Higher Expectations to Better Outcomes for Children with Disabilities

President Obama has said that we are stronger when America fields a full team. Unfortunately, too many of the 6.5 million children and youth with disabilities in this country leave high school without the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in a 21st century, global economy. While the vast majority of students in special education do not have significant cognitive impairments that prohibit them from learning rigorous academic content, fewer than 10 percent of eighth graders with disabilities are proficient in reading and math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Too often, students’ educational opportunities are limited by low expectations. We must do better.

That’s why the Department is changing the way it holds states accountable for the education of students with disabilities. For many years, the Department primarily focused on whether states were meeting the procedural requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Generally, we have seen significant improvement in compliance.

But if kids are leaving high school without the ability to read or do math at a high-school level, compliance is simply not enough. This year, we also focused on improving results when we made determinations as to whether states are effective in meeting the requirements and purposes of IDEA.

With this year’s IDEA determinations, we looked at multiple outcome measures of student performance, including the participation of students with disabilities in state assessments, proficiency gaps in reading and math between students with disabilities and all students, and performance in reading and math on NAEP.

I believe this change in accountability represents a significant and long-overdue raising of the bar for special education. Last year, when we only considered compliance data in making annual determinations, 41 states and territories met requirements.

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This year, however, when we include data on how students are actually performing, only 18 states and territories meet requirements.

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In enacting IDEA, Congress recognized that improving educational results for children with disabilities is an essential element of our national policy of ensuring equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities.  We must do everything we can to support states, school districts, and educators to improve results for students with disabilities. We must have higher expectations for our children, and hold ourselves as a nation accountable for their success.

Michael Yudin is Acting Assistant Secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the U.S. Department of Education.

Can Students Conduct Real-Life Science Experiments?

Today, science education reaches beyond paper and pencil to explore principles in action as never before. Students’ ability to perform investigations, draw valid conclusions, and explain outcomes translates into critical life skills.

Nation's Report Card logoTomorrow, National Center for Educational Statistics Commissioner John Buckley and a panel of experts will discuss the results from a new generation of hands-on and computer tasks administered during the 2009 NAEP Science Assessment, and how those results shed light on student achievement in these areas.

You are invited to join the panel of experts to find out how fourth-, eighth-, and 12th-grade students performed when asked to manipulate multiple variables or engage in strategic decision-making; how often students engage in classroom science experiments and report-writing; and much more.

This event will take place within a unique interactive science exhibit hosted by Living Classrooms at the Foundry Lofts in Washington, D.C. Attend in person or via live webcast to review results, watch video of students conducting experiments from the assessment, and view simulations of interactive computer-based science tasks.

Watch the live release of the results June 19, 2012 at 10:00 a.m. ET.

To view the webcast, click here.

If you are in the Washington D.C. area, you can attend the release event in person at the Science + You Exhibit Space at The Foundry Lofts. Find directions to the event and register to attend in person here.