U.S. Raises Bar for Special Education Standards

The US Department of Education has announced it will begin monitoring the progress and achievements of students with special needs, with aims of boosting their academic success.

The Obama administration expressed on Tuesday that a vast majority of the 6.5 million students with disabilities in the United States are not receiving an adequate education.

States will now be held individually accountable for recording and demonstrating the progress of these students, in what the Education Secretary Arne Duncan describes as “a major shift”.

Currently only 15 states including: Wisconsin, Georgia and Wyoming meet the new requirements, which track academic progress as well as compliance. According to the Department, California, Texas and the District of Columbia do not currently provide adequate services and have been listed as “needing intervention” in order to reach appropriate standards. The issue has been linked to a lack of special education funding in these regions.

Until now, focus on compliance with federal procedures such as timelines for evaluations and the eradication of discrimination were primary concerns of the Department, rather than specific measures of progress.

Disabled students in the United States have been entitled to “free and appropriate” education since 1975; and under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) act of 1990, public schools are specifically required to meet the educational needs of these students.

Duncan said “Compliance with procedural requirements…is important, but it is not enough” - “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”.

Duncan added that he is creating a $50 million technical-assistance center to help states meet standards enforced by the new guidelines.