Fewer than half of states are meeting their obligations to properly serve students with disabilities, the U.S. Department of Education says.

In an annual review of performance under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, federal officials found that just 21 states deserved the designation of “meets requirements” for the 2017-2018 school year.

The remaining states were classified as “needs assistance.”

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The determination letters issued late last month are based on how well schools addressed the needs of students with disabilities ages 3 to 21.

Under IDEA, states are required to report each year to the Education Department on progress in meeting “measurable and rigorous targets” in their plans to serve students with disabilities. The secretary of education then must issue a determination letter.

For the compliance review, states are evaluated based on several factors including student performance, functional outcomes of students with disabilities and fulfilling IDEA’s procedural requirements.

The ramifications can be significant for states that do not achieve the “meets requirements” designation. Federal special education law requires the Department of Education to step in if a state fails to meet that threshold for two or more years in a row. Enforcement actions can include directing how states use funds, withdrawing funding, requiring a corrective action plan or involving the Education Department’s inspector general or the Department of Justice.

States that were found to meet requirements include Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

The remaining states and Washington, D.C. were given the “needs assistance” designation. No states were given the more dire labels of “needs intervention” or “needs substantial intervention.”

Meanwhile, 27 states and Washington D.C. were found to meet requirements under a separate process evaluating IDEA implementation for students with disabilities up to age 2. All other states were labeled as “needs assistance.”

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