September 18, 2012 Columns

Outcomes to Drive Special Ed Accountability

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

The federal education office that oversees the education of students with disabilities wants to know your answer to this and other questions as it works to strengthen accountability for students with disabilities.

In March, the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) of the U.S. Department of Education announced new efforts to focus on educational outcomes of student with disabilities—including critical indicators such as increased academic performance and graduation rates—rather than on compliance with the regulatory requirements of the programs that fund special education. The change in focus is designed to help close the achievement gap for students with disabilities.

The effort to develop results-driven accountability is motivated by a variety of factors:

  • The educational outcomes of students with disabilities have not improved as much as expected, despite the efforts of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
  • Children with disabilities are part of, not separate from, the general education population. Special education accountability should strengthen and complement other Department of Education reform initiatives.
  • An emphasis on compliance over results fails to acknowledge states with successful special education programs.
  • State early intervention and early childhood programs need to expand the quality and extent of outcomes data required to improve programs.
  • The IDEA accountability system should measure how well state and local educational agencies are educating children with disabilities.

OSEP is seeking stakeholder input in its accountability system redesign through meetings and conference calls. In August, representatives from the Consortium for Citizen With Disabilities—including ASHA—met with OSEP staff to get more information about how it plans to move to its new accountability system and how the disability community can participate in that process.

OSEP is also soliciting the public's responses to "key questions" on its Results-Driven Accountability website. Each question is posted for two weeks.

OSEP will not conduct on-site monitoring visits scheduled in the 2012–2013 school year as it develops the new accountability system. It will fulfill the statutory requirement to monitor states' performance by reviewing annual performance reports and monitoring compliance with fiscal requirements. Technical assistance will be provided to support states in improving their fiscal and compliance management systems.

For more information, visit the Office of Special Education Program's Results-Driven Accountability homepage.

Catherine D. Clarke, director of education and regulatory advocacy, can be reached at or 800-498-2071, ext. 5611.

cite as: Clarke, C. D. (2012, September 18). Outcomes to Drive Special Ed Accountability. The ASHA Leader.


Advertise With UsAdvertisement