Results Driven Accountability Effort

Thank you for your interest in the Office of Special Education Program’s (OSEP’s) Results Driven Accountability (RDA).  Please go to our RDA Website for further information on this initiative.

We invite you to help us re-conceptualize our accountability system.  Over the next several months we will use this blog to solicit input from the field regarding key questions as we move forward in developing a new framework for our accountability system.  Each question will be posted for a two-week period during which time you will have the opportunity to provide your ideas.  At the conclusion of a two-week period, previous questions and comments will be visible, but no further comments will be accepted for that question. OSEP plans to post new questions every two weeks so that stakeholders can comment on various aspects of this effort to move to a Results-Driven Accountability system.

Comments are invited in response to the following question:

Question 1:

We are interested in knowing what results you believe to be most important.  How would you know if a local early intervention services program or a school was successful in educating children with disabilities?


  1. All students should be assumed competent. All people need to communicate. Schools have a difficult time assuming competence when the student is non-verbal. Yet schools only spend a small part of their day teaching non-verbal students language. Many receive speech but it isn’t in the context of learning language. Without students learning language it is very difficult to know what else they have learned. Monitoring paperwork will never help people assume these students as competent. Without that assumption students are not exposed to the education all other students receive.

  2. I would know if a school was successful in educating students with disabilities if they used current, empirically supported evaluations and interventions. As the mother of a child with autism and as a clinical psychologist, I have educated myself on the current literature in the field and will be working with my son’s school to see that they are aware of this research (e.g., Lynn Kern Koegel’s Pivotal Response Treatment for autism). Standard scores should be used to track progress, rather than raw scores, to account for change over time.

  3. In talking to one of my colleagues about “moving away from compliance to results,” she offered this analogy. When we are driving to reach a destination, we stop at the stop lights. We don’t just stop and look to see if a car is coming and proceed or look to see if there is a police officer in sight then go through the light, we follow the law and stop at the light until it turns green so that we can proceed to our destination safely and within the law. Going further, she said, we don’t look to compliance when families are comfortable that our children are making progress in their educational program. But we need to be able to look at compliance with the law, when we don’t see the progress that we expect, and the services and supports aren’t there. When we arrive safely, without getting a ticket, we don’t even remember all the places that we had to stop for a traffic light or slow down. We are just pleased that we reached our destination. Compliance happens when you are focused on doing the right thing for individual children and showing how you got it done. When we are not, it’s a paperwork burden.

    • One gets what one focuses upon. So when the focus is paperwork & that is what is being checked then the focus will continue to be on paperwork. Over all the years of special education no one has had the focus on results. That is the reason special education hasn’t been successful.

  4. I agree — growth curve analysis — we should be measuring children against themselves, not gainst a larger group, with or without a disability.

  5. Early Intervention programs for infants and toddlers who are deaf or hard of hearing, including those with additional disabilities, must require that the service providers for these children have professional preparation and credential authorization specific to the needs of these little ones. “Generic” early intervention is not approporiate for these infants and toddlers.

    Language assessment tools must be sensitive enough to detect the specific language acquisition difficulties deaf and hard of hearing infants often face.

    • I would add the need for specialized personnel also for infants and toddlers who are blind/visually impaired or deafblind. Research supports the need for providers who understand how best to assess the functional capabilities of these children’s sensory abilities so that the learning environment can be customized for optimal movement, learning, and early literacy support. Personnel trained in visual impairment (TVIs or teachers certified in the area of visual impairment) or personnel credentialed in vision and hearing loss are essential members of the team.

  6. Good morning,

    Are comments for Question #1 now closed? Do you know when the comments will be summarized and available for viewing? Thanks.

  7. The answer is simple. Stop making one size fits all plans. Hold people accountable instead of making excuses, don’t just monitor once in a while, monitor and take action. Stop letting the budget drive IEP’s and IFSP’s. You cannot give an idea of progress for everyone because it is an INDIVIDUALIZED PLAN, not an individualized DISABILITY plan. Make a change with Nadia’s Law, for more accountability in IDEA.

  8. The National Down Syndrome Society believes that the goal for ALL students, including those with intellectual disabilities, is to be prepared for independent living, integrated paid employment and/ or postsecondary education. The following knowledge and skills are important for attaining that goal and can be taught in general education classrooms:
    • Academic skills and knowledge (especially literacy) to support life-long learning
    • Communication competence -with access to Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)- including sign language, when needed
    • Social skills that are practiced in settings with typical peers
    • Independent work behavior
    • Knowledge of how to access supports
    • Collaboration skills
    • Competence with computers and other technology
    • Problem solving
    • Self-advocacy
    If the following components are in place, it is likely that a local early intervention services program or school would be providing students with disabilities with the knowledge and skills listed above. The first five components apply from early childhood throughout the school years.
    • Inclusive education,
    • Appropriate use of accommodations,
    • Use of Universal Design for Learning, for access to grade level content
    • A focus on self-advocacy and technology skills
    • A process for ensuring communication competence (including sign language, augmentative and assistive communication when needed), and
    • While students are in high school or other transition setting:
    o Opportunities for integrated paid employment
    o Opportunities for dual enrollment in postsecondary education.

    • Ricki’s comments from NDSS are spot on. Any new system must look at practices and processes, and the extent to which they are equitably implemented, that are proven to improve outcomes and results for individuals with diverse needs and abilities. This new system must educate empower families and communities as the voices for accountability in a system that prepares their children to be contributing members in their communities and the global village – THE results.

  9. The results that I would like to see in students with disabilities is, an initiative to teach the students about their disabilities and see them become advocates for themselves and learn about becoming self-determined individuals. We need to measure their academic growth and achievement, self-determination efforts and their initiative and their growth. To close the gaps that the students currently have we need to start measuring their growth when the teacher gets them or the school and measure the growth that they are achieving against the different attempts to increase their scores. It takes time to get to know the students and their strengths and weaknesses. These students typically show low or slow growth and have a pattern of inconstant scores. But measuring initiative attempts, academic growth, and self-determination seems to be a fair way to measure their growth. These measurements seem to go hand in hand for student success and meet research requirement from creating various special education law and transition activities.

  10. First, I want to explain my background so you understand my perspective. I entered the education field as a Special Educator in 1994. Since that time, I have returned to school and received a Master of Education (M. Ed.) plus 36 more hours toward certification as an Educational Diagnostician. I remained in the classroom for 10 years before entering into the diagnostic end of Special Education. Further, I have a grandson who has been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome.

    Since I am still in education, I believe that my thoughts are relevant to this discussion. Your question asks how I would know if a school is performing adequately for special needs students. The current system uses one measure to determine an outcome, and many people believe that it is the end-all be-all of education. And there lies the crux of the problem. One measure does not a proficient student make! (By the way, I can look on any state education website and look at scores and outcomes but it is really not relevant.)

    When No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was adopted as the education policy of the land, our kids were to have benefited from the accountability measures it touted. Unfortunately, NCLB has done more to hurt my kids than help them. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in assessment and accountability; however, the assessment I believe in occurs in the classroom as part of good teaching. Instead, I watch our kids tested and tested over and over throughout the year in order to determine how well they will perform on the state measure of proficiency. They are tested so much that they hate school. And anyone who says that the test is not that important has not been in a school in years. Trust me, it is all about the test and scores and where your campus ranks. I have teachers who fight to get our kids out of their room because they do not want their scores to be low. The test has truly made good teachers bad in some respects.

    Do I have recommendations? You bet I do. First, take out the alternate measure of NCLB. Get rid of it and state all kids will take the same test. Allow accommodations and supports and have three levels of proficiency on that one test–Basic Skills, Below Basic Skills, and Above Basic Skills (or some such way of showing where a child is performing within the general education curriculum.) At present, the alternate assessment is hurting our kids and allowing the lower expectation cycle to continue. Obviously, those children with severe cognitive disabilities will not be able to take this test even with supports; so, the policy needs to be specific on the criteria of how and who takes this alternate measure (the 3% is abused and overused—trust me!) Severe cognitive disabilities should be the only criteria for the alternate test. I have often argued that in the real world, there are no modifications (sorry you get a modified pay check because you do modified work.) While there are accommodations (reading the driver’s test to you), the less is more of special education is hurting our children. So you track outcomes after graduation, so what? Again, every measure of this policy is abused and the outcomes erroneous.

    Next, make the test date mandatory for within the first (yes first) three weeks of school for K-8. No retakes, no using it for promotion, no more test all year long to see how well you will do on the test. Make it an actual academic readiness measure. Get the stupid test out the way so teachers can teach and maybe kids will start to love school again. In High School use end-of-course tests as the final exam and count it as part of the grade. Have policy on retentions. Maybe all retentions should occur before 3rd grade. I have qualms about retentions as it is and all studies show it hurts more than helps.

    Stop allowing policy to be written by office personnel who have never been in the classroom; and if they have been it was too long ago to matter, trust me when I say it has changed. Stop comparing apples to oranges. My low SES kids are not the same as the kid from the high SES family and at present all policy is written with the high SES in mind.

    You may wonder about how I feel about a special education for my grandson. I refuse to let him in the services—instead he will receive 504 accommodations. Trust me when I say, there are those who judge by the label and not by what the child can really do.

  11. I generally think that test driven results are hard to use as a valid indicator unless you have tests that are individualized to the specific learning needs of that particular student given how he/she learns and what his/her deficits.

    One of the ways to measure success in educating children with disabilities is looking at whether a district has made a concerted effort in educating children with special needs alongside their typically developing peers in an inclusion setting. As research has shown that most children with disabilities, even those that are considered the most severely impaired, tend to have the greatest success in learning academics in the gen ed setting especially at the primary school level. Obviously, there are times when the public school setting can’t service a particular child and an NPS ends up being the more appropriate environment for educating that child. Excluding those cases, it seems that there are many variables that come into play including having gen ed teachers that are well equipped and trained to provide differentiated instruction, instructional aides that can assist those students that require adaptions/modification to the gen ed classroom material and viewing a special ed teacher as a co-teacher who complements the gen ed teacher in the classroom. School districts need to be in compliance with the LRE and not use special ed as a placement to an SDC simply b/c it’s easier and less expensive to “warehouse” children with special needs. To me, one of the key indicators of success is the number of lawsuits or parent complaints for districts that are out of compliance with the law. Additionally, having the parents provide direct feedback on how their district is doing and how teachers/administrators are fulfilling the mandates of the law would force greater accountability by both teachers/aides/administrators.

  12. I agreed with Em. “Unless it hits the school in the pocketbook, they won’t do the right thing. There is no incentive to follow the law right now. There should be a cash penalty (not a “less funding”, an actual cash money penalty the district pays to the state dept of ed or the state PTI) for each instance of not following the law (state and federal).”

    Our current Early Intervention system is weak at best. Part of early intervention shoudl be teaching parents about the special education process so they can be stronger advocates for their kids. I had no idea when my son was receiving early intervention services for speech that his program could have included my input and perhaps been more individualized.

    Now in primary elementary grades, I am much more knowledge and support many families along the way. I continue to find districts that are not doing what is right by kids. Perhaps if they were to pay penalties, they would abide by the rules that have been on the books since 1974 with IDEA. When schools fail to stretch kids to their highest potential the burden on society becomes reprehensible. We need to stress the individual part of an IEP in elementary years and then build the strongest transition plan possible the day the kids enters secondary education.

  13. Here is the main problem. The system is broken beyond repair. For example say if your car is broke down (the transmission) but you have to go to work, can’t be late. Are you going to get in your broke down car thinking that it’s still going to start and get you to work? That is an illusion. This is what’s going on now, an illusion. Stop adding more programs or putting more implements, it costing money yet still little progress is made either because not knowing what is available or who qualifies. I have a very hard time with college but a lot of staff at my college see that I’m trying and willing to stick with it so they go the extra mile with me, however it is not required for them to do so but they do. Without the extra help i would quit too.

  14. As im reading the comments i smiled cause parents are standing up and folks are speaking out. Im disabled and in college but i really struggle and for the past 4 months i have seen alot of disabled peers but by the end of summer break you can count on your hand how many of us are left, the rest quit. I was prepared what to expect for college however others were not. It seems to me that the nation cares more about school bully now, didn’t even notice that shcoolbullying was always around only just speical needs kids was pick on, now it crisis. Where is the money going to these schools for speical education? How come no one is overseeing the money, thousands of dollars (sometimes millions), the government wants to oversee everything else! The system is far to broken, you can’t fix it. We need to start over..Don’t label me if you won’t help me, this is the problem im having with the college…Believe it or not right now im doing my project on Speical education, yet im failing the course.. I keep pushing cause im proud of myself, sometimes i don’t understand things and have a hard time spelling but i fitting in, trying to be normal…Many years ago I knew a girl who was mental challenged, wheel chair bound, she couldn’t talk or see. She went to a school that work on her speech and therpy. One that day i went to go see her, talk to her mom. Not long police was called, this girl had broken glass in her mouth. Her lunchbox was checked, me and mom were getting pieces of glass out of her puree food. The school never got into touble, like nothing even happened. YOU KNOW WE HAVE A VOICE SO WHO IS LISTENING?

  15. The early intervention programs need to stop being sepparate . My son became more disabled after his early intervention program. The only peer models he had were kids with high medical needs. He spent 4 years after preschool in a isolated room with two disabled kids , one cried all day because she was in real pain and the other child constantly had infections in his treac and will never be more than one mentally. My son was put in a area and forced to trace his name for years. He was never even shown the ABC’s at school they said he had to sort shapes first . Everyone needs to have the right to listen. My son spent 6-8th grade with non verbal peers again and regressed again. The typical peers get music PE counseling , band dance etc without a resolution meeting. Why do parent have to fight for every right they should have? I went through 7 days of due process this year while the director of special services sat there with his three beautiful secretarys and laughed at me fighting for the right for my son to have access to print. The IDEA 300.324 uses the word CONSIDER the director just kept saying we have to consider these things. Even the 500$ AT evaluation they paid for they CONSIDERED the experts opinion and did not do anything.,

  16. The results I believe to be most important are, appropriate behaviors or actions regarding a specific task (basically, performance). If you have to write a paper, did you do what was supposed to be done? If you had an interaction with another individual, did you act appropriately? I would know if a “local early intervention services program or a school was successful in educating children with disabilities” if the criteria or requirements were met considering the task at hand. This can be measured the same way children without disabilities are measured. Set up specific measurable goals and create a program to accomplish the tasks that the individual needs to focus on.

  17. First, I would like to say thank you for recognizing that the current systems are not working in terms of recognizing better results overall for persons living with disabilities.
    As a parent of four children, three of whom are special needs and on IEPs I am discouraged by our state’s (MI) methods of funding programs rather than funding a students individual needs. When you fund programs it is often impossible to meet the needs of individual students as many leaders involved don’t even allow discussion “outside of the box.” And since everything is truly tied to funding I do not believe much will change until the source of funding is set up differently. As I read over the paperwork for example that talks about who should be eligible for subsidy payments here in MI I can say I know many who truly do not qualify but receive exactly the same amount as two of my children do every month. I do not think accountability can be in the form of paperwork that is filled out. People then worry about what to write down, lie, or get trained in or told what not to write and that becomes the topic of conversation instead of educating the students. Another component that I find interesting is it seems many schools prefer parents to be ignorant or to have a hands off approach with their special needs children but to be involved directly with the education of their regular education siblings. When direct, ongoing and accurate communication is discouraged or avoided there is not going to be an accountability system that will work. The more interaction there is in the LRE the better. Other students will sometimes speak up for the student with special needs given the opportunity to share the classroom from day one. Finally, I would just like to say whatever is determined to be a better way of doing things please be sure there is room for individualization; better yet individualization should be one of the most important pieces. Families play a huge role in outcomes of individuals so professionals should treat families with respect and honor them with communications that are helpful in terms of helping them meet an individuals needs. Family members can sometimes help professionals too and this needs to be recognized and VALUED.

  18. In order to benefit from early intervention, my son (HFA) would have to have been identified early. He (and I) were tacitly or openly criticized throughout grades 1 through 6 for his work avoidance, aggressive outbursts, etc. He was already on meds for ADHD. Not ONE school employee suggested that he might benefit from accommodations for this, much less evaluate for possible other issues causing the behaviors. I had never even heard of 504 accommodations until one of the psych’s I consulted mentioned it in grade 6. This is a travesty, and a gifted, potentially very useful member of society may never live independently – not just because of lack of services, but because of the damaging things he’s heard from the professionals who were supposed to be nurturing him.

  19. Stop trying to make a one size fits all determination with regard to individuals with individual disabilities. MY HFA son is educationally brilliant, but expectations for his future are dim, because his anxiety is so bad he cannot leave the house or speak. My Daughter who has a brain injury, seizures and LD’s is more likely to be a successful adult than he is because she can function in society. The ability to obtain a high school diploma is critical to the future of children with challenges. However current NY state learning standards are written in ways that many challenged children cannot meet. My son is a selective mute from anxiety, and has communication problems from HFA, but the NY ELA standards require that “Students will read, write, listen, and speak for ….” The pressure from the school to speak and express opinions on emotional content, and or what people feel are part of the reason he left school. He has autism he cannot tell you what he feels or why but he was required to assess the feelings and opinions of other people. I was told that if he wanted a regular diploma he had to meet the standards case closed. My daughter had a TBI she can do math but has reading comprehension issues, she can do grade level math but due to her reading issues cannot do grade level word problems, this means she cannot meet the standards for math. If you want a better educational outcome for children with challenges, create standards that are inclusive and allow alternative methods of assessment to demonstrate mastery. Schools and teachers teach to the standards, standards requirements that are inherently exclusive to a segement of students and make it impossible to guage the success of any intervention program if the assessement tool is graduation rates, because money rests on those rates, not what the students actually learned.

    • Here, here! As a parent of a non-verbal son with Autism, I must applaud Mary for her comments. They are spot on. It is amazing to me how our experience is EXACTLY Mary’s in NY …. all the way down here in South Carolina.

  20. The comments posted are all excellent. As the parent of child on the autism spectrum , who wanted her diploma at the end of her senior year because she felt no benefit or desire to stay in the public school system, my thoughts are quite simple.
    First, all students should be greeted each day, in each class, by each adult, by name and told the teacher is happy they are in class. All students should be taught to respect one another. This creates a safe and welcoming learning environment. It is obvious when this environment exists because the student wants to go to school, and their own behaviors are good, as well as their desire to learn.
    Environment is critical.

    • Gosh, we shouldn’t even have to say this. It should be ASSUMEd that all children will be greeted with a smile, and a”glad to see you” every day.

  21. The current complaint system DOES NOT WORK. Districts can do whatever they want, *if* a complaint is found in the parent’s findings, the kid usually gets nothing but the district gets some PD.

    Unless it hits the school in the pocketbook, they won’t do the right thing. There is no incentive to follow the law right now. There should be a cash penalty (not a “less funding”, an actual cash money penalty the district pays to the state dept of ed or the state PTI) for each instance of not following the law (state and federal).

    The complaint system leans so heavily in the district’s favor, that needs to change. In my state, the complaint is investigated by the defendant (the school) who sends on their investigation of themselves to the state to rubberstamp. In what other legal process does the defendant do the investigation and the complainant have no input at all?

    Please please please explain to me how the feds can say “you have rights” when the only way to protect those rights is with a lawyer that most families cannot afford. Please tell me how a one-income family will afford $30,000 lawyer fees to go to due process. Help me with that math! And how does that work for an low or no income family when there is just one parent who has to stay home to tend to medical needs of the child? Tell me please where to find he tree that grows money for due process hearings. Right now, if you’re not rich, you don’t have rights/ procedural safeguards.

    Each state should have 3rd party lawyers that parents can use for due process that are paid for by the state.

    If the parents want mediation, the district should be forced to genuinely participate.

  22. A school is succesful when:
    1. The parent and student knows all of the services available to them upon graduation
    2. The student can self identify their disability/strengths and weaknesses, accomodations and assistnace they would need at school or on the job
    3. The student and parents know their rights
    4. When the school has incorporated person centered planning for the student
    5. When the school has taught interdependent skills (how to ask for help and where to find it)
    6. When the state actually teaches teachers how to do a successful transition plan and not teach them how to fill out paperwork so they don’t get into trouble
    7. When schools fully include students with disablities and abide to the philosophy of inclusion. (not just be sticking a student in the back of the classroom and call it inclusion)

    • I agree & would add that the most important responsibility of ANY school for ANY student is to insure that the student is prepared to the maxium extent possible to greet the life they will meet upon leaving that system…It may be for college, or a job or to attend a technical school or to travel to another country but there are things that a child can ONLY learn in school and this is ESPECIALLY important for a child who is not in a full inclusion, high functioning if they AREN’T HFA…The greatest disappointment for my now ADULT daughter (who walked to receive her Certificate of Completion in 2010)..was that there was not enough emphasis based on her ability, or the lack their of to function from a technical perspective…She lost critical speech therapy/communication training once she advanced to the higher grades and left the school WITHOUT the ABILITY to communicate the simplest things to the world at large…No Aug.Com device and no way to get one unless we paid out of pocket…no training for the simplest task of how to find a bathroom in a department store and NOTHING to transition TO at the end of her tenure as a student but her room and a television…which is where she currently spends 98% of her time…Disability is as much about preparing the student to fit into the worked as it is about preparing the world to accept the child it is a GREAT balance and requires collaboration, cooperation and partnership among MANY agencies…

  23. Thank you for your efforts to move from a compliance focus to an outcomes-driven focus. I, like everyone, want to follow the letter of the law. However, with the ever-changing compliance expectations in my state it feels like we can never get ahead of the ball. I’ll appreciate getting to spend more time talking with my teachers about curriculum and instruction rather than what to fill out in a form to be compliant! Having said that… here are some things I value in terms of outcomes.
    1) LRE
    2) Closing the gap on standardized measures. Measuring just proficiency doesn’t necessarily tell me if I’m getting a student closer to the final goal. If my teachers are looking regularly to make sure their instruction is working to close the gap, I’m very pleased.
    3) Graduation
    4) Post-graduation outcomes. Specifically, I’d like to know the gap between general education and special education students in my district.
    5) Suspension rates – again, a gap btwn IEP vs. no IEP.

  24. In a “one size fits all” attempt to restructure the system, we often forget that there are various levels within the developmental disabilities spectrum. In working with severe/profoundly delayed students, we are often burdened with trying to correlate functional goals with “academic” core curriculum, some of which are meaningless to these students. There must be a differentiated evaluation system in place for ALL levels of disabilities. Family involvement is essential, and the inclusion of parents in the accountability process is necessary if all students are to be successful after graduation. The coordination of school and home (community) goals must be evaluated, if students are to be successful in the “real world” in which they are expected to function.

    • I am concerned by the comment in this post about teachers being “burdened” with correlating functional skills with academics for severe/profoundly disabled students. Studies by Dr. Jaqueline Kearns ( from the National Alternate Assessment Center provide evidence that more than 70% of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities demonstrate academic ability. Of the 30% who do not have symbolic language a majority of them have not been provided with the augmentative and assistive communication (AAC) systems they require, so they can’t communicate what they know and can do. She has a very compelling video of a student who seems not to be aware of academics at all, but a short time after being provided with ACC it is clear he would have been capable of grade level academics had he been given AAC and good academic instruction. Dr. Kearns studies demonstrate that it is dangerous to make blanket statements and assumptions about the academic competence of students with severe disabilities, especially since it is only recently that they have received any academic instruction. Educators must always presume competence.

  25. I believe that OSEP should monitor for these two results: (a) the amount of time that students with disabilities spend meaningfully engaged in learning the general education curriculum in the general education classroom alongside peers who do not have disabilities and (b) students’ access to and use of augmentative communication if they do not currently communicate in ways that are commensurate with same-age non-disabled peers.

  26. For each child, an early intervention program is successful if the child enters preschool with the parents/guardians and the receiving school knowing how to support the child so they can be a full participant.

    School success is achieved if the student transitions into the community with prospects for school or work, with the ability to care for him or herself, and knowing how to self-advocate.

  27. will there be some kind of a summary of all comments and suggestions? someone at osep needs to make a concise list of the comments categorized by topic. When will state leaders have opportunity to discuss and and debate face to face with osep leadership all the issues raised. Developing a new accountability system takes much more planning and effort than just letting folks blog about it. when will actual work sessions be scheduled to start developiing a new model, timelines to pilot, etc.? Who will be on the work committees to draft this new system? I would like to see the whole plan for this scope of work. Is there a plan and a timeline? where is that?

  28. As concern for measurement of accountability grows and becomes more centralized, emphasis on the real basis of early education can dwindle: the one-to-one relationship with a teacher who cares. Ultimately what matters is being guided and inspired by another person, not the curriculum content. Each child is so different that it is impossible to start with concepts like abstracted skill acquisition and expect a good result. One of the ways I measure success in a classroom is asking the question: are the children happy and resilient at the end of the day, or irritated, bored, or at the end of their rope? You can tell from their mood whether the activity of the day was meeting their needs. For young children, working on meaningful mental and physical challenges will result in this observable mood. If the classroom is transparent and families have the ability to watch and come in and out of the classroom, and have some choice to place their child with the teacher who is appropriate for that child (a variety of personality types is essential!) then the whole question of accountability is carried out on the local sphere of people who know each other. If there is an attempt to find some kind of national formula for this, it will fail.

    • Herehere, Ian.
      Also, the whole idea of “developing an accountability system” frightens me. Aren’t we already supposed to be accountable for fulfilling the requirements of our job descriptions? How much time and money are going to be spent on this initiative–which I am obligated to be grateful for since I’ve just spent 20 years watching many professionals in a number of systems not be accountable, and it is shrugged off as “just the way it is”–when just showing up and conducting ourselves with integrity will naturally prompt us to accountability.

  29. Are the students’ strengths tapped for differentiated learning strategies along with identification of needs? A good proximal measure of success would be academic engaged time. How much time are students actively engaged in learning whether they are in general or special education settings.

    Does the system provide knowledgeable family to family support? Families are often overwhelmed with information and often it is hard to sort through conflicting information to make decisions about where to invest time and resources – they need access to a professional family member who is been there and knows the system as well as evidence based practices.

    How are supportive services provided? If there is a priority on LRE, then wherever possible related services should support classroom performance by assuring that the classroom staff is able to facilitate strategies throughout the school day. That does not mean that there will not be a need for pull out interventions but these should have articulated targets and expectations that are either met or a lack of progress should require reconsideration of whether the time/intervention is justified or whether the more restrictive intervention needs to be discontinued.

    Is there a process in place for early intervention and support for students and teachers in general education? Thinking about the 3 tier model, there needs to be a system wide buy in for all disciplines at all three tiers. For example, there should be a routine for teachers to contact occupational therapy to provide whole classroom strategies as well as individual suggestions for students who are not served in special education. This requires recognition of these activities as part of workloads and an efficient system that allows for a timely response.

  30. As a mother of a severely autistic, 6 year old son, I can tell you what has and has not been successful when it comes to my child, “Eric”. First of all, here is background: When I believed there was a delay: 15 months; pediatrician agreed there was a developmental delay: 21 months; began early intervention home therapy (speech, educational, and occupational therapies one hour of each once a week): 26 months; diagnosed with severe autism: 29 months; began attending a public school autism support classroom: 36 months; started a private school autism support classroom (The Vista School, Hershey PA): 53 months. The results I believe are most important to my family: 1. Academic and life skills that transfer from the classroom to the home and community are vital. Programs/schools that provide home support have been the most successful with my family. It is much easier to watch someone do activities (practicing skills) with Eric than to just read it in an IEP or a note home from the teacher. Each week, The Vista School sends a therapist to my home to give me the latest information about my child’s progress and to show me how to practice specific skills with him. 2. Honest and frequent communication between home and school is extremely important . I’m not wanting candy-coated news from school. I know what it is like to raise a special needs child, and I know better than to believe everything is always great. I want help meet Eric’s needs. I can’t do this if communication isn’t open and frequent. I value the daily, open communication I have with my son’s teacher. 3. I know my son’s school is successful because Eric flaps his arms and makes joyful sounds when we drive to his school. He is eager to interact with his educational team and has formed meaningful bonds. Life is more than what my child can and can’t do. Life is about connections. Is Eric learning how to care about himself and others? YES! I want my child to not only be successful with life and academic skills, but with social skills as well. Building social skills with a special needs population must first begin with the staff. You must have a dynamic group of educators who know how to work as a team to build meaningful connections with their students. My son loves The Vista School. In conclusion, I am pleased with Eric’s progress. He used to not even look at me when I came home from work. Now, he makes eye contact, smiles, and even waves to acknowledge people coming and going. He is learning how to interact with his 3 siblings and play with toys. Eric has learned how to swim at school, and this could be life-saving. He is learning how to communicate with picture cards (PECS). Overall, Eric is doing more smiling and much less screaming. The skills that Eric has gained has given my family peace about the present and hope for the future.

  31. Try “conceptualizing” adhering to the letter – and SPIRIT – of the State and Federal laws regarding the education of children with special needs. That’s what you are supposed to be accountable for. Start remembering that the “I” in “IEP” stands for “Individual” and stop expecting children with special needs to deliver the same results at the same pace and in the same ways that their non-special needs classmates do. Their ways and speed of learning may be somewhat different, but “different” doesn’t mean “less.” The word “individual” should also apply to the ways in which their progress is measured; against their own histories, not the other students’ records.

    • Amen!
      IDEA is a good law, but if the schools won’t follow it, it doesn’t matter how good or not good the law is, you might as well not have a law if nobody has to follow it.

  32. Unfortunately in our school district, for a large part, the district is continually out of compliance, and the students are not given the service they need, or even the services that the district agreed to give them. There is no oversight in place to make them comply with agreed upon services. Due Process is expensive for parents, because they have to pay the lawyers prior to the case finally being settled, when the district pays the parents attorneys and get reimbursed. Many times by this point it has been four years later when the child finally gets services, and the district didn’t even get a slap on the wrist. What incentive does the school district have to complete promised services to the students? After four wasted years trying to communicate, mediate, then due process, who knows what accomplishments and headway the special education child could have made if those services were given when they were supposed to be, by the district. I would surmise that the most important result, is a school district who offers AND FOLLOWS THROUGH COMPLETING those services at the earliest possible intervention age, and the improvements, assessment scores, and improved behavior will follow! So what can we do to insure that school districts spend their special ed monies on student services instead of on attorneys fighting the request for student services?

  33. The number one measure for student success should be ability to hold long-term employment as adults. Test scores do NOT predict this… they only measure one moment of memory retention when under stress. The measure of this really does boil down to students participating effectively in a large-group inclusive environment… and the measure should not be what percentage of students are doing so (individualization should not be driven by large group statistics), but how well students move toward individualized goals that focus on getting them moving in that direction…. the goal answers “What is keeping this child from being in the regular classroom?” and the WHOLE SCHOOL should be involved in the progress toward that goal, not just one or two teachers.

    For students with disabilities, it should NOT be the number of IEP students that determines the statistics. It should be the number of children diagnosed with physiological problems, through medical records. There is a fallacy in reporting when SPED statistics are reported, because of the fact that there are PLENTY of students with disabilities, doing JUST FINE, who don’t qualify for special education support and therefore don’t count TOWARD school ratings of success in the area of helping kids with disabilities.

    For year-to-year evaluation of the system for all kids, taking the money OUT of published statewide sit-down tests and putting it into the classroom, reduce class sizes and increase technology access, plus using about a quarter of it back for independent auditors to return return to real student grades that mean something. Teachers/school districts should keep a vertical portfolio for each student, with curriculum and short cycle (e.g. MAPs, DIBELS, Brigance, etc.) scores AND beginning/end of year selected work samples in each content area, and in individualized plan goals for students with disabilities, second language learners, etc. This can be a part of the cume files, which then get faxed school-to-school when families move.

    Auditors can, just like for the IRS, do a random sampling in which portfolios and short cycle scores are compared to teacher reports, district decisions on retention/advancement, and IEP development for students with disabilities.

    Questionable portfolios that show low growth compared to tested student potential (e.g. the IQ and other measures of potential for special education students, or for gifted for that matter) then might have the auditors first interview parents to determine level of parent satisfaction with district supports and their child’s growth, before a final determination that a school needs training supports, program adjustment, staffing changes, or a more thorough all-school audit.

    The system needs a total overhaul… a system that is inclusive, diverse, and focuses on instructional methodology in the direction of practicality and the children’s needs toward employable skills rather than profiteering by test/textbook publishers!

    • I agree totatlly with your very first sentence. There are many youth, such as youth on the autism spectrum, who can successfully accomplish academic goals and can be fully included. However, once out in the real world they cannot hold a job.

  34. For students with mild-moderate and some severe learning disabilities – common core has been accepted nationally. Assessments are coming (PARCC, Smarter Balanced). I want to see these tests embraced and that students with LDs are meeting proficiency on them. And parents must be privy to progress monitoring data in meetings that correlates to them and shows likelihood that they will meet these standards.

  35. Among the many measurements for success in preparing students with disabilities to transition from school to a life of independence and self-sufficiency might be the existence of disability specific mentoring programs; career exploration programs; active VR engagement in the IEP process; internship opportunities with employers reaching out to our population; courses on living independently with a disability; courses on rights and responsibilities under ADA; work trial or assessment programs; participation in school-transition fairs for students with disabilities (Jr/Sr); guest speakers who themselves are disabled talking about life-after-school and careers (not just jobs); etc. We recognize that the k-12 system can do only so much (reading, math, writing…traditional education), though for students with disabilities to gain a head start in their lives, a strong emphasis on what it will take to survive in the world of work is imperative to their success. The early this emphasis can start, the better. Bridging the K-12 system to the community based support system, and from there to the recruitment or employment entry system, and from there to career advancement strategies, is very important. A measurement of success to me is when a student with a disability exits the K-12 system and does not fall through the cracks into system reliance. Society cannot afford to continue the traditional route of “students-will-learn-to-survive-in-the-world-like-anyone-else” and expect that students with disabilities will have the same opportunities as the non-disabled. Let there be a measurement that a student went to work or entered into a career path…as opposed to ended up on SSA on became a responsibility or burden for tax-payers.

  36. Recreational therapy is an under-utilized service in the public school systems for children with disabilities. Recreational therapists are nationally certified and/or licensed health professionals. Recreational therapists not only work on functional skill development, but also have a strong focus on healthy leisure lifestyles (e.g., leisure time physical activity), psychosocial adjustment, social skills training, and community transitions/integration – all of which are high needs in the disability population.

  37. I question OSEP’s sudden interest in “accountability” for students with disabilities …

    What OSEP seems unable to grasp is that if school districts were compliant with Federal and State law, if school districts did what they were supposed to be doing — they’d start to see “results”, kids would start to LEARN. What OSEP is really saying is that they are going to give up even trying to oversee that districts comply with I.D.E.A.
    It’s sad and disappointing.

    • I agree. How can OSEP be assured of student improvement without monitoring ed benefit? We don’t do a great job of student improvement with typically developing students. Remember NCLB?

  38. Does the school celebrate disability awareness (via ‘Disability History Week’, recognition of person/event important to people with disabilities)? Such recognition tells school kids that they can ask questions about disability issues. “Awareness”, at the very earliest level, starts with consciousness. When schools focus entirely on academic standards, kids with disabilities become entirely disenfranchised.

    Has the school developed a “Circle of Friends” program? What is being done to ensure that all kids learn about compassion for others?

    If the school has kids who come specifically because the school has a ‘special day class’, how are the families of non-local kids made to feel as welcome as the kids who walk from the local community?

    How have people with disabilities, their history, their concerns … been woven into the fabric of the school’s curriculum? Is there anyone on the school board that is a vocal supporter of people with disabilities?

    Does the school (district? state?) have a “zero tolerance” when it comes to intimidating teachers or service providers re: IEP concerns? What happens to administrators who threaten to “write up” teachers for suggesting a service or a need?

    Does the school district have an EFFECTIVE “workplace bullying” policy? Public schools are already well known for their bullying environments. Less known (yet JUST as critical, if not more so) is their “workplace bullying”.

    I am an individual with a disability and a special educator. I taught within the nonpublic (Lutheran schools) for 21 years as a general educator, so I *know* what a healthy school/work environment should be. I’ve now been in public schools for 19 years. Unless OSEP does a ‘Freeh’ report (the one done on Penn State after the sex abuse allegations) … a report that digs down into public school culture, everything else is window dressing.

  39. “How would you know if a local early intervention services program or a school was successful in educating children with disabilities?”

    They would learn. Their test scores would rise. They would meet their IEP goals, and the goals would not always be the same goals from one year to the next. The IEP goals would be based on core curriculum content standards. If school staff, as Douglas Biklen writes: ” begin by presuming competence.”

  40. First, I applaud your effort to redirect the goal from acceptable compliance to results. I am sure you will be successful, not simply because I trust the minds in charge of the changes, but your approach reflects a positive, confident attitude.
    May I make a suggestion as one disabled due to Spastic Diplegia? My childhood education experiences from Special Education schools through second grade and Public schools thereafter give me, possibly, a perspective—for lack of a better term—“normal” people do not have. It is my opinion not enough emphasis is placed on families of the children. The parents—unfortunately the title too often is singular causing even greater stress on the child—need more education than does the child. I submit there must be a component for parental education/support/involvement or you cannot expect the child to reach their potential. Not many of the children are prodigies with one or two extraordinary talents. Their teacher can be the best and instill all knowledge, but the value the child places on that knowledge will be directly proportional to value placed by the parent.

    • …redirecting the goal from ‘acceptable compliance to results’… Really? Our school district still has a huge problem with compliance and not following through with the services they have agreed to. I guess some districts are better at compliance than others!

  41. Many parents feel condescended to greatly in IEP meetings. The “team” appears to have already made decisions and use the entire “hour” to report their findings and leave very little time for the parent to speak. Services are very scarce and don’t meet my child’s needs in the classroom or at school. Very discouraging.

    • Schools should be accountable for parent training! I feel instead of following the IEP, schools should break down the information in a format that is more understandable for parents. I strongly believe in pre-IEP meetings where the paret meets individual with team meetings so that the IEP process is faster and more effective.

  42. As a provider of early intervention services, the need was apparent: to design and implement plans that would facilitate skill acquisition with the goal of making progress and meeting developmental benchmarks. The NYC schools are in the midst of “Special Education Reforms” that are motivated by budgetary-not educational concerns. The focus has shifted from the child to finance, which is obviously not a sound educational philosophy. The original premise behind “special education” was that it would offer supports for a student who demonstrated the need for not only “more” but “different” ways of teaching and learning. Teaching methodology was diagnostic and prescriptive; person centered planning framed the development of an individual educational plan. Articulation from early intervention services to placement in a community school where supports were transitioned, realigned and the educational plan restructured to balance the changing needs of the student with the challenges of the environment, both in and out of school is the mission we signed on for. The focus was on the child and the family. Now it has shifted to compliance and finance. We changed direction when finance became the driving force and subjugated the educational, social, and emotional needs of the child. it’s past time for us to reassess our priorities and re-evaluate priorities. It’s up to us to look back where we came from and change direction from compliance centerd to person centered education. but first, we all need to agree that the children are worth whatever the cost

  43. Many of our past measures were too vague to adequately measure good outcomes for kids. Graduation rates can hide a lot. We need to measure graduation and drop out, etc., but we also need to measure the actions of the adults in the system and what they did to support learning. We could keep track of the percentage of kids taught by teachers with expertise in the content area (not special education expertise). We need to know over time if we are improving the skills of all of our teachers to teach all of our kids through differentiated presentation, responding, materials, etc. Until that happens we will be removing students with disabilities from core curriculum (and frequently even from the classroom) to be taught by teachers who do not have content or process expertise. We could then compare the actions of of the adults in the system to learning progress (not only achievment) when students are assessed on the same measures as students without disabilties.

  44. I think Indicators 1 and 14 are critical. Graduation certainly enables students to have better opportunities for life after school. Outcomes are significantly impacted by graduation and preparing students for life after school is what our work is all about. I also see the significance of Indicator 13. Even though it is a compliance indicator it has a powerful impact on helping students plan for and be preapred for life after school.

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