apparently not to the kids!

  10. Nancy says:

    By all means withhold funding, that’ll help them to perform better. Not. Lack of funding is a huge issue in California. My budget this year was $75. I work with children with severe autism. The district I work for stifles my attempts to provide each of my students with an adult assistant (BII) so that the students can be included in a general education setting. My students require adult assistance if they are to be fully included.Their sensory processing deficits can trigger negative behavior, which requires an adult to help implement a PBS plan. District “specialists” have no clue who my students are and make judgements based on numbers and statistics. Teachers are treated with disrespect and patronized. The liability is great when you are not being provided with the necessary supports required to provided an optimal program. An intervention needs to be conducted, but please bring the teachers/education specialists on board, their input is more valuable than some district bureaucrat who is clueless about the dynamics of a special ed. program. Something needs to be done. And don’t even get me started with extended school year programs. This is indeed a serious issue that needs to be addressed, but please do not withhold funds, that is NOT a solution.

  11. Rebecca says:

    I cannot believe that Arnie Duncan thinks the solution is “high expectations!” The INDIVIDUAL
    Ed Plan says students can be taught in ways they can actually learn – then we push them ALL through
    the same loop in the end. If special Ed kids can do exactly what every other kid can do then we really
    don’t need IEPs… It’s about so much more than higher expectations including using meaningful measures to measure success not just one paper pencil test. It’s such a broken system and it’s no wonder when the people at the top are so clueless…

  12. Nana says:

    Every disability is unique, as is every child. How can any one test show improvement? one child may be really good and smart for that test, while another will always struggle. What they really need to look at is how each child has improved on themselves. They need to make the IEP central to the success of the child’s education. If the parents are caring and realistic then the “Team” will set realistic, attainable goals of success.

  13. TX mom says:

    And I’m sure that $50 million technical assistance center will be a big help–NOT! Here’s a novel idea: how about you take that $50 million and spend it on the KIDS and classroom resources instead of overpaying a bunch of executive think tank bozos who have zero real world experience as the parent to one of these kids?!

    ““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.” Are you KIDDING ME??? Inclusion is not all it’s cracked up to be and if you were even slightly experienced in special needs kids, you would choke when you say that. My cognitively impaired w/ severe ADHD kid needs instruction in a small, quiet setting but our district refuses. Being in a classroom with 25 other 7th grade students is not conducive to learning for her. But the choice now offered by our pathetic school district is mainstream or Lifeskills. Nothing in-between. They have given up on her already. LRE is supposed to be about the child, not about the district’s budget or convenience.

    With education requirements being what they are today, if you ask me the teachers are the ONLY ones who are in it for the kids. Once you make the move to district administration, it’s about money, numbers and nothing else. We have spent tens of thousands of dollars of our own money to help our child be successful in school. They haven’t been able to teach her to read in 7 years. We enrolled her in a private reading program and in less than three months she has progressed three grade levels!

    Finally, Gayla Ward–I’m 100% with you on that. There is absolutely NO WAY that my child passed the TAKS or STAAR tests, but miraculously every year she somehow squeaks by with 1 or 2 points above the passing mark.

  14. Betsy says:

    What angers me the most is, Special Ed. is the first place schools cut funding. That should be illegal. I considerate morally wrong.

  15. George Buzzetti says:

    Amazing California at the bottom of the barrel again. Wizards here right. Now we have LCFF which is a more twisted non accountable plan than the last one. Just like Criminal Justice Realignment, we now have also, Education Realignment. In Criminal Justice Realignment the costs last year went up 25% not down. What do you think will happen with education when now the County Offices of Education are in charge or The Fox is now in charge of the Henhouse. I can prove that they do not do their job. After all look at the latest DOE report on pre-K problems and then the Kamala Harris, California A.G., study on the truancy of elementary students. Wait until you see my documented from the CDE website and district budgets study on this mess. After all if they are not in school, how do they learn and if 20-30% do not come to school everyday in elementary school and 46% of all kicked out of pre-K are African-American and they are 10% of the public at best what does this say. If not at grade level by the third grade what does that mean. Not in school how do you end up at grade level? Impossible. Those in charge of pre-K to 5th grade are the criminals and that is who they really are.

  16. Donald Jones says:

    It is, very obvious, that the data used in determination of your finding, is not actuate.
    This acticle, shows under-reporting of schools and/or city’s needing assistance.

    Furthermore, I view this as more propaganda and hype than proactive planning to improve education within any school system. Whether your severing general education or special needs student’s.

    Reality, dictates this is a case of linking pockets and not a case of producing an end product, which should-be the education of a child/student whom will become a productive citizen within our society thus, proving our society.

    I pray, this actually, makes a difference, but once more, this actively is incorrect an further investigation is needed within our educational system.

    In closing, the writer may have only been given certain facts, which one used to formulate this active with half-truths. Citizens, possibly, could be helped are served better; if one would stand out on the street corners in each state and give the money a-way, instead of giving to those who will line their pockets and never teaching the students.

    Thank you, for allowing a commit.

  17. Noel says:

    TX Mom… What is the name of the reading program you used? Educating my daughter has meant we had to become an educating family. One day at a time, day in and day out, my husband and I have had to learn how to teach. We reach our daughter using any technique she responds to at that moment and we have to change our approach often. We work along side her, modeling or introducing one concept at a time, then we repeat it all again. We do this regardless of what program the school district is complaining about or selling this year.

  18. Dr. Arthera M. Shell says:

    Having read this brief article, which list those states that need assistance or require intervention, the inherent problem in the accountability measures is that there are no substrata accountability teams, which are designated to conduct periodic, annual reviews of LEAs within state special education programs. It is only during the rudimentary, cyclical periods of the federal mandate requirements are implemented, to examine if states are meeting requirements, falls short of gathering valid data. Frankly, the limitations of the current procedures are inadequate when state test scores (i.e., basic, proficient, advance) are contrary to students actual academic tests performance, as measured by formal psycho-educational batteries. I have witnessed this repeated in my work as a lay advocate in the State of Maryland, in a particular county. For a number of years, I have questioned the incongruent data for students identified as intellectually deficient, autistics, and with learning disabilities. Respectively, their scores on the state assessments are significantly higher than their performance on psychometrically valid psychological and academic achievement measures. Such differentiation would contribute to only the face validity of the instrument used for testing and would fail on other more robust validity measures. In short, greater accountability, at the Local School Level or LEA is what I indeed recommended, for no matter what new accountability measure, that are prescribed, fail to include substrata, systematic changes as described, similar outcomes will be realized among states. As research informs, the small effects are most powerful in understanding the effectiveness of intervention.

    Dr. Shell

  19. TX mom says:

    Noel, it’s a program created by Dr. Eldo Bergman at the Texas Reading Institute in Houston. Unfortunately, it’s not a program that is “online” or you can go buy the book. We work with her daily here at home and go into the office once a week. Google Family Literacy Network and Dr. Eldo Bergman.

  20. Jodi says:

    I call BS on Florida. We are military and moved from OH to FL. In OH my son was mainstreamed with an aide and performing at just below grade level. In FL he was placed in a classroom that was over 30 minutes from our zoned school, in a self contained classroom, where the teacher refused to implement protective procedures when he banged his head against a desk 14 times. He eventually developed epilepsy from blunt-force trauma. I filed a state complaint, the school district contacted my husband’s change of command. SO while FL overall may meet standards, I wonder what standards you are referring to.

  21. Jaqui says:

    I am so disappointed in this whole system.

  22. Avery says:

    I just want all you guys to know that as a TEACHER, I do my very best to educate your students. We as teachers are stretched thin with supplies and resources that would better the education for your students. Talk to the local and federal government about fixing this because all in all it, you are ones that can change the policy and make difference in the education system. Teachers are stretched thin by trying to make everyone happy this includes administration, community, government, parents, and the school board. We are scrutinized every which way and can only do so much. So stop blaming the teachers if we do not get good test scores, we get fired no matter if we are good teachers or not bottom line.

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