Education Week - September 6, 2017 - 9
Compliance With Spec. Ed. Bias Rule
May Prompt State Spending Shifts
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nated early-intervening services."
That particular policy has been around since 2004,
when the IDEA was reauthorized with overwhelming approval by a Republican-led Congress and signed
into effect by then-President George W. Bush. But only
a tiny percentage of the nation's districts-well under
5 percent-have ever been identified as having bias
that was significant enough to trigger the set-aside.
The Obama administration crafted a rule that makes
it more likely that districts will show bias and thus have
to use IDEA funds on remedies. Before this rule was
in place, states could use their own way of measuring
Ensuring that all states are using the same process
helps to close "opportunity gaps" for minority students,
the U.S. Department of Education said when the new
rule was made final this past December. Educational equity was a major part of My Brother's Keeper, launched
in 2014 to improve educational and career opportunities
for boys and young men of color. Though federal lawmakers used the Congressional Review Act to rescind
other education rules passed late in Obama's presidency,
this one remained.
The Education Department has estimated the cost to
states to implement the special education regulations
over 10 years at between $50 million and $91 million.
Additionally, between $300 million and $553 million in
federal special education funds would be reserved for
remedies. The wide range in the estimates is because
the Education Department is not
sure how many districts will ultimately be affected.
ing districts for significant disproportionality in how
minority students were identified as having disabilities and where they were more likely than peers to
spend time in self-contained classrooms or separate
schools. In 2004, that policy was given more teeth,
through the set-aside requirement.
But a 2013 report from the Government Accountability Office, a government watchdog agency, found
that only a small fraction of districts were actually
flagged for disproportionality problems. Those districts
also were clustered in a handful of states. The GAO
recommended that the Education Department step in
and adopt a standard approach for all states to use.
State Leaders Predict Changes
Within this process are some important areas of leeway
for states. For example, it's left up to states to determine
the threshold at which significant disproportionality exists. They can also make some adjustments to smooth out
wide fluctuations and can use three years worth of data
when making a determination for a district.
States have to report to the Education Department
why their proposed methodologies are "reasonable."
The new rule also encourages states to address underidentification of students for special education,
though it does not provide a framework for how to do
that. Recent studies of national data have found that
among children demonstrating the same educational
needs, white children are more likely than minority
children to be enrolled in special education. Critics of
those finding say the national data
sets do not reflect the practice of
individual districts, and that the
research focuses only on identification, not disparities in placement or
'Better Than Before'
The Obama-era rule also ensures
State special education leaders
that the funds set aside for remedyare predicting that the new rule
ing bias can be used by students curwill have its intended effect: More
rently enrolled in special education.
districts will be identified as having
Under an older interpretation of the
special education law, the 15 percent
Frank Podobnik, the director of
set-aside for coordinated, early-interspecial education in Montana, said
vention services could only be aimed
that a few districts have been idenat students who were not enrolled in
tified in the past but none in respecial education. The thinking was EDWARD FERGUS-ARCIA
cent years. He anticipates that will
that early intervention might divert Temple University
change, but not by a huge amount.
some students from needing special
Yet in a state where more than
education in the first place.
10 percent of districts are one-room
The new rule, however, makes it clear that the money schoolhouses, "it is going to present some challenges,"
can be used both for students in special and in general he said, for example in bolstering teachers' ability to
work with children with widely varying needs.
"What they have is better than before," said Daniel
William J. Hussey, the state director of special eduLosen, the director of the Center for Civil Rights Rem- cation in North Carolina, said that a panel is in the
edies, an initiative at the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto midst of writing new policies to support the federal
Derechos Civiles based at the University of California, rule, but that he also anticipates more districts will
be identified, particularly in the area of suspensions
In particular, Losen said it was "absurd" that the old and expulsions.
interpretation meant that special education students
Disproportionality is an issue "you can't walk away
could not be the direct beneficiaries of early-intervention from," Hussey said. But he also said that "disproportionfunds. So, if a district was cited for suspending a dis- ality exists across school districts and not just in the
proportionate number of black special education stu- realm of special education."
dents, it could not use its early-intervention set-aside to
Edward Fergus-Arcia, an assistant professor of urban
directly address that particular problem.
education at Temple University, has worked with sev"The most important change is that now the kids that eral districts and states on disproportionality issues.
can flag a problem can benefit from the 15 percent of re- He said it's important for districts to understand, before
directed funds," he said. "It's not surprising that a state they embark on this work, just what the underlying iswould be reluctant to identify a lot of districts [under sues may be that cause disproportionate identification,
the old policy] because that money couldn't be used to discipline, or placement in segregated settings. Addresssolve the problem."
ing all those issues takes time, he said.
Lauren Katzman, the executive director of the Urban
But at the same time, districts can often take immediCollaborative, also sees these rules as providing a neces- ate action. Fergus-Arcia offered one example of a district
sary structure for states to build policy around. "They're where individual schools were using different forms, and
one piece of a large puzzle that we need," said Katzman, consequently creating different requirements, for referwhose organization includes more than 100 school dis- ring students for discipline. Standardizing that process
tricts working on improving outcomes for students with gave the district a concrete plan to work on.
disabilities. "I'm not going to say this is a whole thing-
"As we identify these problems, we need to strive to
it is a piece."
do these things at a pace of zero-to-15, not a pace of
Significant disproportionality-and how to tackle it- zero-to-60, without paying attention to all the levers
has been a part of special education policy for decades.
and drivers to get an organization to buy in," FergusIn 1997, Congress required states to start monitor- Arcia said.
We need to strive
to do these things
at a pace of zeroto-15, not a pace
IN SPECIAL EDUCATION
Starting in the 2018-19 school year, states
must use a standardized process, under the
Individuals With Disabilities Education Act,
to determine if their school districts identify,
place in more restrictive settings, or discipline
children from any racial or ethnic group at
markedly higher rates than their peers.
School districts found to have a problem must
use 15 percent of their federal special education
money to remedy what the law calls "significant
* DECEMBER 2016: U.S. Department of Education
releases final rules intended to promote "equity
in IDEA" by targeting disparities in treatment of
minority students with disabilities.
* FEBRUARY-JULY 2017: States review new
regulations, submit questions to Education
Department, inform school districts of the
* APRIL-DECEMBER 2017: States analyze state
data, hold stakeholder meetings, write drafts of
new state policies and procedures.
* JANUARY-MARCH 2018: States conduct public
hearings on proposed changes to policies,
soliciting input from the general public,
including individuals with disabilities and
parents of children with disabilities.
* MARCH-MAY 2019: States make annual
district-level determinations of significant
* JULY 2020: Determinations about students in
special education must include children ages
3-5. (States have the option to include that
population of pupils earlier.)
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education
EDUCATION WEEK | September 6, 2017 | www.edweek.org | 9
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - September 6, 2017
Education Week - September 6, 2017
Teachers Carve Out a Place in the Curriculum For LGBT History
Learning to Teach Via Virtual Reality
Rule Targets District Bias In Spec. Ed.
Hurricane Takes Heavy Toll on Schools
News in Brief
State Educational-Leadership Initiatives In Budget ‘Pickle’
New Tool Alerts Teachers When Students Give Up on Test
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Mobile Devices Put Education In Hands of Syrian Refugees
LGBT Curricula Spreads Slowly
Tweaking School Turnarounds
After Fierce Fight, Illinois Enacts Tax-Credit Scholarship Program
President’s Youngest Son Joins Back-to-School Crowd
Sarah M. Stitzlein: How to Define Public Schooling in the Age of Choice?
Q&A With Jack Schneider: What Makes a School Good? It’s More Than Test Scores
READERS REACT: Have SAT Accommodations Really Gone Too Far?
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Chris Elmendorf & Darien Shanske: We Need Better Education Data
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - Hurricane Takes Heavy Toll on Schools
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - 2
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - 3
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - News in Brief
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - 5
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - State Educational-Leadership Initiatives In Budget ‘Pickle’
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - New Tool Alerts Teachers When Students Give Up on Test
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Mobile Devices Put Education In Hands of Syrian Refugees
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - 9
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - 10
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - 11
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - 12
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - 13
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - LGBT Curricula Spreads Slowly
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - 15
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - After Fierce Fight, Illinois Enacts Tax-Credit Scholarship Program
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - President’s Youngest Son Joins Back-to-School Crowd
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - Sarah M. Stitzlein: How to Define Public Schooling in the Age of Choice?
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - Q&A With Jack Schneider: What Makes a School Good? It’s More Than Test Scores
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - Letters
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - 21
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - 23
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - Chris Elmendorf & Darien Shanske: We Need Better Education Data
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - CW1
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - CW2
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - CW3
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - CW4