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Report: Michigan fails to meet all requirements under federal special education law

Jennifer Guerra
Michigan Radio

Michigan is one of 23 states that did not meet all the federal requirements for educating its students with disabilities.

The annual review by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) looks at test scores and compliance data to determine whether states are in line with the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), which guarantees students with disabilities a free and appropriate education. OSEP then issues states one of four determinations:

  1. Meets requirements
  2. Needs Assistance
  3. Needs Intervention
  4. Needs substantial intervention

Michigan was put in the "Needs Assistance" category in large part for how its students with disabilities did on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a national assessment test commonly called the Nation's report card.

You can see how the state scored in every category here.

Teri Chapman, director of special education for the Michigan Department of Education, takes issue with the federal government's use of NAEP scores to issue these annual determinations and believes state assessments would provide a more accurate picture. Nevertheless she acknowledges that the state needs to improve "in a number of things" and she sees this designation as "an opportunity to get some additional resources from the federal government."

Michigan also got low marks for the percentage of students with disabilities who participate in statewide assessments, and the high dropout rate for students with disabilities -- one out of four, according to the most recent data.

Chapman's office will work together with OSEP to "determine the state's improvement process" and identify whatever technical assistance may be needed.

Only 22 states received the "meets requirement" designation, which the website Disability Scoops reports is fewer states than last year.

In addition to Michigan, the 22 other states that "need assistance" are Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington.

Jennifer is a reporter for Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project, which looks at kids from low-income families and what it takes to get them ahead. She previously covered arts and culture for the station, and was one of the lead reporters on the award-winning education series Rebuilding Detroit Schools. Prior to working at Michigan Radio, Jennifer lived in New York where she was a producer at WFUV, an NPR station in the Bronx.
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