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Feds Concerned Over Increased Leeway For IEP Teams


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A new Louisiana law will give IEP teams greater authority over determining graduation requirements. (Thinkstock)

A new Louisiana law will give IEP teams greater authority over determining graduation requirements. (Thinkstock)

A move to give individualized education program teams in one state more latitude over determining graduation requirements for students with disabilities is raising red flags.

Under a law signed by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal late last month, IEP teams in the state will have the authority to exempt students with disabilities from passing standardized tests in order to receive a high school diploma or advance from one grade to the next. In such cases, IEP teams would determine “rigorous educational goals” for students to meet instead.

Supporters say the measure will offer more students in special education the opportunity to earn a high school diploma. Critics, however, including some national disability advocacy organizations, have spoken out against the approach saying it will do nothing more than lower expectations.

Now the law known as HB No. 1015 is drawing concern from the Obama administration. In a letter to Louisiana Superintendent John White, officials at the U.S. Department of Education said the measure may violate federal law and warned that the state could jeopardize its federal education funding if the law is implemented in a manner that’s inconsistent with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and other requirements.

“Giving IEP teams authority to apply different standards for promotion or graduation to students with disabilities will result in those students being taught to different and, potentially lower, standards than students without disabilities, thus depriving them of the same opportunities to learn that are available to their non-disabled peers,” wrote Michael Yudin, acting assistant secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, and Deborah Delisle, assistant secretary for the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education.

“We strongly recommend that (the Louisiana Department of Education) take steps to ensure that HB No. 1015 is implemented in a manner consistent with relevant federal laws,” they wrote.

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Comments (5 Responses)

  1. Jenny says:

    But what happens to the special ed student with intellectual deficits? Just being in a regular ed classroom doesn’t mean you can fully learn what the regular ed kids are learning. That’s why we offer modifications. My daughter is in high school and doing first grade math, the school and her parents have worked hard to get her there. Does that mean she cannot “graduate “?

  2. Juanita says:

    Jenny, the article is referring to the regular track high school graduation diploma. If your daughter has a significant intellectual deficit she is most likely not working towards the standard high school diploma, but will still be able to graduate with a certificate and walk the stage with her peers. You may want to check your daughter’s IEP and look at her graduation option (most likely page 5). As a special education teacher I really appreciate parents who advocate for their children and make sure they are able to graduate with their friends. I really feel that it is important for all children to have access to a quality education, no matter their ability. I wish you and your daughter all the best!

  3. Mr. Man says:

    State of Louisiana, Governor Jindal;
    As a soon to be Spec Ed teacher, I applaud your realistic approach to recognize that the students your recent HB No. 1015 is ACCOMODATING are in deed special, and therefore require specialty based assessments. I am sure other states will soon follow your example. In the recent OSERS mandate requiring a “higher bar set” for students with disabilities, academically, the US Department of Education meant well, but has overlooked the fact that as a Spec Ed teacher we are required to accommodate and modify instruction and content in order for the student to succeed. If this is the case, than why would the State of Louisiana be in jeopardy of violating the Federal law for accommodating and modifying? Accommodations and modifications are the roads most traveled in Spec Ed. I find it hard to believe that the Fed assumes that students with disabilities, especially the intellectually disabled, can be held to the same summative assessments as the students without a disabilities. I know the Fed is only trying to enforce the law, but maybe it’s time to take a step back, and revisit the law? After all, President Obama campaigned on the idea of “change.” Was not one of the original goals of NCLB that every student be reading on grade level by 2014? Time for a change!

  4. Thomas Delia says:

    This should be allowed in all 50 states. Graduation for the special needs population at the high school level should focus on daily living skills, transition skills and work experience. Get the high school student into their community learning job skills, mobility training, job shadows, meal preparation, all the skills required to succeed in order to be a tax payer and not tax collector. Giving a student with second and third grade reading levels more math requirements, more social studies requirements doesn’t help them. Help them acquire skills to get a job.

  5. Johnny R. Fatheree says:

    The new Louisiana law is very ambitious with all the IEP teams, and revised requirements for graduation. However, there is no mention of 504’s or what input the parent will have on the IEP. I lost my special child four years ago, and I know the fight for educational opportunities we were engaged in. Most of the time we sat in on an IEP, it was already pre-determined and full of jargon we did not completely understand. Many times the plan was inappropriate or was the same plan we had the year before with limited modifications. The new law is a great start, but like a lot of other ambitious Louisiana plans, implementation may be quite difficult. All of the plans I have been involved with set long-term goals, but did not set short-term ones. Somehow we try to take shortcuts, and we miss the simple milestones and fundamentals needed to reach the ultimate goal. This is a problem throughout Louisiana Education. Fundamentals must be mastered before progress can be made.

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