US Department of Education Issues Guidance on Behavior Supports for Students with Disabilities

By Elizabeth Whitehouse

Today, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) issued guidance in the form of a Dear Colleague Letter emphasizing the requirement that schools provide positive behavioral supports to students with disabilities who need them.  The guidance also clarifies that repeated use of disciplinary actions may suggest that many children with disabilities are not receiving appropriate behavioral interventions and supports.  The Department voiced concern over the possibility of schools failing to consider and provide for needed behavioral supports through an Individualized Education Program (IEP), which could result in a child not receiving the free appropriate public education to which they are entitled under federal law.

Current law allows educators to remove students with disabilities from their classrooms if they violate a code of conduct.  Data indicates students with disabilities are disciplined at far higher rates than their non-disabled peers.  The letter includes two resource documents to assist teachers and school leaders: the Department is providing supports to assist teachers with classroom management strategies and assist schools in implementing school-wide behavioral efforts to create safe and effective environments where all students are given an opportunity to positively engage in their education.  

To better address school discipline and to shine a spotlight on inequities, the Department will update its #Rethink Discipline web page.  The page contains data, graphics, and other information on the prevalence, impact, and legal implications of suspensions and expulsions; resources on effective alternatives; and ways to effectively create positive school climates.  The page also highlights the disproportionate rate at which black students, particularly black males, receive out-of-school suspensions, and data on suspended preschool students, by race and gender.

In February 2016 The Council of State Governments (CSG) convened a National Task Force on Workforce Development for People with Disabilities in partnership with the National Conference of State Legislatures and in collaboration with the US Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy.  On December 8th, 2016 at the CSG National Conference a final report with suggested policy options for state leaders will be released as part of a full day Policy Academy to highlight the issue of Workforce Development for People with Disabilities. This report and the Policy Academy will include a focus on ideas for K-12 education. 

To sign up for the Policy Academy and learn more please visit: CSG National Conference

Top 5 Issues for 2016: Workforce Development

By Elizabeth Whitehouse

CSG Director of Education Policy Elizabeth Whitehouse outlines the top five issues in workforce development policy for 2016, including Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act implementation, employment issues for people with criminal records, engaging people with disabilities in the workforce, veterans’ employment issues, and career pathways for students.

Continue reading “Top 5 Issues for 2016: Workforce Development”

In Wisconsin, new programs aim to help students with disabilities transition out of high school

By Katelyn Tye-Skowronski

A year after they have left high school, 58 percent of Wisconsin students with disabilities report that they have not yet worked, participated in a job-training program or taken a postsecondary course. Rep. Robert Brooks, a first-year legislator in the state Assembly, believes the state and its schools can do better for this population.

His plan, introduced at least initially as a budget resolution, calls for new pay-for- performance incentives for school districts to improve their career- and college-readiness programs for students with disabilities.

Districts would be rewarded with a $1,000 payment for each student with an Individualized Education Plan who graduates and, the following year, is either employed or enrolled in a postsecondary school. (School districts and the state already collect this data.)

Schools would use these payments to expand their programs — for example, providing students with transportation to jobs, paying for specialized staff training, or developing college-prep courses for students with disabilities.

“The initiative was something [disability rights groups] already had on the table,” Brooks says. “I decided to get going on it.”

If the plan isn’t adopted with the budget, Brooks plans to then introduce it as a stand-alone bill in the fall. The Department of Public Instruction estimates the program would need $5.8 million in its initial year.

Brooks says his new approach complements existing state programs, including Gov. Scott Walker’s Better Bottom Line plan, which seeks to improve the job market for people with disabilities. Wisconsin is also home to the Let’s Get to Work initiative, a federally funded project overseen by the state’s Board for People with Developmental Disabilities. The program aims to improve employment outcomes for students with disabilities as they transition out of high school.

Each of the project’s 12 pilot schools has developed and implemented recommendations to improve services and outcomes. One strategy, for example, has been to provide access to courses that relate to the students’ interests and career goals.

In the project’s first year, the number of students with disabilities who had paid jobs tripled. After three years, more than 60 percent of the students from these pilot schools were working.

Stateline Midwest May 2015