ED Releases New Rules For State Special Education Programs


ED’s announcement of changes to its monitoring of state special education programs generated significant coverage today in major national media outlets and in lower-tier outlets focused on individual states. The New York Times (6/25, Rich, Subscription Publication) reports that under the new system in how ED “evaluates how well public schools educate students with disabilities,” over two thirds of US states and territories are out of compliance with IDEA. The Times notes that “nearly three-quarters of states and territories met the standards” under the old system, under which ED “looked at requirements such as whether school districts had filed the appropriate paperwork or met timelines” for special-needs students. Under the new system, ED “will compare the test scores of students with disabilities with those of students not designated as having special needs.” The Times adds that Education Secretary Arne Duncan “said the shift was driven by the fact that far too few students with disabilities were reaching academic proficiency benchmarks,” quoting him saying, “In too many states the outcomes for students with disabilities are simply too low. We can and we must do better.” The Times notes also that NEA President Dennis Van Roekel “said that states needed more financial support from Congress to provide sufficient services to disabled students.”

        The Washington Post (6/25, Layton) reports that ED is “tightening its oversight of the way states educate special-needs students,” noting that Duncan says that under the new, “more stringent criteria,” ED will “consider outcomes: How well special-education students score on standardized tests, the gap in test scores between students with and without disabilities, the high school graduation rate for disabled students and other measures of achievement.” The Post quotes Duncan saying, “Every child, regardless of income, race, background, or disability, can succeed if provided the opportunity to learn. 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.” The Post adds that acting Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services Michael Yudin said that ED “has never withheld federal dollars to educate special-needs students,” but has “told states how to use some of their funds” over “cases of noncompliance.”

        The AP (6/24, Hefling) reports that ED “called the change a ‘major shift’ in the way it assesses special education programs,” noting that ED said that the estimated 6.5 special-needs students in the US “have lower graduation rates overall and don’t do as well on average in reading and math as their peers.” The AP quotes Duncan saying, “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.”

        In its coverage, Bloomberg News (6/25, Lorin) reports that only 15 states are in compliance with the new standards, adding that ED said that “California, Texas and the District of Columbia need intervention to provide adequate services.”

        Other media outlets covering this story include the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (6/25), the Huffington Post (6/25, Resmovits), NPR (6/25, Sanchez) in its “NprEd” blog, the Tennessean (6/25), the Albuquerque (NM) Journal (6/25), Disability Scoop (6/24), and the Wall Street Journal (6/25, Porter, Subscription Publication). A handful of local TV stations, includingWVUE-TV New Orleans (6/24, 10:14 p.m. CDT) and WJHL-TV Tri-Cities (TN-VA) (6/24, 6:22 a.m. EDT), also mention Duncan’s announcement on-air.

        Meanwhile, several medial outlets cover this story at the state level, focusing on whether individual states are in compliance with the new standards. Examples include the Los Angeles Times (6/25, Blume), Southern California Public Radio(6/24), the Wilmington (DE) News Journal (6/25, Albright), an AP (6/25) article out of Delaware, the Baton Rouge (LA) Business Report (6/24), Chalkbeat Colorado (6/24), US News & World Report (6/24), and the Bangor (ME) Daily News (6/24).