ED Releases Final IDEA Rules on Significant Disproportionality: Equity in IDEA

January 9, 2017

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has released final regulations that promote equity in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) by amending the regulations under Part B that govern the Assistance to States for the Education of Children with Disabilities program and the Preschool Grants for Children with Disabilities program. The regulations become effective on January 18, 2017, when they become part of the Code of Federal Regulations. States and local educational agencies (LEAs) are not required to comply with these regulations until July 1, 2018. They are also not required to include children 3–5 years old in the review of significant disproportionality with respect to both (a) the identification of children as children with disabilities and (b) the identification of children as children with a particular impairment, until July 1, 2020.

The regulations, among other things, do all of the following:

  • Establish a standard methodology that states must use to determine whether significant disproportionality on the basis of race and ethnicity is occurring in the state and in its LEAs.
  • Clarify that states must address significant disproportionality in the incidence, duration, and type of disciplinary actions, including suspensions and expulsions, using the same statutory remedies that are required to address significant disproportionality in the identification and placement of children with disabilities.
  • Clarify requirements for the review and revision of policies, practices, and procedures when significant disproportionality is found.
  • Require that LEAs identify and address the factors contributing to significant disproportionality as part of comprehensive coordinated early intervening services (comprehensive CEIS) and allow these services for children from age 3 through grade 12, with and without disabilities.

The latter reflects ED's change in interpretation of the term comprehensive CEIS to an expanded scope for children from age 3 through grade 12, with and without disabilities, with a goal to improve comprehensive CEIS as a remedy for significant disproportionality. This provision does not address voluntary CEIS, implemented under IDEA Section 613(f) [20 U.S.C. 1413(f)]—nor does it address IDEA Part B funds that an LEA voluntarily reserves for CEIS that must be used to serve students in kindergarten through grade 12 who have not been identified as needing special education or related services but who need additional academic and behavioral support to succeed in a general education environment.


IDEA requires states and LEAs to take steps to determine the existence of, and address, significant disproportionality in special education—when districts identify, place in more restrictive settings, or discipline children from any racial or ethnic group at markedly higher rates than their peers. The purpose of these final regulations is to promote equity in IDEA and to address racial and ethnic disparities in special education.


For more information, please see the Federal Register notice [PDF] or contact Catherine D. Clarke, ASHA's director of education and regulatory advocacy, at cclarke@asha.org or by phone at 800-498-2071, ext. 5611.

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