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.

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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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