Education – School Safety Commission Holds Listening Session; The Arc’s Director of Fiscal and Family Support Policy Provides Public Comment

On June 6, the Federal Commission on School Safety held its first in a series of public listening sessions. The Commission was created shortly after the shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and is composed of the Attorney General and the Secretaries of Education, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security. Annie Acosta, Director of Fiscal and Family Support Policy at The Arc, provided comments before the commission. She urged the commission to look comprehensively at school safety, recognize the importance of school climate, explore root causes of student behavior, prioritize evidence-based approaches, address the proper role of school resource officers, and maintain the Department of Education and Justice’s joint 2014 Discipline Guidance package. See the archived listening session here.

Education – Senate approves Kenneth Marcus to Head Civil Rights Office

On June 7, the Senate approved Kenneth Marcus to become the head of the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) on a party-line vote of 50-46. Marcus served as the acting head of the OCR from 2003-04 and as the staff director of the bipartisan U.S. Commission on Civil Rights from 2004-08 and is the founder and president of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law. Marcus is expected to have an important role in the Department of Education consideration of repealing or significantly revising the Obama administration’s 2014 Discipline Guidance package.

Education – DeVos Testifies before House Committee

On May 22, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testified for the first time before the House Education and Workforce Committee. The hearing, entitled “Examining the Policies and Priorities of the U.S. Department of Education” covered a range of issues, including for profit colleges, student loan programs, state plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act, apprenticeships, funding for the Office for Civil Rights, school discipline, and the reporting of suspected undocumented students to authorities. View the archived webcast here.

Education – Study Shows Students with Intellectual Disability Have Low Rates of Inclusion

A study soon to be published in the American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities shows that students with intellectual disability are still rarely educated with students without disabilities. The study examined placement trends for students with intellectual disability between ages 6 and 21 between 1976 and 2014. Over this time period, between 55 and 73 percent of students with intellectual disability were in segregated settings for all or most of the day. In 2014, only 17 percent of students with intellectual disability spent 80 percent or more of the school day in the general education classroom. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires students with disabilities be educated alongside students without disabilities to the “maximum extent appropriate.” Placement in a less inclusive setting should occur only when “the nature or severity of the disability of a child is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.”

Education – LCEF to Hold Call on Discipline Guidance

On May 23 at 3:00 p.m. EDT, the Leadership Conference Education Fund (LCEF) will hold a conference call for advocates regarding the proposed rescission of the Education and Justice Departments’ nondiscriminatory school discipline guidance. This guidance outlines the obligation of schools to ensure that students are not disproportionately punished based on race, color, national origin, sex, or disability. Speakers will be Liz King, Director of Education Policy, Leadership Conference Education Fund; Elizabeth Olsson, Senior Policy Associate, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc.; Diane Smith Howard, Senior Staff Attorney, National Disability Rights Network; Adaku Onyeka-Crawford, Senior Counsel, National Women’s Law Center; and Paul-Winston Cange, Field Associate, LCEF. Register here.

Education – House Committee to Hold Hearing on “Examining the Policies and Priorities of the U.S. Department of Education”

On May 22, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce will hold a hearing on “Examining the Policies and Priorities of the U.S. Department of Education”. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will be the only witness. Visit the Committee web site for more information or to access live video on the day of the hearing.

Education – Today is the Deadline for Comments on the Proposed Delay of IDEA Equity Regulations

Last week The Arc submitted comments in opposition to the Department of Education’s proposed two-year delay of regulations to address significant racial and ethnic disproportionality in Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) identification, placement, and discipline. In 2004, the requirement to collect and report data on significant disproportionality, and take certain action if it is found, was added to the IDEA. However, in the years since the law was changed, few states and school districts have reported any such significant disproportionality. This fact was documented in a 2013 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) study showing that most states had set thresholds for identifying disproportionate districts so high that no districts ever exceeded them, and, therefore, none were ever identified or the issues resolved. Following the GAO’s recommendation, the Department of Education issued regulations in 2016 that are set to take effect in July of 2018. These regulations provide a standard methodology for determining significant disproportionality, but permit each state to set its own thresholds so long as they are reasonable. See The Arc’s comments here opposing the delay of the regulations that are set to take effect in July. Disability advocates are encouraged to submit their own comments. See shorter sample comments here which can be submitted by clicking here. Comments are due by midnight tonight.

Education – The Arc Submits Comments on Proposed Delay of IDEA Equity Regulations; Disability Advocates are Encouraged to Submit Their Own Comments

The Arc submitted comments today in opposition to the Department of Education’s proposed two-year delay of regulations to address significant racial and ethnic disproportionality in Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) identification, placement, and discipline. In 2004, the requirement to collect and report data on significant disproportionality, and take certain action if it is found, was added to the IDEA. However, in the 14 years since the law was changed, few states and school districts have reported any such significant disproportionality. This fact was documented in a 2013 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) study showing that most states had set thresholds for identifying disproportionate districts so high that no districts ever exceeded them, and, therefore, none were ever identified or the issues resolved. Following the GAO’s recommendation, the Department of Education issued regulations in 2016 that are set to take effect in July of 2018. These regulations provide a standard methodology for determining significant disproportionality, but permit each state to set its own thresholds so long as they are reasonable. See The Arc’s comments here. Disability advocates are encouraged to submit their own comments. See shorter sample comments here which can be submitted by clicking here. Comments are due by midnight on Monday, May 14.

To help understand what disproportionality is, how it harms students with disabilities who are students of color, and what advocates can do to ensure equity in education for all children, the National Disability Rights Network has made this short video.

Education – New Civil Rights Data Show Continuing Disparities for Students with Disabilities

On April 24, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released data it collected during the 2015-2016 school year. These data were collected from 17,300 public school districts and 96,400 public schools and education programs across the country. The report contains data on school and district characteristics, discipline, criminal offenses, harassment and bullying, restraint and seclusion, single-sex interscholastic athletics, early childhood education, pathways to college and career, school finance, and teachers and other personnel. The data show that there continue to be disparities in discipline for students of color and students with disabilities. Notable findings for students with disabilities in grades K-12 include disproportionate rates of arrest and referral to law enforcement, suspension, and restraint and seclusion. While students with disabilities served by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) are 12% of enrolled students, they are 28% of students arrested or referred to law enforcement, 26% of students receiving out-of-school suspensions, 24% of expelled students, 71% of students restrained, and 66% of students subjected to seclusion. Read OCR’s press release here.

Education – “Nation’s Report Card” Shows Achievement Gap for Students with Disabilities

The latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) shows that students’ overall scores remained relatively unchanged for fourth and eighth grade mathematics and fourth grade reading, while eighth grade reading scores rose slightly from 265 to 276. For students with disabilities, scores stayed relatively the same for fourth grade reading and eighth grade mathematics. Scores for fourth grade mathematics declined from 218 to 214, while scores in eighth grade reading rose slightly from 230 to 232. These results do not include students with the most significant cognitive disabilities (1%) who take an alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards. See the report here.