Isles among top states in special ed services
Hawaii boosts special ed as many states stumble
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Hawaii is one of only nine states that is meeting federal requirements for educating students with disabilities, according to the U.S. Education Department's first national report card on the law.
The state's showing is a significant turnaround for its public schools, which for years were under a federal consent decree to improve services for disabled children.
State-by-state results posted on the Education Department's Web site yesterday show the vast majority of states are not meeting the requirements. Only nine states were found to be fully meeting the requirements of that part of the program. Besides Hawaii, those states are Alaska, Connecticut, Michigan, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and Wyoming.
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WASHINGTON » Four-fifths of the states are falling short of federal requirements for educating students with disabilities, the Education Department says.
States got their first-ever federal report cards this week judging them on how well they are implementing the nation's main special education law. The state-by-state results were posted on the Education Department's Web site yesterday .
The requirements are outlined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, as the law is called. The largest part of the act is a $10.5 billion program providing students aged 3 to 21 with specialized programs to fit their educational needs.
But Hawaii was one of only nine states found to be fully meeting the requirements of that part of the program.
The report reflects a major turnaround for the state's public schools.
For over a decade, ending in 2005, Hawaii's schools were under a federal consent decree to improve services for disabled students. The Felix consent decree resulted from a 1993 lawsuit filed on behalf of special-needs student Jennifer Felix and others, who alleged that the state was in violation of federal law for failing to provide appropriate mental health and education services to children with disabilities.
The other states found to be meeting the requirements of the federal program are Alaska, Connecticut, Michigan, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and Wyoming.
The rest of the states were labeled as "needs assistance" or, worse, "needs intervention." If they don't improve within a few years, they could face sanctions such as the loss of federal aid.
One common trouble spot for states was ensuring that students with disabilities have a smooth transition from the public school setting to college or into the work force. The law says 16-year-old special-ed students are supposed to receive help developing plans for life after public school. Much more thought and work needs to go into those plans, according to the department.
Another weak spot is state oversight regarding how well local school districts' are complying with the special-ed law.
The reviews are based on information the states submitted to the federal government as well as monitoring visits and other publicly available data, according to the Education Department.
The states also were judged on a smaller part of the special-education law that involves services provided to infants and toddlers with disabilities. More states were judged to be meeting the requirements of the law in this category.