The U.S. Department of Education today announced the award of a $6.5 million grant to Westat Inc., of Rockville, Md., to create a national center aimed at improving the quality of data on educating America's 7 million children and youth with disabilities.
To be known as the National Technical Assistance Center to Improve State Capacity to Accurately Collect and Report IDEA Data, Westat will focus on assisting states to upgrade their ability to report high-quality data they are required to provide under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
"More than ever, we need good data to guide reform," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "Good data promotes transparency and accountability. It shows the public the value that they're getting in their investment in education. It gives teachers information they need to change their practices to improve student achievement. And, data shows us when students are making progress and when they're not."
Among the areas the center will focus technical assistance to states:
Gathering more accurate, reliable data--from all appropriate resources in a state.
Providing training to states to help school and district officials submit better data.
Improving data infrastructure among the states.
Under IDEA, states must annually report to the Education Department a range of data on children and youth with disabilities. Such as: child counts, placements, dispute resolutions and assessment participation.
In addition, IDEA requires states to submit a yearly State Performance Plan and an Annual Performance Report on their progress in meeting 18 rigorous indicators of achievement, such as graduation rates and meeting evaluation timelines.
For infants and toddlers with disabilities, states must provide baseline data, measurable and rigorous targets, and improvement activities for 12 indicators such as ensuring positive outcomes, timely provision of services, and provision of services in natural environments.
With the information, the Education Department is required to make determinations on how well each state is meeting its obligations to serve its children and youth with disabilities. The determinations can include: "Meets the requirements of IDEA;" "Needs assistance;" "Needs intervention;" or "Needs substantial intervention."
The grant to Westat is being made under the Technical Assistance to Improve State Data Capacity program, administered by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs.