Less than half of states are doing what they should to serve students with disabilities in compliance with federal special education law, the U.S. Department of Education says.

The agency indicated in a report out late last month that just 21 states satisfied the “meets requirements” threshold for the 2018-2019 school year in annual evaluations of their obligations under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act for students ages 3 to 21.

Meanwhile, 27 states and Washington, D.C. were classified as “needs assistance,” many of which have qualified for the designation for two years in a row or more. Two states — New York and Vermont — received the lower designation of “needs intervention.”

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No state was given the most dire label of “needs substantial intervention.”

Under the IDEA, states report annually to the federal government about their progress implementing special education. The secretary of education then must grade each state’s performance in a determination letter using four categories.

States that fail to meet requirements for more than one year are subject to certain enforcement actions from the Education Department which can include designating the state as a high-risk grantee, requiring a corrective action plan or withholding funding, among other steps.

States found to meet requirements in this year’s review include Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

A separate evaluation of state performance of IDEA services for children with disabilities through age 2 found that 25 states and Washington, D.C. met requirements, while two states were labeled “needs intervention” and the remainder were deemed “needs assistance.”

Full determination letters for each state with more details are expected to be released in late July, the Education Department said.

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