March 12, 2014
While states are being asked to change how they evaluate their special education programs, the U.S. Department of Education also plans to change the way it interacts with states, Michael Yudin, the acting assistant secretary of the office of special education and rehabilitative services, told state board leaders gathered for a legislative policy forum.
The new "results-driven accountability" framework will require states to make moves that improve educational outcomes for students with disabilities, Yudin told members of the National Association of State Boards of Education held Thursday at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel near Washington, D.C. Board members also planned to visit legislators as part of the conference.
Yudin said the department is also attempting more nimble and responsive to states, offering intensive services in areas that need support, and backing off if a state appears to be making sufficient progress on its own.
"We're directing resources to where they're needed most," Yudin said.
He also mentioned more than once that the majority of students in special education do not have cognitive disabilities that would prevent them from learning, and that special education students do better when given access to the general curriculum.
(About 36 percent of students with disabilities are classified as having "specific learning disabilities," such as dyslexia. The next-largest category, 21 percent, is made up of students with speech and language impairments. The remaining categories and percentages are available on the National Center for Education Statistics website.)
Michelle Fecteau, a state board member from Michigan, pushed back against some of Yudin's assertions. "What most parents want is a spectrum of services," she said. "Not all parents want full inclusion."
Yudin concurred with the need for varied services. "But ultimately, I am asking states to improve outcomes for students with disabilities," he said.