To improve the educational outcomes of America's 6.5 million children and youth with disabilities, the U.S. Department of Education today announced a major shift in the way it oversees the effectiveness of states' special education programs.
Until now, the Department's primary focus was to determine whether states were meeting procedural requirements such as timelines for evaluations, due process hearings and transitioning children into preschool services. While these compliance indicators remain important to children and families, under the new framework known as Results-Driven Accountability (RDA), the Department will also include educational results and outcomes for students with disabilities in making each state's annual determination under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
"Every child, regardless of income, race, background, or disability can succeed if provided the opportunity to learn," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. "We know that when students with disabilities are held to high expectations and have access to the general curriculum in the regular classroom, they excel. We must be honest about student performance, so that we can give all students the supports and services they need to succeed."
The Department has worked extensively with states to ensure meaningful access to special education and related services for students with disabilities and has noted significant improvements in compliance over the last several years. However, educational outcomes in reading and math, as well as graduation rates, for students with disabilities continue to lag. With this year's IDEA determinations, the Department used multiple outcome measures that include students with disabilities' participation in state assessments, proficiency gaps between students with disabilities and all students, as well as performance in reading and math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to produce a more comprehensive and thorough picture of the performance of children with disabilities in each state.