Federal officials say that fewer than half of states are adequately meeting their obligations to serve students with disabilities under special education law.

Just 21 states received the “meets requirements” designation in an annual compliance review conducted by the U.S. Department of Education.

The remaining states were labeled “needs assistance” with the exception of Michigan and Washington, D.C. which were classified in the more dire category of “needs intervention.”

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The results from the review released this month are based on how well states served students with disabilities ages 3 to 21 during the 2016-2017 school year.

The annual assessments are mandated under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. States are evaluated based on a number of factors including student performance, functional outcomes of students with disabilities and fulfilling IDEA’s procedural requirements.

IDEA requires that the Education Department step in if any state fails to receive the “meets requirements” designation two or more years in a row. In such situations, federal officials can choose to withhold funds, develop a corrective action plan or, in extreme circumstances, refer cases to the agency’s inspector general or the Department of Justice.

The number of states found to be meeting their obligations under IDEA is down slightly this year from last when 22 states were placed in the top category.

States considered to meet requirements include Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Virginia, Vermont, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Wyoming.

The Education Department did not assign any state to the lowest designation of “needs substantial intervention.”

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