LDA Legislative News – July 2014

 

2014-chart-2Get Involved in Your State’s SSIP Development


LDA has been reporting over the last several months on the new Results Driven Accountability (RDA) system, which has not officially been released by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). We are now urging LDA members, as individuals or through your State affiliates, to get involved in the development of a key component of this new special education accountability process.  

RDA is the new process by which OSEP is now monitoring and evaluating States’ implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  Over a number of years, but particularly since the passage of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, concerns have increased about the continued poor results for students with disabilities.  OSEP’s monitoring of IDEA implementation has focused heavily on compliance, such as whether IEPs include the required statements and whether time lines are met, rather than on academic and functional outcomes for children. States have been held more accountable for procedural implementation than for student progress.

For the first time in 2014, OSEP’s determination of States’ implementation of the IDEA included both compliance and results data, with equal weight given to the two.  OSEP acknowledges through this new system that they must balance examination of student results with protection of those students’ and families’ rights under the law.  They also acknowledge that compliance monitoring alone is not adequate to determine if States are appropriately implementing a law which is meant to provide a good education for students with disabilities that will allow them to become independent, successful adults.

The RDA process continues the requirement for States to develop a State Performance Plan (SPP) with specific indicators that must be met.  Indicator 17 is known as the State Systemic Improvement Plan (SSIP), which according to OSEP is “a comprehensive, ambitious, yet achievable multi-year plan for improving results for children with disabilities.”  Parents of students with disabilities, State special education advisory committees, local school districts, and other important stakeholders must be participants in the development of the State’s SSIP.

You’ll find more specifics below on what this plan must contain.  Of utmost importance:  LDA State affiliates should immediately contact their State Directors of Special Education to find out how LDA members can be involved in developing the SSIP.  States must submit Phase 1 of these plans to OSEP by April 1, 2015.  The plan must include information about how stakeholders were involved at every step of its development.

There are three phases in planning for the submission of the SSIP:

  • Phase 1 – Analysis (Due April 1, 2015) – States must provide information that will guide the selection of improvement strategies to increase the State’s capacity as the leader in improving results for children with disabilities. This will include analysis of State data and infrastructure; State-identified measurable results, including selection by the State of a single result or cluster of results; an explanation of how improvement strategies were selected; and, a graphic illustration showing the rationale for how these strategies will increase the State’s capacity to lead change resulting in improved results for children with disabilities.
  • Phase 2 – Plan (February 2016:  Along with any updates on Phase 1, the State must include activities, steps, and resources required to implement the improvement strategies, including research, timelines, and measures to evaluate implementation and impact on the State-identified result.
  • Phase 3 – Implementation and Evaluation (February 2017): States will assess and report on progress in implementing the SSIP, including how far along they are or whether they have met their State-established short and long term objectives for SSIP implementation and progress made toward achieving the State-identified measurable result.  At this phase if the State intends to continue implementation of the SSIP without modifications, it must describe how data support this decision.  If revisions will be made, rationale must be provided for these changes, and the State must indicate how stakeholders were included in the process.

Now is the best window of opportunity to contact your State Director of Special Education to find out how YOU can be involved in this critical process!  LDA members and State affiliates should be a part of the stakeholder teams that develop the SSIP in their States.  This is a great opportunity to shape how special education will be delivered and what specific indicator the State selects.  So take action NOW!

To learn more about State determinations and the whole process, go to http://www2.ed.gov/fund/data/report/idea/sppapr.html.

 

 

teacher prepHigher Education Bill Examines Teacher Prep Programs


Among the laws due for consideration by Congress is the Higher Education Act (HEA), last reauthorized in 2008.  The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee has released a comprehensive draft that addresses all aspects of the current law and is collecting comments from interested organizations over the next month.  The House Education and the Workforce Committee has passed three smaller targeted bills, mostly related to student financial aid.  For LDA, one of the major issues in the HEA reauthorization will involve educator preparation.

The Higher Education Affordability Act, released by the Senate HELP Committee, includes a focus on how to hold teacher preparation programs accountable for the success of their graduates.  Under the proposed “Educator Preparation Program Reform Grants,” States could apply for federal funds for the purpose of rating teacher preparation programs.  Ratings would be based on criteria, such as how program graduates affect their students’ achievement, employer satisfaction with teachers’ performance, and retention in the field for three years.  Programs determined to be low-performing in the first year of the system would be required to develop and implement improvement plans. Programs persisting as low-performing after three consecutive years would no longer be able to provide federal TEACH grants, which aid teacher candidates in high-need areas, including special education.  After four consecutive years of a low-performing designation, the programs would be shuttered.

LDA and other disability-related organizations are somewhat troubled by this approach which, like the current No Child Left Behind accountability provisions, seems to be more punitive than constructive. Further, research is still not clear on the relationship between teacher preparation, teacher evaluation, and student success.  Bills recently introduced by Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and Representative Mike Honda (D-CA), take a more positive approach to teacher preparation, but still with strong accountability for turning out well-trained educators. These bills include a greater emphasis on residency programs that give prospective teachers and administrators more hands-on learning experiences akin to medical internship programs.  At the same time there would be a requirement for public report cards that measure the quality of graduates’ performance coupled with better assessments that determine readiness for teaching.

The House Education and the Workforce Committee has passed three bills which will be followed by others focusing on different aspects of the Higher Education Act.  These bills are based on the following four principles:

  • Empowering students and families to make informed decisions.
  • Simplifying and improving student aid.
  • Promoting innovation, access, and completion.
  • Ensuring strong accountability and a limited federal role.

The first House bill, Simplifying the Application for Student Aid Act [H.R. 4982; sponsors: Reps. Larry Bucshon (R-IN), Mike Kelly (R-PA), John Tierney (D-MA), Tim Bishop (D-NY), Jared Polis (D-CO), and Ed Royce (R-CA)], would reform the federal student aid process to help students make timely financial decisions about their education.  The second, Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act {H.R. 4983; sponsors: Reps. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Luke Messer (R-IN)], focuses on helping students get information to make informed decisions about their education, and the Empowering Students through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act [H.R. 4984; sponsors: Reps. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Richard Hudson (R-NC)] promotes financial literacy through enhanced counseling for all federal financial aid recipients.

Once again, it is important to note the process for moving forward in this reauthorization.  Other bills will be introduced in the House to address additional parts of the HEA.  The Senate draft bill will have to be tweaked, based on public comments, before it is introduced.  And then the long process of more hearings and consideration will ensue.  In other words, this process will not be completed before the end of this calendar year, but this appears to be the next major piece of education legislation in the line-up.  LDA will keep you posted throughout the process.

 

 

budget congressAppropriations Dead in This Congress


Almost monthly we have reported on the progress, or lack thereof, of Congress’s efforts to complete the appropriations process in a timely fashion.  Each year Congress must craft 12 appropriations bills, each of which provides the funding levels for programs in every federal agency.  For the last several years, this process has been delayed.  It now it appears once again, despite the valiant efforts of the chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations Committee, that Congress will leave in August without completing the funding process before the end of the current federal fiscal year.  

The new federal fiscal year (FY 2015; school year 2015-16) will begin on October 1, 2014.  Congress will be in recess the entire month of August until after Labor Day.  They will also have some recess time in September before they adjourn at the end of that month to return home.  Given this is an important election year, there is no chance they will delay adjournment to try to finish these bills.

In order to avoid another government shutdown, Congress must now pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) which allows federal agencies to continue operating until final funding bills are passed. Usually under a CR current fiscal year funding levels are maintained; however, Congress has the prerogative to make cuts if they choose.  It appears Congress shortly will pass a CR funding the government into December.  The election results will dictate what happens after that, especially if the majority party changes in the Senate.  Congress could then do one of three things:  pass another short-term CR; pass a year-long CR and maintain current funding levels; or, pass an omnibus bill that would combine several of the 12 bills.

If a second short-term CR is passed, possibly into February, Congress could consider lowering the overall spending caps, raising the specter of cuts in critical programs.  If Congress opts for a full-year CR, cuts would be inevitable because there are certain increasing fiscal obligations that must be met that would leave less funding for other programs.  The last scenario would the best, as it is less likely funding would be decreased and perhaps even the possibility of increases for programs such as the IDEA.

As always, LDA will keep you informed as congressional actions occur.

 

 

WIOA_thumbnailLDA Applauds Passage of Workforce Investment Bill

 

As reported in the June Legislative News (“Bipartisan Workforce Bill Moving to a Vote”), Congress has produced a bipartisan bill reauthorizing the Workforce Investment Act.  LDA was involved throughout the process to ensure individuals with disabilities continue to receive the best services possible.  The bill, known as the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), was signed into law by the president on July 22.  

This law, which also includes the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and adult education and literacy programs, has been under discussion for more than ten years, with both chambers holding many hearings and introducing a variety of bills.  While the process has taken many years, the recent passage of a final bill is instructive of how the congressional process is meant to work.

The WIOA is an amalgam of bills introduced in the House in February 2013 and the Senate in July 2013.  Each bill had provisions that would enhance and improve the current workforce training system, but neither was completely agreeable to both chambers.  As the legislative process dictates, House and Senate members came together in bipartisan, bicameral negotiating sessions to craft a bill that all parties could accept and that would benefit the intended recipients of the law. 

Advocates in Washington are hoping this bill, one of the few to make its way to a final vote and presidential signature in this Congress, will serve as an incentive to move other legislation in a bipartisan fashion.   Unfortunately, in a year when all seats in the House of Representatives and one-third of Senate seats are up for election, the likelihood of Congress finalizing other bills before this session ends is slim.  Hopefully the success in reauthorizing the Workforce Investment Act will provide a path for more bipartisanship when the new Congress convenes in January 2015. 

 

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Comments

  1. Gaye Moore says:

    I am the parent of a 24-year-old son with multiple disabilities who went through the public school system until he finished at 21. I have worked in the disabilities field myself for fourteen years now. As an educator, I applaud the idea of more accountability for states in showing successful measures and not just compliance. As a parent, however, I would be very leery of my child’s assessment results and folder being examined by even MORE people. I live in Oklahoma and I see according to the IDEA map above that our state needs assistance just with complying with IDEA. Confidence, therefore, is not high as to Oklahoma’s ability to cope with even further measures requiring more than just compliance. And in the meanwhile, children and families that I help serve have needs that are not always being met anyway. I am very thankful that my own child is out of the system now because I feel things are going to get frantic before they get better if this new legislation passes as described.

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