In 1975, Congress made it possible for students with severe disabilities to get a “free and appropriate education.” In 1990, that law was expanded by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which required public schools to meet the educational needs of disabled students.
In order to determine whether public schools were adhering to these laws, the U.S. Department of Education was tasked with seeing if schools were meeting “procedural benchmarks” and providing an education to special-needs students in a timely manner. The agency was then supposed to report its findings to the federal government so funding could continue to schools that met these requirements.
Recently though, the Obama Administration changed the criteria public schools must follow. Because every student, even those with disabilities, deserves a proper education, the new criteria will now measure graduation rates of disabled students, how well they perform on standardized tests, and will measure the test score gap between disabled and non-disabled students.
But what might be quite startling to some of our readers is the fact that California does not meet these new requirements. Labeled as “needs intervention,” California will need to reassess its compliance with federal standards or risk losing access to the $11.5 billion in federal funding that is set aside every year for special-needs students.
But as was pointed out by Education Secretary Arne Duncan, “[i]t’s not enough for a state to be compliant if students can’t read or do math at a level sufficient to graduate from high school.” This means that schools here in California will need to make sure that they are not only providing special-needs students with an education but one that will help them excel later in life as well.
Source: The Washington Post, “States’ special education services face tighter oversight by the Obama administration,” Lyndsey Layton, June 24, 2014