Federal education officials are taking new steps to address the academic needs of students with disabilities who have significant behavior challenges.

The U.S. Department of Education says that many kids with behavior or learning issues are intellectually capable, but are underperforming academically simply because they are not being provided appropriate interventions and supports.

Now the agency is looking to do something about it, with plans to fund a new National Center for Students with Disabilities Who Require Intensive Intervention.

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“In short, there are students with disabilities who have persistent learning or behavior difficulties and who need intensive intervention to succeed in school and to be prepared for postsecondary opportunities. However, states, districts and schools need assistance in developing or refining and coordinating their systems of instruction and intervention to address the needs of these students,” the Education Department said in a Federal Register notice this week announcing the funding availability.

Specifically, the federal agency cited persistently low graduation rates for students with disabilities, poor scores on national standardized reading and math tests and higher suspension rates for those with special needs in explaining the need for more concerted attention to the issue.

The new center will not focus on children with the most significant cognitive disabilities, but rather those who are intellectually capable of succeeding, but have experienced barriers to performing well academically.

Up to $2.1 million annually is available for the effort, the notice indicated.