Q: What is a current school law issue that every school district should have on its radar?
A: Results Driven Accountability (RDA). On June 24, 2014, the U.S. Department of Education announced a major shift in the way it will evaluate the effectiveness of state special education programs. Until then, the focus had been primarily on procedural compliance. Despite the emphasis on procedural compliance, the achievement gap between students with disabilities and students without disabilities continued to increase. Accordingly, the U.S. Department of Education developed a new accountability framework designed to close the achievement gap—RDA.
Each state is developing a State Systematic Improvement Plan which identifies gaps in student performance and proposes a way to address those gaps. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) is focusing on improving literacy for students with disabilities. Beginning this school year, school districts are required to implement RDA and will be evaluated on the results.
Implementing RDA entails more than just becoming familiar with DPI guidance. Although DPI guidance (e.g., the Procedural Compliance Self-Assessment Checklist) is important, it is also crucial that school districts do the following:
- Examine educational programming to maximize student achievement, including the achievement of students with disabilities; and
- Train staff members on the impact RDA will have on “IEP basics.” This includes:
- An analysis of grade level proficiency as an appropriate goal for each student with a disability and how that goal would affect the intensity and selection of services;
- A reassessment of the relationship between the educational environment (LRE) and the effectiveness of educational services so as to achieve grade level proficiency; and
- The criteria used to determine when grade level proficiency is an inappropriate goal for a student with a disability.