Monday, March 5, 2012

US DOE Press Release: Moving from Compliance to Results

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 03:  Charity runner...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
In a press release issued last Friday, the  Secretary of United States Department of Education announced that the focus of the department will shift from a compliance driven approach to a results oriented approach. Secretary Duncan said. ""For too long we've been a compliance-driven bureaucracy when it comes to educating students with disabilities. We have to expect the very best from our students—and tell the truth about student performance—so that we can give all students the supports and services they need. The best way to do that is by focusing on results,"

You can read the entire press release here.

Maybe it is the nature of my work and all that legal training and experience, but I always get nervous when the emphasis on compliance gets reduced.  That scares me.

Does this mean that the Department will be targeting the achievement gap between student with disabilities and their non-disabled peers?  Will the Rowley standard need to be changed?  Am I putting too much meaning into a bureaucratic press release?  I'm not sure, but this may be a very interesting time to be in the special education law business!  Stay tuned.
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  1. I read the press release twice. I thought about it. I reread your blog post, then again reread the press release.

    I am not sure what I think. SpEd is constantly changing. I feel that something needs to be done to help students in SpEd close the gap.

    As a SpEd teacher I want to know how the gap is going to be “closed.” What are the plans for the Government, what will “trickle down” from the U.S. department of ed, to the state departments, to the school districts and finally onto the teachers.

    I have heard “buzz” of the law changing to “looking at the outcomes” or “how far the students came” rather than compliance-driven. SpEd has changed a lot the past five years I have been teaching, however the constant has been the emphasis on compliance.

    I am very interested to see how this all turns out. I will be looking forward to more of your thoughts and updates on the subject. Thank you very much for sharing.

  2. Of course, it's impossible to know what the DOE really has in mind, but we'll have a better idea when we see who are the stakeholders with whom the DOE will "work closely ... to develop and implement a new review system".

    The current system of monitoring IDEA compliance is a boondoggle that devours vast amounts of staff and economic resources creating and monitoring a virtual paper trail of minimal procedural compliance that offers no discernible benefit to children with disabilities. However, it will be no improvement if the DOE plans only to move from that system to a "balanced, results-driven approach" comprising more testing based on general ed standards (think Common Core State Standards).

    I wonder when "closing the gap" superseded identifying and addressing the unique educational needs of children with disabilities as the primary purpose of special education. And what gap do we mean, anyway? Does anybody really believe that a student with significant cognitive disabilities will achieve at the same level as his sibling who is a National Merit Scholarship finalist? Does the DOE hope or expect that it is possible or even desirable to "close the achievement gap" between students with widely diverse abilities and needs?

    The DOE should, of course, monitor states' IDEA performance, including student learning outcomes, but I would like to see a monitoring system that looks under the surface and considers how well states are addressing the individual needs of students with disabilities.

  3. Mary Anne-
    I like what you have to say and you make some very valid points. I am interested to see where this goes.

  4. Mary Anne & Prudy Jo,

    thank you for your insightful comments. Please stay tuned.


  5. Jim,
    Do you have any thoughts on how this is going to impact SpEd? How will it “trickle down” to the schools? I am very interested in seeing how this turns out and how “serious” of a change this will be.

  6. Prudy Jo,

    No I'm not sure what this means exactly just yet.