For a 10th consecutive year, Virginia has earned the U.S. Department of Education’s highest rating for improving outcomes for students with disabilities and for compliance with the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, also known as IDEA.
The commonwealth received a “Meets Requirements” designation for 2021 under the federal education department’s Results-Driven Accountability System for special education. The rating is based on student outcomes and compliance data from the 2018-2019 school year — the most recent data available under the federal reporting system — as well as a May 2019 monitoring visit conducted by the federal education department’s Office of Special Education Programs.
Only five states and state-level education systems have earned the Meets Requirements designation for 10 consecutive years.
“The commonwealth’s consistent national leadership reflects the effectiveness of the Virginia Department of Education’s efforts to achieve positive outcomes for students with disabilities and our commitment to accountability and transparency in special education at both the state and local levels,” Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane said. “I would like to extend a special thanks to the parents, students and advocacy groups that have collaborated with VDOE over the last two years as we have worked to address the findings of the 2019 federal monitoring report and the December 2020 Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission study of state special education programs. Working together, we are producing better outcomes and transitions for students with disabilities.”
The annual IDEA report card scores states on the participation and performance of students with disabilities on state and national reading and mathematics tests, and on the improvement of graduation rates for special education students. The report card also includes indicators related to discipline, the identification of minority students for special education services, the evaluation of students for services and the development of individualized education programs, and the resolution of disputes between parents and local school divisions.
In December 2020, Lane announced implementation of a new model for supporting students with disabilities, investigating complaints, and monitoring school divisions for compliance with federal and state special education laws and regulations. The new approach stemmed from internal discussions about improving local program monitoring and recommendations from the OSEP and JLARC reports.
The approach includes more frequent and comprehensive monitoring of local special education programs, a comprehensive verification and review process for a sample of school divisions selected randomly every year, expanded criteria for the investigation of complaints, and a new procedure for confirming implementation of required corrective actions.
“Virginia’s 10th consecutive Meets Requirements rating is an endorsement from our federal partners of the hard work of VDOE and local school divisions to improve outcomes for students with disabilities through innovative programming that meets the needs of students and their families,” Assistant Superintendent for Special Education and Student Services Samantha Hollins said. “Compliance with IDEA is just the starting point. Our goal is to maximize the potential of all students, including students with disabilities.”
IDEA, which was reauthorized by Congress in 2004, requires states and school divisions to ensure that children with disabilities receive educational services that meet their educational needs and prepare them for further education, employment and productive lives. IDEA also requires states to establish targets in their annual state performance plans for achieving the objectives of the law.