This week, the Ohio Department of Education released the 2020-2021 Special Education Profile (“20-21 Profile”). Special education profiles are created annually and provide public school districts with information regarding their performance over time on key indicators for students with disabilities. The indicators in the Special Education Profile are grouped into five essential questions that help guide continuous improvement:
1. Are young children with disabilities entering kindergarten ready to learn?
2. Are children with disabilities achieving at high levels?
3. Are youth with disabilities prepared for life, work, and postsecondary education?
4. Does the school district implement the Individuals with Disabilities Act (“IDEA”) to improve services and results for children with disabilities?
5. Are children receiving equitable services and supports?
While the Special Education Profile is not new to school districts, the 20-21 Profile looks a little different from prior years. To begin, the 20-21 Profile will be the first time school districts will see the data that was supposed to be released in the 2019-2020 Profile. Notably, although the 20-21 Profile addresses data from two school years, required actions from either year are consolidated, such that school districts are only required to submit one Self-Review Summary Report and Improvement Plan if deemed necessary rather than a Self-Review Summary Report and Improvement Plan for each school year.
The 20-21 Profile also includes data regarding disproportionality based on the new regulations under the IDEA. Specifically, the 20-21 Profile includes a new section addressing disproportionality, which focuses on disproportionality in three primary categories: identification, placement, and discipline. While previous profiles included information on disproportionality in these three categories, the 20-21 Profile uses a standard method of analysis to identify disproportionality and expands the categories of analysis based upon the changes in the IDEA regulations. In particular, under the disproportionality category of discipline, the 20-21 Profile reviews the following for students in each specific race and disability category:
1. Out-of-school suspensions and expulsions for more than 10 cumulative days;
2. Out-of-school suspensions and expulsions for 10 or fewer cumulative days;
3. In-school suspensions for more than 10 days;
4. In-school suspensions for 10 or fewer days; and
5. Total disciplinary removals
Previous Special Education Profiles only reviewed the disproportionality of out-of-school suspensions and expulsions for more than 10 days.
Additionally, under the standards in the 20-21 Profile, a school district will be identified as a district with significant disproportionality if it exceeds a risk ratio of 2.50 for three consecutive years, i.e., students of a specific racial category were 2.5 times more likely to be identified for special education, placed in a more restrictive setting, or disciplined than their peers for three consecutive years. The goal is for a school district to have a risk ratio of 1.0, which would indicate that students of one racial category are equally as likely as students of other racial categories to have the same outcome.
Also new in the 20-21 Profile is the reasonable progress provision. Pursuant to this provision, school districts that have a risk ratio above 2.50 for three consecutive years but have reduced their risk ratio by at least 0.25 for two consecutive years will not be flagged for significant disproportionality and thus, will not be subject to any sanctions that accompany an identification of disproportionality.
School districts that are identified as having significant disproportionality must redirect 15 percent of their IDEA Part B funds toward Comprehensive Coordinated Early Intervening Services. These services may include providing professional development to teachers and other school staff or completing educational and behavioral evaluations for students to address the contributing factors of the disproportionality.
Finally, if upon review of the 20-21 Profile a school district determines that it made a reporting error, the district may submit a Data Appeals Form. If the data appeal is approved, the school district must complete a Self-Review Summary Report and Improvement Plan for data reporting and will not be required to redirect 15 percent of its funds to Comprehensive Coordinated Early Intervening Services. The deadline for submitting the Data Appeals Form varies between indicators, with some due as early as January 8, 2021. Accordingly, it is important that school districts promptly review the 20-21 Profile and any accompanying data and contact their legal counsel with any questions.
[i] The 2019-2020 Profile was not released during the 2019-2020 school year due to a delay in release to reflect the changes in the IDEA regulations of disproportionality, and then a postponement due to the COVID-19 pandemic.