The compliance model of regulating local special education departments has failed. If compliance to IDEA regulations worked, district by district by district, there would be fewer non-disabled children in U. S. special education programs.

For IDEA renewal, Congress published its report in 2003, promoting a performance-driven rather than compliance-driven model (nespon).

The President’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education (2002) wrote about the “culture of process compliance” to characterize America’s special education departments:

“At all levels, the Commission finds that the emphasis on IDEA paperwork requirements is unnecessarily onerous. The culture of process compliance begins at the top of the IDEA implementation pyramid and has a dramatic effect all the way down through the bureaucracy to the classroom. Teachers spend far more time completing documentation and paperwork than is merited by any educational or civil rights compliance purpose. Educators spend more time on process compliance than on improving educational performance of children with disabilities. The Commission finds that the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), which is a division of OSERS, fosters this emphasis as a result of its state and local monitoring methods. These methods place too much emphasis on compliance for process rather than a more effective and efficient strategy focusing monitoring on compliance for performance and results” (Commission).

State auditors arrive at local school districts (SEA) to go over special education records. It is a nervous time for directors. Too often, the audit is a checklist of proper record-keeping procedures. When the auditor believes the paperwork system shows compliance, the visit is over.

Directors in turn make sure department members are doing paperwork correctly. Here is where compliance flows all the way down to activities, taking time away from professional performance to improve results.

A special education teacher is interviewed with the notion compliance is a part of the job. An occupational therapist who messes up the files is not performing well on the job. He or she may be inspired with efforts to cut down on misplacements but this is a side issue. The average compliant worker is hardly aware of the misidentification problem.

SLPs can think of working toward “compliance” by following IDEA regulations to reduce over-identification.

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