Indiana is one of the few states hitting the mark for national special education framework.
The U.S. Department of Education last month announced a shift in the way it oversees the effectiveness of states’ special education programs. The department will now focus less on state compliance factors – such as timelines for evaluations - and more on how well those students are being taught.
The new framework, known as Results-Driven Accountability, will still take compliance indicators into account, but will also include educational outcome measures for students with disabilities, such as their performance in reading and math on state assessments and the achievement gap between such students and their peers.
With those changes in mind, the federal department determined annual state performance under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act. “IDEA” requires the Department to place states in one of four categories: meets requirements, needs assistance, needs intervention or needs substantial intervention.
Based on data collected for the 2012-13 school year, only 15 states fell into the “meets requirements” category, including Indiana. That’s less than half the amount that met the mark last year under the old framework.
More than half of the states were categorized as “needs assistance.”
“In too many states, the outcomes for students with disabilities are simply too low. We can, and we must, do better,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a statement. “It’s not enough for a state to be compliant if students can’t read or do math at the level necessary to graduate from high school, prepared for adult life.”
Nationally, reading and math scores for students with disabilities continue to lag. On last year’s National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as “the nation’s report card,” 45 percent of students with disabilities scored below basic in 4th grade reading, compared to 14 percent of students without disabilities. In Indiana, those rates sat at 35 percent and 6 percent, respectively.
In fact, Indiana outperformed the national rates for special education students in 4th grade reading, as well as 8th grade reading and math.
Graduation rates are a different story. Nationally, only 68 percent of students with disabilities left school with a regular high school diploma in 2011, according to the National Center for Learning Disabilities. Indiana graduated 65 percent of its special education students that year. As of last school year, the state’s rate had increased to 70 percent.
Just over 15 percent of Indiana students can be characterized as special education students.