Feds to devote new center to discipline and SWDs

Feds to devote new center to discipline and SWDs

(District of Columbia) Cognizant of the lack of support states and local school districts have in confronting behavioral problems among students with disabilities, the U.S. Department of Education is planning to open a new national center devoted to interventions aimed at keeping disruptive students in the classroom.

Funded with an annual appropriation of $2.5 million, the proposed center will focus on educator training on best practices when it comes to handling difficult behavior issues, including cultural and language sensitivity.

Students with disabilities continue to pose a significant challenge to policy-makers despite decades of progress spurred by the adoption of the Individuals with Disability Education Act, originally signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 1990.

The graduation rate for SWD remains far lower than the average for all students – 62 percent vs. almost 82 percent. SWD are also less likely to make their way to college after high school and once in the work force, statistics show they typically earn less than their mainstream counterparts and that, over time, have a higher probability for involvement with the criminal justice system.

There is evidence that at least some of those troubles stem from behavioral issues. Indeed, during the 2011-12 school year SWD were more than twice as likely to receive an out-of-school suspension as their non- disabled peers and more than half – about 58 percent – were subjected to seclusion, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Federal officials estimate that nearly 18 million instructional days are  lost each year for all U.S. public school children due to exclusionary discipline.

The intent of the new advisory center – tentatively known as the National Center for Students with Disabilities Who  Require Intensive Intervention – is to make teachers and school principals more aware of the impact disciplinary actions have on students and to provide more options for dealing with behavioral issues.

“For some students, the typical evidence-based instruction and behavioral supports provided in the classroom are not sufficient to address their educational needs or prepare them for postsecondary opportunities,” department officials said in announcing the proposed center in the Federal Register earlier this month.

“They will need individualized, more intensive intervention composed of practices that are evidence-based,” the department said. “In short, there are students with disabilities who have persistent learning or behavior difficulties and who need intensive intervention to succeed in school and to be prepared for postsecondary opportunities. However, states, districts, and schools need assistance in developing or refining and coordinating their systems of instruction and intervention to address the needs of these students.”

Federal officials noted that states have been recently tasked with developing “Systemic Improvement Plans” in an effort to improve outcomes for SWD. The thinking is that to meet the goals established in the new state plans, local school districts will need greater support.

The department has established a list of goals that the center is expected to pursue, among them:

  • Increased LEA and  educator knowledge and use of intensive intervention in reading, mathematics, and  behavior;
  • Increased LEA and  educator knowledge and use of culturally and linguistically responsive intensive intervention, including intensive intervention for ELs with disabilities;
  • Increased capacity of LEAs and schools to develop or refine and coordinate their system of instruction and intervention to implement intensive intervention in reading, mathematics, and behavior;
  • Increased capacity of state education agencies, LEAs, and  educators to support, implement, and  sustain intensive intervention in reading, mathematics, and  behavior;
  • Increased capacity of SEAs to support the efforts of LEAs to use intensive intervention to achieve the academic and  behavior-related results;
  • Increased knowledge and capacity of SEAs, LEAs, and  educators to use and coordinate existing national, regional, state,  and  local  resources (e.g., parent and family organizations, mental health agencies and organizations, etc.) to better support, implement, and  sustain intensive intervention in reading, mathematics, and behavior;
  • Increased dissemination of lessons learned from implementing intensive intervention to inform state  and  local implementation efforts;  and
  • Increased capacity of institutions of higher education to prepare educators to coordinate instruction and intervention and support, implement, and  sustain intensive intervention in reading, mathematics, and  behavior.