Myrna, Mandlawitz, Esq. LDA, Director of Public Policy
Myrna, Mandlawitz, Esq.
LDA, Director of Public Policy

Are you familiar with the new Results Driven Accountability (RDA) system just released officially by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)?  Whether the answer to that question is “Yes” or “No” it’s time to find out how you can be involved in a key component of this new process. 

What is RDA?

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. In other words, 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 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 SSIP Indicator and How You Can Be Involved

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.

 Get Involved NOW!

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 

Myrna Mandlawitz, M.Ed., J.D., is the Director of Public Policy for LDA of America. A native of Virginia, she has worked for over 20 years as a consultant/lobbyist on special and general education. Ms. Mandlawitz spent fourteen years as a classroom teacher and assisted in the development of Virginia’s program for infants and toddlers with disabilities. She is the immediate past president of the Committee for Education Funding, a coalition of 114 national organizations supporting increased federal investment in education.
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