Student performance, not just procedural compliance, is the goal of a revised reporting system proposed by the federal office of special education programs.
The proposed revisions affect both Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which applies to about 6.5 million people ages 3 to 21, as well as Part C of the act, which affects about 454,000 children from birth to age 3.
In both cases, the federal government has suggested removing some reporting requirements and instead asking states to create a State Systemic Improvement Plan, a “comprehensive, ambitious yet achievable plan for improving results for students with disabilities.” States will be asked to use that document to draft a multiyear plan that will improve the performance of students with disabilities on tests, high school graduation rates, and postschool outcomes. (For children covered under Part C, the systemic improvement plan would measure how well early-identification systems are implementing evidence-based practices that improve outcomes for babies and toddlers with disabilities.)
The IDEA requires the federal government to evaluate states on special education performance. A long-running complaint has been that the process of producing annual performance reports and state performance plans is burdensome and has focused too much on procedural compliance and not the most important goal—improved education for students with disabilities. States have been asked to provide information on 20 performance indicators under IDEA Part B, and 14 indicators under Part C. The Part B indicators, for example, include data such as graduation rates, dropout rates, suspensions and expulsions, and disproportionate representation.
The federal government then evaluates each state’s efforts and releases a determination letter noting if they “meet requirements,” “need assistance,” “need intervention,” or “need substantial intervention.”
A version of this article appeared in the May 22, 2013 edition of Education Week as Special Ed. Office Aims to Revise Monitoring Focus