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Friday, December 19, 2014

A Different Path to a Diploma

Christina Samuels writes at Education Week:
Earlier this year, Louisiana lawmakers overwhelming approved a law that would permit some students with disabilities to opt out of the state's testing regime and instead follow a different path to a diploma.

However, implementing the new policy is turning out to be difficult, according to an article published Thursday in the New Orleans Advocate. The policy allows a student's individualized education program team, which is made up of parents, teachers, and administrators, to develop an alternate pathway to a diploma. But just how the teams are supposed to develop those plans has been a sticking point, the article said.

The U.S. Department of Education has also indicated it will be taking a careful look at how the law, which was signed June 23, is implemented. In July, Michael K. Yudin, the acting assistant secretary of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, and Deborah S. Delisle, the assistant secretary of the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, sent a letter to White that outlined all the ways the policy could run afoul of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (also known as No Child Left Behind Act).

For example, the ESEA requires that all students be given access to challenging academic and achievement standards, and the entity tasked with creating those standards is the state department of education. "To the extent the [new law] permits IEP teams to set different academic standards for some students with disabilities, those actions would violate the ESEA," the letter said. Creating a different, and potentially lower, standard for students in special education may also violate their right to a free, appropriate education under the IDEA.