Every year the U.S. Department of Education evaluates how well each state is meeting its obligations to students with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Now, the agency is seeking feedback as it considers changes to the process.

The Education Department is asking for ideas about how to prioritize equity in its approach to assessing state performance.

Through an annual process, federal officials are tasked with assigning each state one of four labels to describe how well it is satisfying the mandates of IDEA — meets requirements, needs assistance, needs intervention or needs substantial intervention.

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The most recent determination letters, released this summer, found that just 21 states qualified for the “meets requirements” designation for the 2020-2021 school year for students with disabilities ages 3 through 21.

The outcome of the evaluations can be significant. If states fail to satisfy the “meets requirements” level for two or more years, they are subject to Education Department enforcement actions, which can include withholding funding, among other remedies.

When the most recent determinations were released, the agency noted that it “is reviewing and considering whether and how to use existing indicators and/or other available data in making its determinations as part of its continuing effort to prioritize equity and improve results for infants, toddlers and children with disabilities.”

The move comes in response to a 2021 executive order from President Joe Biden asking federal agencies to “assess whether, and to what extent, its programs and policies perpetuate systemic barriers to opportunities and benefits for people of color and other underserved groups.”

Among other things, the Education Department said it is re-evaluating how to “consider and weight data when making determinations in a manner that accurately represents the implementation of IDEA and results for historically marginalized populations.”

Feedback from the public on the issue is being accepted through Sept. 30.

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