Sneak Preview: ED Rule Addresses Student Disproportionality

January 18, 2017 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

xgran_bookshot(The following was excerpted from a recent article in the Federal Grants Management Handbook.) The Department of Education (ED) is amending its regulations under programs governed by Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to require states and local educational agencies (LEAs) to use a standard methodology to determine whether there is a significant disproportionality based on race and ethnicity in statewide schools when identifying children with disabilities. The amended regulations are effective as of Jan. 18.

The ED rule aims to promote equity in the Assistance to States for the Education of Children with Disabilities program and the Preschool Grants for Children with Disabilities program. The regulations for these programs are found in the Code of Federal Regulations at 34 C.F.R. Part 300.

“The final regulations will help to ensure that states meaningfully identify LEAs with significant disproportionality, and that states assist LEAs in ensuring that children with disabilities are properly identified for services, receive necessary services in the least restrictive environment, and are not disproportionately removed from their educational placements by disciplinary removals,” ED explained. The agency noted that certain students had often been “over-identified” for special education services in which they were placed in restrictive environments and not taught to challenging academic standards.

Section 618(d) of IDEA requires states and LEAs to determine annually the existence of and address significant disproportionality in special education and to take remedies where findings of significant disproportionality occur. The law also requires states to collect and examine data to determine whether significant disproportionality based on race or ethnicity is occurring when identifying children as those with disabilities. This data includes the identification of children with particular impairments; the placement of children in particular educational settings; and the incidence, duration and type of disciplinary actions, including suspensions and expulsions.

When a state identifies a LEA with significant disproportionality in one or more of these areas based on collected data, it must provide for the review, and if appropriate, revision of the LEA’s policies, procedures and practices for compliance with IDEA. In addition, it must require the LEA to:

  • reserve the maximum amount (15 percent) of its Part B funds to be used for comprehensive coordinated early intervening services (comprehensive CEIS) to serve children in the LEA, particularly, but not exclusively, children in those groups that were significantly over-identified; and
  • publicly report on the revision of its policies, procedures and practices.

The amended regulations establish a standard methodology that each state must use in its annual determination under IDEA of whether significant disproportionality based on race and ethnicity is occurring.

Further, the final regulations clarify ambiguities in the existing regulations concerning significant disproportionality in the disciplining of children with disabilities. Specifically, these regulations adopt ED’s interpretation that the required remedies in IDEA §618(d)(2) apply when there is significant disproportionality in identification, placement or any type of disciplinary removal from placement. In addition, funds reserved for comprehensive CEIS now must be used to identify and address the factors contributing to significant disproportionality and may be used to serve children from age 3 through grade 12, with and without disabilities.

“While these regulations only establish a system for identifying significant disproportionality based on overrepresentation, the regulations acknowledge that overrepresentation may be caused by under-identification of one or more racial or ethnic groups and the regulations allow funds reserved for comprehensive CEIS to be used to address these issues if they are identified as a factor contributing to the significant disproportionality,” according to ED. “LEAs are legally obligated to identify students with disabilities and provide the resources and supports they need to have equal access to education. Thus we encourage states to ensure that the state’s and LEAs’ child find policies, practices and procedures are working effectively to identify all children with disabilities, regardless of race or ethnicity.”

(The full version of this story has now been made available to all for a limited time on Thompson’s Grants Compliance Expert site.)

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