This is the accessible text file for GAO report number GAO-04-879 
entitled 'Special Education: Improved Timeliness and Better Use of 
Enforcement Actions Could Strengthen Education's Monitoring System' 
which was released on October 12, 2004.

This text file was formatted by the U.S. Government Accountability 
Office (GAO) to be accessible to users with visual impairments, as part 
of a longer term project to improve GAO products' accessibility. Every 
attempt has been made to maintain the structural and data integrity of 
the original printed product. Accessibility features, such as text 
descriptions of tables, consecutively numbered footnotes placed at the 
end of the file, and the text of agency comment letters, are provided 
but may not exactly duplicate the presentation or format of the printed 
version. The portable document format (PDF) file is an exact electronic 
replica of the printed version. We welcome your feedback. Please E-mail 
your comments regarding the contents or accessibility features of this 
document to Webmaster@gao.gov.

This is a work of the U.S. government and is not subject to copyright 
protection in the United States. It may be reproduced and distributed 
in its entirety without further permission from GAO. Because this work 
may contain copyrighted images or other material, permission from the 
copyright holder may be necessary if you wish to reproduce this 
material separately.

Report to the Ranking Minority Member, Committee on Health, Education, 
Labor and Pensions, U.S. Senate:

United States Government Accountability Office:

GAO:

September 2004:

Special Education:

Improved Timeliness and Better Use of Enforcement Actions Could 
Strengthen Education's Monitoring System:

GAO-04-879:

GAO Highlights:

Highlights of GAO-04-879, a report to the Ranking Minority Mentor, 
Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, U.S. Senate: 

Why GAO Did This Study:

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) ensures the 
education of the nationís disabled children. As a condition of 
receiving IDEA funds, states must provide educational and related 
services that facilitate learning to students with disabilities based 
on their individual needs. The Department of Education (Education) is 
responsible for ensuring state compliance with the law. In recent 
years, questions have been raised about Educationís oversight of IDEA.

GAO agreed to determine how Education monitors state compliance with 
IDEA for children aged 3-21, the extent and nature of noncompliance 
found, and how Education has ensured that noncompliance is resolved 
once identified. GAO analyzed Education monitoring documents, 
interviewed state and federal officials, and visited 5 state special 
education offices.

What GAO Found:

To monitor compliance with IDEA provisions that affect children aged 3-
21, Education annually reviews special education data submitted by all 
states and uses a risk-based approach to identify those states in need 
of further inspection. This monitoring system relies upon collaboration 
with states, as each state is responsible for assessing and reporting 
its performance on the provision of special education services. 
However, some of the data used by Education, such as information about 
how parents are included in their childrenís education and studentsí 
experiences after they leave school, are weak in that they are not 
uniformly measured or are difficult for states to collect. 

In states Education visited for further inspection from 1997-2002, the 
department identified roughly equal amounts of noncompliance for 
failing to adequately provide services to students as noncompliance for 
not adhering to IDEAís procedural regulations, according to GAO 
analysis. Education found a total of 253 compliance failures in 30 of 
the 31 states visited during this period, with an average of 
approximately 8 across the 30 states. GAO found 52 percent of 
compliance failures to be directly related to providing student 
services, for instance counseling and speech therapy. The remaining 48 
percent involved a failure to meet certain IDEA procedural requirements.

Once deficiencies were identified, Education has sought resolution by 
providing states with technical assistance and requiring them to 
develop corrective action plans that would ensure compliance within 1 
year. However, GAO found that most cases of noncompliance had remained 
open for 2 to 7 years before closure, and some cases still remain open. 
GAOís examination of Education documents showed that a considerable 
amount of time elapsed in each phase of the correction process, 
including Educationís issuance of noncompliance findings and approval 
of correction plans, as shown in the following figure.

Time Taken to Complete Phases of Correction Process: 

[See PDF for image]

[End of figure]

On occasion, Education has also made use of sanctions to address 
longstanding issues with noncompliance, but in these cases, too, 
resolution has been protracted. States expressed concerns about the 
standard 1-year timeframe Education imposes for correction, and 
Education officials acknowledged that it is sometimes not feasible for 
states to remedy noncompliance and demonstrate effectiveness in that 
length of time.

What GAO Recommends:

GAO recommends that the Secretary of Education issue guidance to states 
for collecting data on key outcome measures. GAO also recommends that 
the department improve response times throughout the monitoring process 
and impose realistic timeframes and firm deadlines for remedying 
noncompliance. Education disagreed with one recommendation and was not 
explicit about its intentions for the others.

www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-04-879.

To view the full product, including the scope and methodology, click on 
the link above. For more information, contact Mamie Shaul at (202) 512-
7215 or shaulm@gao.gov.

[End of section]

Contents:

Letter:

Results in Brief:

Background:

To Monitor Compliance with IDEA, Education Uses a Risk-Based System 
That Relies Upon State-Provided Information:

Noncompliance Education Found Was about Equally Split between Failures 
Involving Services to Students and Procedural Deficiencies:

Education Has Sought to Bring States into Compliance by Providing 
Technical Assistance and Requiring Corrective Action Plans, but 
Resolution Has Been Prolonged:

Conclusions:

Recommendations for Executive Action:

Agency Comments and Our Evaluation:

Appendix I: Scope and Methodology:

Site Visits:

Monitoring Report Analysis:

Analysis of Compliance Documentation:

Analysis of Enforcement Documentation:

Appendix II: IDEA-Related Sanctions 1994-2003:

Appendix III: Comments from the Department of Education:

Appendix IV: GAO Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments:

GAO Contacts:

Staff Acknowledgments:

Related GAO Products:

Tables:

Table 1: Most Commonly Cited Noncompliance Findings Related to the 
Provision of Services in Education Monitoring Reports, 1997-2002:

Table 2: Most Common Findings of Procedural Noncompliance in Education 
Monitoring Reports, 1997-2002:

Table 3: Results of Education Monitoring Visits, 1997-2002:

Figures:

Figure 1: States That Received Monitoring Visits, 1997-2002:

Figure 2: Time Taken to Correct Noncompliance through Technical 
Assistance and Corrective Action Plans:

Figure 3: Time Generally Taken for Corrective Process in Closed Cases 
Where Sanctions Were Imposed:

Abbreviations:

CIFMS: Continuous Improvement and Focused Monitoring System: IDEA: 
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: IEP: Individualized 
Education Program: NCLBA: No Child Left Behind Act: 
OSEP: Office of Special Education Programs:

United States Government Accountability Office:

Washington, DC 20548:

September 9, 2004:

The Honorable Edward M. Kennedy: 
Ranking Minority Member: 
Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions: United States 
Senate:

Dear Senator Kennedy:

In the 2003-2004 school year, states received more than $9 billion 
under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) toward 
educating the approximately 6.5 million eligible children aged 3-21 
with disabilities in the United States. IDEA funds are used to provide 
both educational services and related services, such as counseling, 
speech pathology, and occupational therapy, that facilitate learning. 
As a condition of receiving IDEA funding, states agree to comply with 
certain requirements regarding the educational and related services 
provided to disabled children. These requirements include the 
development of an individualized education program (IEP) that outlines 
the specific services to be provided to each student based on 
individual needs. For students over the age of 14, IEPs must include a 
statement of transition services to be provided to students to help 
them obtain the educational and vocational skills needed to improve the 
likelihood of self-sufficiency once they leave school. Similarly, 
infants and toddlers served under the act must have individualized 
family service plans in place that include steps to be taken to support 
the child's transition to preschool or other services.

When IDEA was reauthorized in 1997, Congress placed a new emphasis on 
state and local accountability for complying with IDEA and improving 
educational outcomes, such as graduation and other measures of 
postsecondary success, for disabled students. The reauthorized law made 
each state's annual federal funds conditional on its success in 
providing a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive 
environment. States were also required to establish goals for student 
performance and to provide the Department of Education (Education) with 
progress measures toward accomplishing those goals. With the enactment 
of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA) of 2001, Congress further 
emphasized states' obligations to educate disabled children by 
requiring them to fully include disabled children in statewide 
achievement systems. With few exceptions, disabled students are to be 
assessed against the same state academic standards as nondisabled 
students, their aggregated scores are to be publicly reported, and 
schools are to be held accountable for their performance.

Education has responsibility for oversight of IDEA and for ensuring 
that states are complying with the law. Education both provides states 
with technical assistance in implementing IDEA and monitors their 
compliance with its requirements. However, questions have been raised 
about the effectiveness of Education's oversight. Specifically, 
concerns have been raised that Education has not held states 
accountable for ensuring that students with disabilities receive the 
services to which they are entitled and that Education's efforts to 
remedy noncompliance have been ineffective. In response to these 
concerns, you asked us to examine Education's oversight of IDEA, 
focusing on Part B, which provides services to children age 3-21. Our 
review did not include Part C of IDEA, which provides services to 
infants and toddlers from birth up to age 3. This report presents 
information on (1) how Education monitors state compliance with IDEA, 
(2) the extent and nature of noncompliance in those states Education 
selected for review, and (3) the measures Education has used to remedy 
noncompliance with IDEA and the results of those measures.

To address these study objectives, we analyzed Education monitoring 
reports, documents, and guidance issued to states. We interviewed 
department officials and examined available documentation on 
Education's current monitoring system, instituted in 2003, as well as 
its previous systems. Specifically, we reviewed the monitoring reports 
of the 31 states, territories, and other jurisdictions[Footnote 1] for 
which Education had most recently completed monitoring visits, which 
took place from 1997-2002. We analyzed Education's findings of 
noncompliance in these states and categorized them as service-related, 
if the failure directly affected the provision of an IDEA-required 
educational service, or procedural-related, if the infraction involved 
a more process-oriented failure. In cases where Education found 
noncompliance, we analyzed enforcement documents, such as corrective 
action approval letters, evidence submitted by states demonstrating 
compliance, and correspondence from Education acknowledging when 
noncompliance had been resolved. In cases where noncompliance resulted 
in sanctions, we reviewed departmental enforcement documents, including 
special condition letters and compliance agreements, from 1994-2003. 
This longer period of review enabled us to obtain a more comprehensive 
view of Education's use of sanctions for resolving noncompliance. 
Additionally, we conducted site visits to 5 states-California, Georgia, 
Kansas, New Jersey, and Texas-that were selected to reflect differences 
in such factors as special education population size, previous 
noncompliance issues, date of last monitoring visit, and geographic 
location. In each state we analyzed state monitoring documents and 
interviewed state special education officials and members of the 
special education community, including administrators, parents, and 
advocates, who were involved in the monitoring process. Furthermore, we 
interviewed federal officials regarding the monitoring and enforcement 
process, as well as representatives from the National Council for 
Disability and national education organizations.

We conducted our work between September 2003 and August 2004 in 
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. 
Appendix I explains our methodology in greater detail.

Results in Brief:

Education monitors all states for IDEA compliance through a review of 
state performance reports and uses a risk-based approach to select some 
states for further inspection each year; however, some data used to 
make these selections are weak. Education's monitoring system relies 
upon collaboration with states, as each state is responsible for 
collecting information about its own special education programs in 
particular topic areas, assessing its performance, and reporting its 
findings to the department annually. Using the data states reported, 
Education reviews state performance in those areas it considers most 
closely associated with improving students' educational outcomes, such 
as increased parental involvement and placement in regular educational 
settings, rather than on more process-oriented IDEA requirements. 
According to Education, the department selects a limited number of 
states for on-site inspection based on selected measures, such as 
graduation rates and dropout rates. Because Education relies heavily on 
state-reported data, it has taken steps in recent years to ensure that 
states have adequate systems in place to collect and report special 
education data. Despite these efforts, some of the data elements 
Education uses to make monitoring decisions are weak. For example, 
graduation rates are not uniformly collected or reported. Similarly, 
information about parent involvement and student transitions into 
elementary school and post-secondary programs are difficult to collect 
and are, therefore, reported inconsistently across states. Education 
officials acknowledged that the variability in state reported data has 
limited their ability to make comparisons across states. Officials in 
some states we visited attributed these variations in part to 
inadequate guidance from Education and asked for more guidance on these 
measures. Inconsistent reporting of state data could negatively affect 
Education's ability to focus its monitoring activities on those states 
with the greatest deficiencies.

Cases of noncompliance identified by Education were about equally 
related to state failure in providing disabled students with services 
and failure in meeting IDEA procedural requirements, according to our 
analysis of state monitoring reports issued between 1997 and 2002. 
Education found a total of 253 compliance failures in 30 of the 31 
states that it visited during this period, with an average of 8 across 
the 30 states. Slightly more than half of Education's findings were for 
failure to provide a service or facilitate the provision of a basic 
service to a student with disabilities. Most commonly cited was the 
failure to ensure related services that facilitate learning, such as 
counseling, speech pathology, and assistive technology. The remaining 
noncompliance findings Education identified involved a failure to meet 
certain procedural requirements under IDEA, such as failing to complete 
paperwork or to meet timeliness requirements.

Education has endeavored to bring states into compliance through state 
corrective action plans and technical assistance, but cases of 
noncompliance have generally continued for years before being fully 
resolved. To resolve the range of deficiencies Education identified in 
its monitoring visits, the department required states to (1) develop 
corrective action plans, (2) institute remedies, and (3) demonstrate 
the effectiveness of the remedy within 1 year. We found that all of the 
7 cases of noncompliance from 1997 to 2002 that have been fully 
resolved took from 2 to 6 years for closure to occur, and the remaining 
23 cases-some dating back as far as 1997-have still not been completely 
resolved. However, Education officials told us that most of these 
states are making progress. Our examination of Education documents 
showed that each phase of the monitoring and correction process took a 
considerable amount of time, including Education's issuance of its 
findings report and the approval of the state correction plan. On 
average, Education took about a year to issue a monitoring report 
following its site visits, and generally 1 to 2 years passed before 
states' corrective action plans were approved. Infrequently, in cases 
of serious or longstanding noncompliance, Education has taken more 
severe action by using sanctions such as making grant renewals 
conditional on correcting noncompliance, but resolution has been slow 
in these cases as well. In addition, states that we examined rarely 
resolved noncompliance within the 1-year compliance deadline specified 
by Education for correction. State officials raised concerns about this 
1-year time period, and Education officials acknowledged that 
resolution could be difficult to accomplish and substantiate within a 1-
year period for some deficiencies. Education officials explained that 
the nature of some problems, for example personnel shortages, requires 
longer-term solutions. In such cases, Education may pursue 3-year 
compliance agreements that allow states to plan their remedial actions 
over a longer period.

To improve special education monitoring, we are recommending that 
Education develop additional guidance for collecting data on key 
outcome measures. To strengthen enforcement of IDEA, we are 
recommending that Education improve its response times throughout the 
monitoring process and that it impose realistic timeframes and firm 
deadlines for remedying findings of noncompliance, including making 
greater use of compliance agreements when appropriate.

In its comments on a draft of this report, Education expressed general 
agreement with the deficiencies we found and asserted its belief that 
changes made to the monitoring system in the past few years have 
already begun to effectively address these deficiencies. The department 
discussed a variety of actions it was taking but did not explicitly 
agree or disagree with most of our specific recommendations. Because we 
could not determine whether the actions Education discussed will result 
in the needed improvements, we did not delete these recommendations. In 
the case of our recommendation about compliance agreements, Education 
disagreed, saying that the department lacks the authority to initiate 
them because the compliance agreement process is voluntary on the part 
of the states. While we agree that Education cannot compel states to 
enter into these agreements, we continue to believe that Education does 
have the authority to initiate compliance agreements and that this 
action could result in beneficial outcomes.

Background:

IDEA is the primary federal law that addresses the special education 
and related service needs of children with disabilities, including 
children with specific learning disabilities, sensory disabilities, 
such as hearing and visual impairments, and other disabilities, such as 
emotional disturbance and speech or language impairments. The law 
requires states to provide eligible children with disabilities a free 
appropriate public education in "the least restrictive environment," 
that is, in an educational setting alongside nondisabled children to 
the maximum extent appropriate.

School districts are responsible for identifying students who may have 
a disability and evaluating them in all areas related to the suspected 
disability. In addition, they must re-evaluate children at least once 
every 3 years, or sooner if conditions warrant a re-evaluation, or if 
the child's parents or teacher requests a re-evaluation. Under IDEA, 
students receive special education and related services tailored to 
their needs through an IEP, which is a written statement developed by a 
team of educational professionals, parents, and interested parties at 
meetings regarding the child's educational program.[Footnote 2]

If the IEP team determines the child needs extended year services, 
schools are required by regulations governing IDEA to provide such 
services beyond the normal school year. Further, the act requires that 
states have in place a comprehensive system of personnel development 
designed to ensure an adequate supply of special education, regular 
education, and related services personnel to provide needed services.

IDEA seeks to strengthen the role of parents and ensure they have 
meaningful opportunities to participate in the education of their 
children. In particular, IDEA regulations require that parents receive 
prior notification of IEP meetings and that the meetings be scheduled 
at a mutually agreed upon time and place. The act affords parents other 
procedural safeguard protections, such as the opportunity to examine 
their child's records and to present complaints relating to the 
identification, evaluation, educational placement of the child, or the 
provision of a free appropriate public education.[Footnote 3] Under 
IDEA, disputes between families and school districts may be resolved 
through due process hearings, state complaint procedures, or mediation.

The Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs 
(OSEP) is responsible for administering IDEA. Education authorizes 
grants to states, supports research and disseminates best practices, 
and provides technical assistance to states in implementing the law. 
Education is also responsible for monitoring states' compliance with 
IDEA requirements and ensuring that the law is enforced when 
noncompliance occurs. Education reviews states' systems for detecting 
and correcting noncompliance in the state, including noncompliance at 
the local level. In the event of noncompliance, Education has the 
specific authority to employ six sanctions: (1) imposing restrictions 
or "special conditions" on a state's IDEA grant award;[Footnote 4] (2) 
negotiating a long-term compliance agreement with a state requiring 
corrective action within 3 years; (3) disapproving a state's 
application for funds when the application does not meet IDEA 
eligibility requirements; (4) obtaining a "cease and desist" order to 
require a state to discontinue a practice or policy that violates IDEA; 
(5) withholding IDEA funds in whole or in part depending on the degree 
of the state's noncompliance; and (6) referring a noncompliant state to 
the Department of Justice for appropriate enforcement action.[Footnote 
5]

Education's system for monitoring state compliance with IDEA has been 
evolving for more than 5 years. This evolution is, in part, in response 
to the stronger accountability and enforcement provisions[Footnote 6] 
in the 1997 amendments to IDEA that emphasized the importance of 
improving educational outcomes for disabled children, including 
improving high school graduation rates, increasing placement in regular 
education settings, increasing participation in statewide and 
districtwide assessment programs, and improving the outcomes of 
services provided to students with emotional and behavioral disorders. 
In 1998, Education implemented the Continuous Improvement Monitoring 
Process, which focused its monitoring efforts on states with the 
greatest risk of noncompliance and placed increased responsibility on 
states for identifying areas of weakness. In 2003, Education 
implemented the Continuous Improvement and Focused Monitoring System 
(CIFMS), which, among other things, added new state performance 
reporting requirements to its monitoring system. Officials of some 
special education advocacy groups with whom we spoke, including the 
National Association of State Directors of Special Education, commented 
favorably on these changes. However, the National Council on 
Disability, which had published a 2000 study critical of Education's 
enforcement of IDEA, continued to question whether Education has taken 
effective actions to remedy the problems reported.[Footnote 7]

To Monitor Compliance with IDEA, Education Uses a Risk-Based System 
That Relies Upon State-Provided Information:

Education uses a risk-based system to focus its monitoring efforts, but 
some data it uses are weak. Education's monitoring system relies upon 
states to collect information about their special education programs, 
assess their own performances, and report these findings to the 
department annually. In addition, the department selects a limited 
number of states for further inspection based on a subset of measures. 
Because this system relies heavily on state data, the department has 
taken steps in recent years to ensure that states have adequate data 
collection systems in place. However, some of the data are not 
uniformly measured or are difficult for states to collect. Education 
officials acknowledged that data variability limits the usefulness of 
the reported information. Some officials in states we visited 
attributed these variations in data in part to inadequate guidance from 
Education and expressed a desire for more direction on how to measure 
and report these data.

States Conduct Their Own Performance Reviews and Submit Annual Reports 
to Education:

To assess their own IDEA compliance, states conduct annual special 
education performance reviews and report their findings to Education. 
To conduct these reviews, states have undertaken a variety of 
activities. In particular, states collect data from local districts, 
including local graduation rates, student placement rates, and parental 
involvement information, and analyze these data to identify areas of 
noncompliance at the local level. Additionally, states obtain input 
from the public about local special education programs through hearings 
and surveys. States also review dispute resolution processes, including 
state complaint systems, to determine the type of problems generating 
complaints and ensure that complaints are being resolved in a timely 
fashion. In recent years, Education has required states to include 
groups of stakeholders in the review process, such as parents, 
advocates, teachers, and administrators from the special education 
community. State and local officials work with these stakeholders to 
identify areas in which they may be out of compliance and create 
detailed improvement plans to remedy these problems. Several state 
officials we interviewed said the inclusion of stakeholders has been an 
improvement in the self-evaluation process. For example, officials in 
Texas told us that working with stakeholders has helped them better 
understand the severity of particular problems and subsequently has 
helped position the state to respond to these problems more 
efficiently. Upon completing the review process, states are required to 
create detailed improvement plans to address identified deficiencies, 
which are submitted to Education annually along with the results of 
their self-reviews through a uniform reporting format. Education 
implemented this uniform reporting format in recent years to streamline 
its review process, thereby improving the department's ability to 
identify data gaps.

Education Reviews State-Reported Data to Identify Those States Most 
Likely to Need More Oversight and Assistance:

Education reviews state-reported data to assess states' improvement 
efforts and identify those states most in need of further monitoring 
and assistance. In recent years, the department has required states to 
report on those requirements it considers most closely associated with 
student results, a narrower array of issues than the department 
previously monitored.[Footnote 8] These data are focused on performance 
in five general categories: (1) the provision of educational services 
in the least restrictive environment, (2) state supervision of IDEA 
programs, (3) facilitation of parental involvement, (4) student 
transitions from early childhood programs, and (5) student transitions 
into post-secondary programs. Education has required states to supply a 
variety of data for each of these categories. For example, under the 
state supervision category, states report information regarding the 
resolution of formal complaints, due process safeguards for students 
and parents, special education personnel requirements, as well as other 
supervision data. Officials in 4 of the 5 states we visited said that 
Education's narrowed focus has improved the monitoring process by 
concentrating attention on those areas most likely to affect results 
for children.

Education evaluates the collected data for each state in several ways, 
including assessing how the measures have changed over time and 
comparing data for special education students to those for general 
education students. Education has identified areas of IDEA 
noncompliance through these screens. For example, based on its data 
review Education can determine if states have been resolving complaints 
within IDEA-established guidelines or whether waiting lists have been 
preventing students from receiving IDEA-guaranteed services.

Additionally, according to Education, the department uses selected 
measures, such as state-reported data on graduation rates, dropout 
rates and rates of placement in various educational 
environments[Footnote 9] to determine which states warrant further 
monitoring and intervention activities, including onsite 
visits.[Footnote 10] States that rank low relative to other states on 
these measures may be selected. In conducting site visits, Education 
reviews state records, makes visits to selected districts for on-site 
examination of student records, and assesses state special education 
systems, such as complaint systems and student assessment programs. 
Following these visits, Education issues a report of findings and, when 
noncompliance is found, requires states to produce a corrective action 
plan.[Footnote 11] Education policy tells states to implement a remedy 
and provide evidence of its effectiveness within 1 year of Education 
approving the state corrective action plan. As shown in figure 1, 
Education carried out monitoring visits in 31 different states between 
1997 and 2002, visiting between 2 and 8 states per year.

Figure 1: States That Received Monitoring Visits, 1997-2002:

[See PDF for image]

[End of figure]

While Education Has Taken Steps to Improve States' Data Reporting 
Systems, Some State Performance Measures Are Weak:

Because Education has relied heavily on state-reported data, it 
suspended its usual monitoring visits in 2003 in order to conduct 
visits to verify the reliability of state systems for collecting and 
reporting special education data.[Footnote 12] After reviewing selected 
data from all states, Education selected 24 states for onsite 
examination of their data collection procedures and protocols.[Footnote 
13] Following the data verification visits, the department provided 
states with technical assistance to address any identified 
deficiencies. According to Education documents, most of the visited 
states had data collection systems in place, several of which were of 
high quality; however, some states needed to better monitor the 
accuracy of their data and train their data entry personnel. Education 
officials said that selected states will receive monitoring visits in 
the fall of 2004.[Footnote 14]

While Education has facilitated improvements in state data collection 
systems, some of the data are weak. Education has allowed states 
flexibility in measuring and reporting some performance measures used 
for site visit selection, such as graduation rates and dropout rates; 
consequently these data have not been calculated in a uniform manner 
across states.[Footnote 15] For example, special education students in 
Arkansas may receive a standard diploma even if they have not met 
regular graduation requirements, while special education students in 
Delaware must meet regular graduation requirements to graduate with a 
standard diploma. State education officials we talked with said that 
comparisons of these rates might not be valid because of the wide 
disparity in how graduation rates are measured and, therefore, should 
not be used by Education to make judgments about the relative 
performance of states.

Other types of information that Education has used to evaluate state's 
performance, such as student transitions and parental involvement, are 
weak because they have been difficult to gather or because states have 
been unclear about how to measure them. States have used a variety of 
methods to report these data; consequently, Education has not compared 
states' performance in these areas. Officials in all 5 states we 
visited noted that student transitions data were particularly difficult 
to collect because several different agencies were involved in the 
process and it was often difficult to track students once they left 
school. Officials in 4 of the 5 states we visited also expressed 
confusion about how to report parental involvement. For example, 
officials in one state were unclear about whether they should report 
the percent of parents notified of meetings or the percent of parents 
who attended meetings, while officials from another state believed that 
the measures they used to report parent involvement did not adequately 
describe parent involvement.

Officials in 2 of the 5 states we visited attributed their difficulty 
in collecting and reporting these measures in part to inadequate 
guidance from Education, and officials in 3 of the 5 states we visited 
expressed a desire for greater guidance from the department on how to 
collect and measure these areas. In our review of Education guidance, 
we found the direction provided to states in terms of what to measure 
and report to Education in these areas was vague, as Education does not 
specify how states should demonstrate performance. For example, 
Education provides states with 17 potential sources for indicators to 
measure student transitions into postsecondary programs but does not 
specify which of these indicators should be reported to Education in 
annual reports.

Education officials with whom we spoke acknowledged difficulties with 
student transition and parent involvement data and said that they are 
taking steps to improve data quality. To help address data 
deficiencies, Education has funded the National Center for Special 
Education Accountability Monitoring, which assists states, local 
agencies, and the department in the development of data collection 
systems.[Footnote 16] In working with state special education 
directors, special education advocates, Education officials, and 
others, the center has found that reliable data sources often do not 
exist for several of the data elements collected by Education.

Noncompliance Education Found Was about Equally Split between Failures 
Involving Services to Students and Procedural Deficiencies:

Our analysis of Education monitoring reports for states visited between 
1997 and 2002 showed that failures directly affecting services to 
children were about as common as failures involving violations of 
procedural requirements.[Footnote 17] Education identified a total of 
253 noncompliance findings in 30 of the 31 states visited during this 
period, with an average of approximately 8 findings per state. Our 
analysis showed that 52 percent of the findings involved state failures 
to directly ensure that students were receiving required special 
education services. As shown in table 1, the most common finding of 
service noncompliance was failure to adequately provide related 
services intended to assist learning, such as counseling, speech 
pathology, and assistive technology. Another common deficiency 
Education cited was failure to adequately outline the activities and 
training planned to prepare a student for life after exiting school. Of 
the 12 states that were cited for not having adequate special education 
or related services personnel, some acknowledged that a personnel 
shortage had prevented them from always making timely evaluations, 
which could have resulted in delayed services, late placement 
decisions, and limited provision of extra help that would be needed to 
teach special education students in regular education settings.

Table 1: Most Commonly Cited Noncompliance Findings Related to the 
Provision of Services in Education Monitoring Reports, 1997-2002:

Number of states cited: 24; 
Noncompliance related to the provision of services: Related services, 
such as counseling, speech pathology, and assistive technology, were 
not ensured or adequately provided.

Number of states cited: 17; 
Noncompliance related to the provision of services: Student transition 
statements were inadequate or missing.

Number of states cited: 14; 
Noncompliance related to the provision of services: Student placement 
in the least restrictive environment was not ensured.

Number of states cited: 13; 
Noncompliance related to the provision of services: Extended school 
year activities were not ensured.

Number of states cited: 12; 
Noncompliance related to the provision of services: Lack of personnel.

Number of states cited: 4; 
Noncompliance related to the provision of services: Regular education 
settings lacked accommodations and/or supports.

Number of states cited: 4; 
Noncompliance related to the provision of services: Timely evaluation 
of student needs was not ensured, resulting in delay of services.

Source: GAO analysis of Education data.

[End of table]

The remaining 48 percent of Education's findings were for compliance 
failures that we classified as procedural in nature, that is, 
activities that did not directly provide or immediately facilitate a 
service to students. According to our analysis, Education's most common 
finding of procedural noncompliance with IDEA was failure to invite 
some of the appropriate parties to student transition meetings where 
parents, school personnel, department representatives, and the students 
themselves determined what educational and vocational training they 
would need before they left school. Other procedural failures, shown in 
table 2, often involved the completeness of paperwork or timeliness of 
meeting other IDEA requirements. For instance, the department found 
that in several states, notices sent to parents regarding upcoming IEP 
meetings related to student transition did not include required 
information such as the purpose of the meeting and the list of who was 
invited. Similarly, some states did not produce written complaint 
decisions in a timely manner that outlined how complaints were resolved.

Table 2: Most Common Findings of Procedural Noncompliance in Education 
Monitoring Reports, 1997-2002:

Number of states cited: 16; 
Noncompliance related to procedural requirements: Agencies and/or 
students not invited to IEP meetings related to student transitions.

Number of states cited: 12; 
Noncompliance related to procedural requirements: States did not ensure 
that local education agencies corrected noncompliance.[A].

Number of states cited: 11; 
Noncompliance related to procedural requirements: Complaints were not 
adequately resolved within timelines.

Number of states cited: 11; 
Noncompliance related to procedural requirements: Incomplete notice 
provided to parents regarding IEP meetings related to student 
transitions.

Number of states cited: 10; 
Noncompliance related to procedural requirements: States did not 
identify local education agencies' noncompliance.

Number of states cited: 5; 
Noncompliance related to procedural requirements: Assessment 
modifications not adequately provided. 

Source: GAO analysis of Education data.

[A] We could not determine from Education documents whether the 
underlying compliance problems that the local education agencies failed 
to identify or correct were service-oriented or procedural in nature. 
For this analysis, we classified these failures to identify or correct 
deficiencies as procedural.

[End of table]

Education Has Sought to Bring States into Compliance by Providing 
Technical Assistance and Requiring Corrective Action Plans, but 
Resolution Has Been Prolonged:

When Education has identified noncompliance, it typically has offered 
technical assistance to states and required them to create corrective 
action plans; however, states have generally not resolved the 
noncompliance in a timely manner. Most cases of noncompliance have 
remained open for several years before closure, and some cases dating 
back as far as 1997 have not yet been completely resolved. Education's 
process for correcting deficiencies consisted of several phases, each 
of which took a considerable amount of time to complete. For example, 
on average, 1 year elapsed from Education's monitoring visit to 
issuance of its report findings. The department has also made limited 
use of sanctions to address longstanding issues with noncompliance, but 
in these cases, too, resolution has been protracted. Further, we found 
that the 1-year compliance deadlines specified by Education were often 
missed. State officials commented, and Education officials confirmed, 
that this standard 1-year timeframe for correction may not, in some 
cases, provide an adequate period of time in which to implement a 
remedy and demonstrate its effectiveness. To address noncompliance 
situations that are expected to take more than 1 year to correct, 3- 
year compliance agreements may allow states to plan their remedial 
steps over a longer period.

To Effect Compliance, Education Typically Provided Technical Assistance 
and Required State Correction Plans, but Most Cases of Noncompliance 
Remained Open for Years without Resolution:

To resolve the deficiencies identified in 30 of the 31 states visited 
from 1997-2002, Education offered technical assistance to states and 
required them to develop corrective action plans and submit them to the 
department for approval. The department assisted states in achieving 
compliance through informal guidance and, in some cases, follow-up 
visits to confirm states' actions. Education officials answered 
questions regarding policies and best practices as well as referred 
states to regional resource centers and other technical assistance 
providers if needed. Also, Education required states to create 
corrective action plans and submit them to the department for review 
and approval. The plans were expected to include strategies to remedy 
deficiencies and demonstrate the effectiveness of the remedy within a 
year of the approval date of the plan. For example, Maryland was cited 
for failure to ensure that students with disabilities were educated in 
regular education settings to the maximum extent possible. To address 
this violation, one of the steps in the state's correction plan was to 
create professional development activities and training materials that 
emphasized inclusiveness and making appropriate placement 
determinations. During the 1-year period of correction, states were 
required to submit periodic updates to document evidence of improvement 
for Education's review.

Although corrective action plans have a 1-year timeframe for completion 
according to Education policy, our analysis showed that most cases of 
noncompliance addressed through this method remained open for years. We 
found that only 7 of 30 states with findings of noncompliance visited 
from 1997 to 2002 had completely resolved their deficiencies as of May 
2004.[Footnote 18] Closure of these cases, that is resolution of all 
deficiencies, took from 2 to 7 years from the time the deficiencies 
were first identified during a monitoring visit. Of the remaining 23 
cases, about half have been unresolved for 5-7 years. Education 
officials told us that for almost all of these outstanding cases, 
states have made progress toward correcting the noncompliance, and 11 
states are close to completion. Table 3 lists the dates of Education's 
monitoring visits, reports, and case closures for the 31 states 
monitored in the time period 1997 to 2002.

Table 3: Results of Education Monitoring Visits, 1997-2002:

State: Connecticut; 
Date monitored: 2-3-97; 
Date monitoring report issued: 6-11-97; Date noncompliance was closed: 
2-99.

State: Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands; Date monitored: 3-6- 
97; 
Date monitoring report issued: 7-21-97; Date noncompliance was closed: 
Not yet closed.

State: American Samoa; 
Date monitored: 3-10-97; 
Date monitoring report issued: 7-25-97; Date noncompliance was closed: 
Not yet closed.

State: Missouri; 
Date monitored: 4-28-97; 
Date monitoring report issued: 1-8-98; Date noncompliance was closed: 5-
04[A].

State: Oregon; 
Date monitored: 4-28-97; 
Date monitoring report issued: 1-8-98; Date noncompliance was closed: 5-
03.

State: Virgin Islands; 
Date monitored: 5-19-97; 
Date monitoring report issued: 6-29-98; Date noncompliance was closed: 
Not yet closed.

State: California; 
Date monitored: 6-8-98; 
Date monitoring report issued: 4-6-99; Date noncompliance was closed: 7-
02.

State: North Dakota; 
Date monitored: 9-21-98; 
Date monitoring report issued: 9-14-99; Date noncompliance was closed: 
5-04.

State: Nebraska; 
Date monitored: 10-5-98; 
Date monitoring report issued: 4-19-00; Date noncompliance was closed: 
3-04.

State: Washington; 
Date monitored: 10-5-98; 
Date monitoring report issued: 12-22-99; Date noncompliance was closed: 
Not yet closed.

State: Arizona; 
Date monitored: 1-25-99; 
Date monitoring report issued: 5-22-00; Date noncompliance was closed: 
Not yet closed.

State: New Mexico; 
Date monitored: 12-7-98; 
Date monitoring report issued: 1-7-00; Date noncompliance was closed: 
Not yet closed.

State: Utah[B]; 
Date monitored: 12-7-98; 
Date monitoring report issued: 12-2-99; Date noncompliance was closed: 
Not Applicable.

State: Massachusetts; 
Date monitored: 4-6-99; 
Date monitoring report issued: 6-21-00; Date noncompliance was closed: 
Not yet closed.

State: Wisconsin; 
Date monitored: 2-22-99; 
Date monitoring report issued: 10-18-00; Date noncompliance was closed: 
Not yet closed.

State: Montana; 
Date monitored: 4-12-99; 
Date monitoring report issued: 4-7-00; Date noncompliance was closed: 
12-03.

State: South Dakota; 
Date monitored: 5-17-99; 
Date monitoring report issued: 12-20-99; Date noncompliance was closed: 
Not yet closed.

State: Bureau of Indian Affairs; 
Date monitored: 5-17-99; 
Date monitoring report issued: 4-20-00; Date noncompliance was closed: 
Not yet closed.

State: Ohio; 
Date monitored: 10-18-99; 
Date monitoring report issued: 3-30-01; Date noncompliance was closed: 
Not yet closed.

State: Maryland; 
Date monitored: 10-25-99; 
Date monitoring report issued: 7-26-01; Date noncompliance was closed: 
Not yet closed.

State: Arkansas; 
Date monitored: 1-10-00; 
Date monitoring report issued: 8-25-00; Date noncompliance was closed: 
Not yet closed.

State: Colorado; 
Date monitored: 1-10-00; 
Date monitoring report issued: 3-30-01; Date noncompliance was closed: 
Not yet closed.

State: Louisiana; 
Date monitored: 2-14-00; 
Date monitoring report issued: 7-20-01; Date noncompliance was closed: 
Not yet closed.

State: Florida; 
Date monitored: 2-28-00; 
Date monitoring report issued: 4-23-01; Date noncompliance was closed: 
Not yet closed.

State: New Jersey; 
Date monitored: 9-25-00; 
Date monitoring report issued: 9-14-01; Date noncompliance was closed: 
Not yet closed.

State: Pennsylvania; 
Date monitored: 10-23-00; 
Date monitoring report issued: 2-1-02; Date noncompliance was closed: 
Not yet closed.

State: Hawaii; 
Date monitored: 2-12-01; 
Date monitoring report issued: 6-5-02; Date noncompliance was closed: 
Not yet closed.

State: District of Columbia; 
Date monitored: 3-26-01; 
Date monitoring report issued: 6-18-02; Date noncompliance was closed: 
Not yet closed.

State: South Carolina; 
Date monitored: 2-11-02; 
Date monitoring report issued: 1-6-03; Date noncompliance was closed: 
Not yet closed.

State: Illinois; 
Date monitored: 4-22-02; 
Date monitoring report issued: 12-31-02; Date noncompliance was closed: 
Not yet closed.

State: Texas; 
Date monitored: 5-6-02; 
Date monitoring report issued: 3- 10-03; Date noncompliance was closed: 
Not yet closed. 

Source: GAO analysis of Education's Web site, documents, and interviews 
with department officials.

[A] Education was not able to provide documentation of the closure 
date, but agency comments showed a closure date May 2004.

[B] UTAH DID NOT HAVE ANY FINDINGS OF NONCOMPLIANCE.

[End of table]

In analyzing the time taken to correct noncompliance, we found that the 
correction process consisted of two phases, each of which frequently 
took a year or more to complete, as shown in figure 2. The first phase, 
Education's issuance of a findings report following its monitoring 
visit, took a year on average, with a range of 4 to 21 months. 
Officials in the 3 states we visited that were monitored since 1997 
expressed concern about the timeliness of Education's monitoring 
reports. Officials from 2 of these states said that the reports 
contained out-dated information that did not reflect the current 
environment in the state. In addition, state officials in 1 state said 
that they delayed the development of their corrective action plans 
until they received Education's findings report. Education officials 
told us that staffing constraints and multiple levels of report review 
contributed to the delays in issuing reports, but they did not provide 
a goal of reducing the time needed to issue reports. Second, the time 
from report issuance to approval of the corrective action plan 
generally took an additional 1 to 2 years. During this time period, 
states produced an initial corrective action plan that they revised, if 
needed, based on review and feedback from Education.[Footnote 19] 
Education officials acknowledged that this approval process can be 
lengthy, but have indicated they are working to reduce the period for 
corrective action plan approval to 6 months.

Figure 2: Time Taken to Correct Noncompliance through Technical 
Assistance and Corrective Action Plans:

[See PDF for image]

[End of figure]

Enforcement Actions Have Been Taken Infrequently; Resolutions Were 
Protracted:

Although most instances of noncompliance were addressed without more 
severe actions taken, occasionally Education took measures beyond 
technical assistance and corrective action plans by imposing sanctions 
on states. During the 10-year period from 1994 to 2003, Education used 
three types of sanctions-withholding of funds, special conditions, and 
compliance agreements. Withholding of all grant funds was attempted 
once by Education, but the state successfully challenged Education's 
action in court and receipt of the grant was not interrupted. The most 
commonly used sanction was special conditions put on states' annual 
grants stipulating that the problem must be resolved within 1 year. 
During the 1-year period of correction, the states continued to receive 
funds. In cases of noncompliance requiring longer-time periods to 
correct, an additional tool available to Education was a compliance 
agreement, which allowed a state 3 years in which to correct the 
noncompliance while also continuing to receive funds. Compliance 
agreements were used only for the Virgin Islands and the District of 
Columbia. Education officials told us that compliance agreements were 
used infrequently because they are voluntary and states must agree to 
the arrangement. States that entered into compliance agreements were 
also required to undergo a public hearing process to demonstrate that 
they could not completely address their violations within 1 year.

In total, Education has taken enforcement action against 33 states for 
noncompliance from 1994 to 2003. An action was taken against multiple 
states for failing to publicly report on the performance of children 
with disabilities on alternate assessments, as required by the 1997 
reauthorization of IDEA. As a result of other compliance issues, 
Education has imposed 15 sanctions against 11 states in this 10-year 
period. Appendix II contains more details on enforcement actions taken 
by Education from 1994 to 2003.

Education considers a number of factors in deciding to impose a 
sanction, including the duration, extent, and severity of the 
noncompliance, as well as whether a state has made a good faith effort 
to correct the problem. We found that sanctions were imposed for a 
variety of specific deficiencies--commonly for failing to provide 
related services, place students in the least restrictive environment, 
or have an adequate state system in place for detecting and correcting 
noncompliance at the local level. In New Jersey, special conditions 
were imposed to address long-standing noncompliance involving state 
oversight of local special education programs. New Jersey officials 
told us that the enforcement action caught the attention of senior 
state officials and helped the special education department obtain the 
resources needed to correct the problem within 2 years of the 
imposition of the sanction. When considering the type of sanctions to 
impose, Education officials told us that their primary consideration is 
the expected time of resolution. In cases where officials believe the 
problem can be addressed in 1 year, special conditions may be used. In 
cases where resolution is expected to take longer, 3-year compliance 
agreements may be pursued.

In cases involving sanctions, the resolution of compliance issues was 
often prolonged - generally ranging from 5 to 10 years from the time of 
problem identification to the imposition of the sanction to closure, as 
shown in figure 3. In most instances, 4 to 9 years elapsed before 
Education imposed sanctions,[Footnote 20] and an additional 1 to 3 
years generally passed following the sanction before noncompliance was 
closed. For example, Massachusetts received special conditions on its 
grant award in 2000 for noncompliance that was first identified in 
1991. Once the special conditions were imposed, Massachusetts remedied 
the noncompliance in 1 year. Education officials indicated that the 
reason why several years often elapsed before sanctions were used was 
that Education preferred to work with states instead of imposing 
sanctions if they demonstrated good faith efforts to correct 
deficiencies and followed the steps outlined in their corrective action 
plans.

Figure 3: Time Generally Taken for Corrective Process in Closed Cases 
Where Sanctions Were Imposed:

[See PDF for image]

[End of figure]

In addition to those cases that were closed, some ongoing cases have 
been even more protracted. Although states that receive special 
conditions attached to their grants are expected to correct problems 
before the next grant year, in many cases problems were not fully 
resolved and continued for years. In these cases, states received 
multiple special conditions for some of the same issues of 
noncompliance. For example, Pennsylvania received a special condition 
on its grant for 3 consecutive years beginning in 1998 before achieving 
compliance on all issues. At the beginning of the 1999 grant year, 
Pennsylvania had resolved two of the five original issues of 
noncompliance. Additionally, enforcement actions for California, the 
District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands dating from 1997 and 
1998 have not yet been completely resolved.

Compliance Deadlines Often Missed; State Officials Indicated--and 
Federal Officials Acknowledged--Difficulties of Meeting Timeframes:

States we reviewed often did not meet the 1-year compliance deadline 
prescribed by Education, and state officials said that some types of 
noncompliance could not be corrected within 1 year, a problem that 
Education officials also acknowledged. Our examination of Education's 
records for a sample of 9 states with corrective action plans revealed 
that none had completely corrected their noncompliance within 1 year of 
approval of the plan, as required by Education.[Footnote 21] Likewise, 
states receiving special conditions on their grant usually did not 
completely resolve the noncompliance issue within 1 year, and some took 
numerous years to make the correction. For example, California received 
special conditions attached to its grant award in 2000 for various 
deficiencies. The state did not complete the correction of this 
deficiency within 1 year and as a result received an additional special 
conditions letter in 2001.

Regarding the 1-year deadline, Education officials told us that some 
states may not be able to correct deficiencies and demonstrate the 
effectiveness of the changes within the year required of them. In 
addition, they said that in many cases, a state may take corrective 
steps within one year but that demonstrating the effectiveness of the 
remedy may extend beyond 1 year. Officials in 3 states we visited also 
raised concerns that some types of noncompliance could not be corrected 
within 1 year. For example, Kansas officials said the state could not 
demonstrate compliance with a requirement to change an IEP component 
because IEPs are written year-round and thus every IEP could not be 
changed within the 1-year deadline. Also, Education officials we 
interviewed emphasized that some deficiencies take longer to correct 
than others. They commented that states often could correct certain 
procedural deficiencies within a year, but entrenched problems, such as 
personnel shortages, generally take more than 1 year to remedy.

In cases of noncompliance that require longer periods of time to 
correct, Education may pursue 3-year compliance agreements with states 
that allow the states to continue to receive funds while they are 
correcting noncompliance. This sanction requires states to establish 
interim goals and engage in longer-term planning, with specific 
compliance benchmarks and timelines. States that enter into compliance 
agreements must demonstrate at a public hearing they cannot achieve 
compliance within 1 year and that a 3-year time frame for correction is 
more appropriate. However, this option has been rarely used. One state 
we visited objected to a compliance agreement Education proposed. The 
department did not pursue the compliance agreement and, instead, 
imposed special conditions on the state's grant approval each year for 
several years. Officials from this state said that they chose not to 
enter into a compliance agreement because they considered the 
additional reporting requirements and monitoring activities it would 
entail to be too burdensome.

Conclusions:

Education has taken steps in the right direction since 1997 in focusing 
its review of state support for children with disabilities on those 
factors that most affect educational outcomes for disabled students, 
such as increased parental involvement and placement in regular 
education settings. In recent years, Education has invested 
considerable effort to assist states in improving data reliability. 
Furthermore, by reviewing this information through the use of a uniform 
reporting format, Education is in a better position to make its local 
site visits yield improvements where they are most needed. Despite 
these efforts, some of the information states report about their 
special education programs are weak and not comparable, which limits 
Education's ability to select states for on-site visits that have the 
most pressing problems. Education made 31 site visits between 1997 and 
2002, visiting no more than 8 states in any 1 year. Given such finite 
opportunities for inspection, it may be easy to miss areas where 
children are not receiving educational and related services.

Aside from targeting the right states for visits, the lengthy 
resolution process has been a problem in OSEP's monitoring system. In 
many instances, noncompliance with the requirements of IDEA has 
persisted for many years before correction. One reason for the delay is 
that Education has allowed considerable time to elapse in the initial 
phases of the correction process; specifically, the time from the first 
identification of a problem to the imposition of the 1-year time frame 
for correction. This considerable delay--sometimes taking up to 21 
months between problem identification and the issuance of department 
findings--could result in states postponing the implementation of 
corrective plans. Although the initial phases of the correction process 
can be lengthy, Education's 1-year deadline for states to correct 
deficiencies is, at times, too short for states to achieve compliance. 
Unrealistic timeframes may both discourage states from focusing on 
achievable, albeit longer-term, plans for correction. These unrealistic 
timeframes may also lessen the impact of the enforcement action itself, 
as in the case where special conditions are imposed for infractions 
year after year with few consequences to the state, but potentially 
detrimental consequences to students with disabilities. The imposition 
of appropriate deadlines, including the more frequent use of compliance 
agreements that allow for better long-term planning and predictable 
consequences when these deadlines are not met, could motivate states to 
achieve compliance more quickly.

The combined effect of such prolonged reviews--lengthy timeframes for 
the receipt of reports and the approval of corrective action plans--and 
failure to hold states more firmly to a rapid resolution could directly 
affect the progress of some of the nation's most vulnerable children. 
Without some deliberate and specific improvements to its monitoring 
process, Education may face difficulties in helping the nation's 
disabled students realize their full potential.

Recommendations for Executive Action:

We recommend that the Secretary of Education:

* develop and provide states with additional guidance for collecting 
and reporting three measures that Education considers key to positive 
outcomes for students with disabilities: early childhood transitions, 
post-secondary transitions, and parental involvement;

* expedite the resolution of noncompliance by improving response times 
throughout the monitoring process, particularly in reporting 
noncompliance findings to states, and track changes in response times 
under the new monitoring process;

* impose firm and realistic deadlines for states to remedy findings of 
noncompliance; and:

* when correction of noncompliance is expected to take more than 1 
year, make greater use of Education's authority to initiate compliance 
agreement proceedings rather than imposing special conditions on grants.

Agency Comments and Our Evaluation:

We provided a draft of this report to the Department of Education for 
review and comment. Education's written comments are reproduced in 
appendix III. Recommended technical changes have been incorporated in 
the text of the report as appropriate. The department discussed, but 
did not explicitly agree or disagree with two recommendations, 
disagreed with one recommendation, and did not directly respond to one 
recommendation, the recommendation regarding imposing firm and 
realistic deadlines.

In response to our recommendation that Education provide states with 
additional guidance for collecting and reporting data on student 
transitions and parental involvement, the department was not explicit 
about its intended actions. While Education agreed with the need to 
provide states assistance in these areas, it did not clearly indicate 
whether it would develop the guidance we recommended. Education said 
that it is funding several centers that are assisting states in 
collecting data in these areas. We commend Education's efforts to 
improve special education performance data. However, to maximize the 
usefulness of these efforts, the department should formalize the 
results of these activities in guidance. Therefore, we continue to 
recommend that Education develop and provide states with guidance on 
collecting and reporting student transitions and parental involvement 
data.

Regarding our recommendation to improve the department's response times 
throughout the monitoring process, Education acknowledged past problems 
with timeliness but indicated that it had made improvements in recent 
years. Education stressed that the reports we reviewed were based on 
its previous monitoring processes, rather than the current process, the 
Continuous Improvement and Focused Monitoring System (CIFMS). The 
department said that timeliness had improved in several areas. For 
instance, Education said that the time required to issue its data 
verification monitoring reports has been about 4 months and that this 
is a substantial improvement over the previous system. Education also 
said that the CIFMS is resulting in the timely receipt of and response 
to state improvement plans and that the department has a goal to issue 
responses to all plans by September 30, 2004. However, we could not 
determine whether, overall, Education's new CIFMS monitoring process 
will result in improved timeliness. Education officials told us that 
the data verification visits primarily focused on accuracy of state 
data, not detecting noncompliance. Therefore, timeliness associated 
with these visits may not be an indication of overall improvement. In 
addition, the timeliness of the focused monitoring visits has not been 
established since they have not yet begun. We believe that Education's 
response times should be improved, but we could not determine the 
extent to which changes already made might impact timeliness. 
Therefore, we modified our recommendation to suggest that Education 
track timeframes associated with various steps in the new monitoring 
process to substantiate possible improvements.

In response to our recommendation that Education make greater use of 
its authority to initiate compliance agreement proceedings when 
appropriate, the department said that it cannot independently initiate 
these proceedings because the compliance agreement process is voluntary 
on the part of the states. We do not agree with this position. The 
relevant statute specifically authorizes the department to hold a 
hearing and directs it to invite certain parties, including the state. 
While the department cannot compel a state to enter into a compliance 
agreement, we think initiating proceedings to consider the merits of 
entering into such an agreement could likely result in beneficial 
corrective action discussions between the department and the state. It 
could also result in greater reliance on the 3-year compliance 
agreement or at least improve corrective action planning by the state. 
While Education may impose other remedies such as partial or full 
withholding of funding, issuing a cease and desist order, or referring 
a state's noncompliance to the Department of Justice, we believe that 
in many instances of noncompliance, the 3-year compliance agreement 
could be the least onerous, and perhaps most helpful, tool to improve 
state compliance with IDEA.

As agreed with your office, unless you publicly announce its contents 
earlier, we plan no further distribution until 30 days after the date 
of this report. At that time, we will send copies of this report to the 
Secretary of Education and the House and Senate Committees with 
oversight responsibility for the department. We will also make copies 
available to other parties upon request. In addition, the report will 
be available at no charge on GAO's Website at http//:www.gao.gov.

Please contact me on (202) 512-7215 if you or your staff have any 
questions about this report. Major contributors to this report are 
listed in appendix IV.

Sincerely yours,

Signed by: 

Marnie S. Shaul: 
Director, Education, Workforce and Income Security Issues:

[End of section]

Appendix I: Scope and Methodology:

As requested, our review focused on the Department of Education's 
monitoring of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 
Part B, those aspects of the law that regulate the provision of 
services to disabled school-aged and preschool children.[Footnote 22] 
In conducting our review, we examined Education's monitoring procedures 
and guidance since Congress last amended IDEA legislation in 1997. 
Additionally, we examined reports submitted to Education to document 
compliance, including self-assessments, Section 618 data reports, and 
improvement plans. We also reviewed compliance and enforcement 
documentation and Education monitoring reports for the 31 states 
visited for Part B monitoring since 1997 (see below for more 
information). Because Education infrequently used sanctions, we 
examined the previous 10-year period to capture a more comprehensive 
picture of enforcement actions. Additionally, we conducted site visits 
to 5 states, where we interviewed state officials and special education 
experts. We also interviewed Education officials; representatives from 
the National Council for Disability, an independent federal agency that 
makes recommendations to the President and Congress on disability- 
related issues; and representatives from national education 
organizations.

We conducted our work between September 2003 and August 2004 in 
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.

Site Visits:

We conducted site visits to five states - California, Georgia, Kansas, 
New Jersey, and Texas. States were selected for variation in the number 
of special education students served, geographic location, the date of 
their last monitoring visit, whether they had received a data 
verification visit, and whether they had been placed under sanctions by 
Education for IDEA violations since 1993. Additionally, in selecting 
states, we considered how states ranked on various Education risk 
factors, including student placement rates, graduation rates, drop-out 
rates, and level of state complaints. We conducted our site visits 
between December 2003 and March 2004.

While in each state, we analyzed state monitoring documents and met 
with officials at states' Departments of Education, including the State 
Directors of Special Education and members of their staff responsible 
for monitoring efforts. We interviewed these officials about their 
experiences with Education's monitoring processes and gathered 
information about the systems used by their states to monitor local 
compliance with IDEA. Additionally, in each state we spoke with members 
of the state stakeholder committees, which help state officials conduct 
their self-assessments and create improvement plans. Stakeholders we 
spoke with included parents of special education students, special 
education and school administrators, and special education advocates.

Monitoring Report Analysis:

To determine the nature of noncompliance in those states selected by 
Education for review, we analyzed the reports issued by Education for 
the 31 Part B monitoring visits Education made between 1997 and 2002. A 
2002 cut-off date was selected because at the time of our analysis, 
Education had not yet issued a monitoring report for the one state it 
visited in 2003. To analyze these reports, we reviewed the 
noncompliance findings cited in these reports and divided the findings 
into two categories; those relating to infractions that were service- 
related and those relating to infractions that were procedural in 
nature.

For our analysis, we defined a service compliance issue as an activity 
that directly provides the student with a basic service required by 
IDEA or is an activity that will immediately facilitate the provision 
of a basic service required by IDEA. A procedural compliance issue was 
defined as an activity that meets a process-oriented requirement of 
IDEA. While the implementation of these process-oriented requirements 
might improve the special education program immediately or over time, 
the activity or process does not directly provide or immediately 
facilitate a basic service to a student.

Analysis of Compliance Documentation:

To determine the results of Education's efforts to remedy 
noncompliance, we reviewed Education documents and data pertaining to 
the 30 states visited between 1997 and 2002 that were cited for 
noncompliance in Education monitoring reports. Specifically, we 
analyzed the 30 monitoring reports; and available Education documents 
such as corrective action plans submitted by states in response to 
report findings; notification documents from Education approving state 
plans; state-submitted evidence of change in noncompliance; and, when 
applicable, notifications to states when noncompliance had been 
sufficiently addressed. To determine the length of time it took to 
resolve cases of noncompliance through monitoring visits and technical 
assistance, we analyzed these documents for dates and deadlines. We 
computed the length of time for resolution from the date of the 
monitoring visit until the date Education documented resolution of the 
problem.

Analysis of Enforcement Documentation:

To obtain information about Education's enforcement efforts, we 
reviewed all cases of enforcement action taken against states by 
Education from 1994 to 2003. For our review, we viewed enforcement 
actions as beginning at the time a sanction was first imposed, 
regardless of how many subsequent times a sanction was used to 
ultimately bring about compliance. That is, if a state received 
multiple sanctions for the same infraction, such as several special 
conditions letters in consecutive years, we viewed all of these 
individual enforcement actions as one action. Likewise, if a state 
received one 3-year compliance agreement, while another state received 
three consecutive special conditions letters for the same infractions, 
we treated both instances as one enforcement case.

For all enforcement cases, we analyzed available Education documents, 
such as notifications of sanctions, including state grant award letters 
subject to special conditions and compliance agreements; state- 
submitted evidence of change to demonstrate compliance; and Education's 
correspondence to states notifying them when noncompliance had been 
sufficiently addressed, thus closing the enforcement cases. 
Additionally, we examined past monitoring reports to determine when 
Education first identified noncompliance that ultimately resulted in an 
enforcement action. In those instances when noncompliance was not 
identified through a monitoring visit, we used the date of the 
enforcement action as the date that the noncompliance was first 
identified for the purposes of our analysis. In all cases, we analyzed 
documentation for dates and deadlines to determine the length of time 
it took to resolve cases of noncompliance through sanctions.

[End of section]

Appendix II: IDEA-Related Sanctions: 1994-2003:

State: American Samoa; 
Problem areas: Fiscal management; 
Year and sanction type: 2003-Special conditions; Status: Not yet 
resolved; year has not yet expired.

State: California (3 instances); 
Problem areas: Provision of services to incarcerated youth; Year and 
sanction type: 1997-Special conditions; Year and sanction type: 1998-
Special conditions; Year and sanction type: 1999-Special conditions; 
Year and sanction type: 2000-Special conditions; Year and sanction 
type: 2001-Special conditions; Year and sanction type: 2002-Special 
conditions; Year and sanction type: 2003-Special conditions; Status: 
Not yet resolved.

State: California; 
Problem areas: Timely resolution of complaints; Year and sanction type: 
1999-Special conditions; Status: Resolved in 2000.

State: California; 
Problem areas: General supervision; identification and correction of 
deficiencies, IEP violations, provision of related services and least 
restrictive environment; Year and sanction type: 2000-Special 
conditions; Year and sanction type: 2001-Special conditions; Status: 
Resolved in 2002.

State: Connecticut; 
Problem areas: Ensuring ability to request due process hearings; Year 
and sanction type: 2002-Special conditions; Status: Resolved in 2003.

State: District of Columbia; 
Problem areas: Eleven areas of noncompliance, including general 
supervision; due process hearings; timeliness of evaluations and 
placements; and provision of free appropriate public education in the 
least restrictive environment; 
Year and sanction type: 1998-3-year compliance agreement; Year and 
sanction type: 2001-Special conditions; Year and sanction type: 2002-
Special conditions; Year and sanction type: 2003-Special conditions; 
Status: Not yet resolved. Three findings remain open in July 2003: 
timely implementation of hearing decisions, placement in the least 
restrictive environment, and timely evaluations.

State: Guam; 
Problem areas: Fiscal management; 
Year and sanction type: 2003-Special conditions; Status: Not yet 
resolved; year has not yet expired.

State: Massachusetts; 
Problem areas: Ensuring IEP components are determined at an IEP meeting 
with all required participants; placement of students in least 
restrictive environment; 
Year and sanction type: 2000-Special conditions; Status: Resolved in 
2001.

State: New Jersey; 
Problem areas: General supervision; identification and correction of 
deficiencies; 
Year and sanction type: 1999-Special conditions; Year and sanction 
type: 2000-Special conditions; Status: Resolved in 2001.

State: Northern Mariana Islands; 
Problem areas: Fiscal management; 
Year and sanction type: 2003-Special conditions; Status: Not yet 
resolved; year has not yet expired.

State: Pennsylvania; 
Problem areas: General supervision; identification of deficiencies; 
placement of students in least restrictive environment, provision of 
extended school year and speech services; Year and sanction type: 1998-
Special conditions; Year and sanction type: 1999-Special conditions; 
Year and sanction type: 2000-Special conditions; Status: Resolved in 
2001.

State: Puerto Rico (2 instances); 
Problem areas: Outstanding issues from 1993 compliance agreement 
regarding timely evaluations and provision of services; Year and 
sanction type: 1997-Special conditions; Status: Resolved in 1998.

State: Puerto Rico; 
Problem areas: Fiscal management; 
Year and sanction type: 2002-Special conditions; Year and sanction 
type: 2003-Special conditions; Status: Not yet resolved.

State: Virginia; 
Problem areas: Provision of services to students with disabilities who 
were expelled or suspended long-term; Year and sanction type: 1994-
Attempt to withhold funds; action contingent on outcome of court case; 
Year and sanction type: 1995-Attempt to withhold funds; action 
contingent on outcome of ongoing court case; Year and sanction type: 
1996-Attempt to withhold funds; action contingent on outcome of ongoing 
court case; Status: Education was ultimately unsuccessful in court and 
funds were not withheld. However, subsequent changes in IDEA rendered 
the disputed issue moot, as all states were required by statute to 
provide services to disciplined students.

State: Virgin Islands; 
Problem areas: Fiscal and program management; general supervision; 
qualified personnel; placement of students in least restrictive 
environment; provision of transportation services; Year and sanction 
type: 1998-Special conditions; Year and sanction type: 1999-3-year 
compliance agreement; Year and sanction type: 2002-3-year compliance 
agreement; Status: Not yet resolved.

State: Multiple States; 
Problem areas: Participation and reporting on alternate assessments; 
Year and sanction type: 2002-Special conditions imposed against 27 
states[A]; 
Year and sanction type: 2003-Special conditions imposed against 11 
unresolved states, plus 1 additional state, Ky[B]; Status: Sixteen of 
27 states resolved in 2003; 11 remaining states + Ky. not yet resolved. 

Source: U.S. Department of Education.

[A] Ala., Alaska, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Colo., Conn., Commonwealth 
of the Northern Mariana Islands, Del., D.C., Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Ill., 
Mass., Maine, Mich., Miss., N.J., N. Mex., N.Y., Okla., P.R., S.C., 
Tex., Utah, Vt., Wash, and Wis.

[B] Alaska, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Colo., Commonwealth of the 
Northern Mariana Islands, Del., D.C., Guam, Ky., Maine, Mich., P.R., 
and Utah.

[End of table]

[End of section]

Appendix III: Comments from the Department of Education:

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION: OFFICE OF SPECIAL EDUCATION AND 
REHABILITATIVE SERVICES:

August 6, 2004:

Ms. Marnie S. Shaul:
Director, Education, Workforce and Income Security Issues: Government 
Accountability Office: 
441 G Street, NW:
Washington, DC 20548:

Dear Ms. Shaul:

Thank you for the opportunity to review the July 2004 draft report 
entitled, "Special Education: Improved Timeliness and Better Use of 
Enforcement Actions Could Strengthen Education's Monitoring System" 
(GAO-04-879). I am pleased to respond on behalf of the Department of 
Education.

As noted in your draft report, the Department has "taken steps in the 
right direction since 1997 in focusing its review of state support for 
children with disabilities on those factors that most affect 
educational outcomes for disabled students." The Department has taken 
steps since the passage of the 1997 Amendments to the Individuals with 
Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to improve accountability measures 
that drive and support increased compliance and improved results for 
children with disabilities. The Office of Special Education Programs 
(OSEP) began this process through the implementation of the Continuous 
Improvement Monitoring Process (CIMP) between 1998 and 2002. OSEP 
continues to review, revise, and improve its monitoring system and, in 
2003, implemented the Continuous Improvement and Focused Monitoring 
System (CIFMS).

The Department believes it is important that the final report emphasize 
that GAO's analysis is based on reports developed under the LIMP 
monitoring procedures and methodology implemented between 1998 and 2002 
rather than the Department's current CIFMS, which is the current 
process described in your report. OSEP developed and implemented the 
new CIFMS largely in recognition of the same deficiencies in process 
and timeliness noted by the GAO with the LIMP.

The CIFMS targets resources on performance issues most closely related 
to improved results for children with disabilities and to those States 
most in need of improvement on these performance issues. This targeting 
of resources in CIFMS enables OSEP to work with States to improve both 
performance and compliance. The CIFMS integrates self-assessment and 
improvement planning into an Annual Performance Report (APR). This 
integration reduces the reporting burden on States, reduces the number 
of OSEP responses to States, focuses OSEP resources and improves 
timeliness of these responses.

OSEP also has improved its timeliness for issuing monitoring reports 
since implementing CIFMS. OSEP has conducted 29 verification monitoring 
visits under the CIFMS since 2003 and has issued 24 verification 
monitoring reports. The purpose of these visits is to evaluate State 
general supervision and assessment systems for compliance with the law 
and to evaluate whether State data systems are designed to produce 
valid and reliable information. In some cases, these visits have 
revealed problems in other areas as well. These visits have become an 
important vehicle for providing State-specific technical assistance 
about the issues under review. The timeline for issuing reports for 
these visits under the new CIFMS is an average of 4 months, a 
substantial improvement over the previous system.

The new CIFMS approach of incorporating improvement plans in the APRs 
is resulting in the timely receipt of and response to State improvement 
plans. We are currently reviewing the APRs that were due from each 
State on March 31, 2004. Our goal is to issue all responses by 
September 30, 2004. We have issued 9 response letters, with 40 more 
under development.

The Department's new CIFMS is leading to more timely correction of 
noncompliance. When noncompliance is identified through the 
verification monitoring or APR review, a State is required to submit 
documentation of correction within 60 days. Alternatively, if the State 
cannot document correction, it must submit a plan within 60 days to 
ensure correction within one year of OSEP's acceptance of the plan. We 
also are working closely with those States monitored under the CIMP 
with open noncompliance issues. Most of the States with outstanding 
noncompliance issues have made considerable progress in correcting the 
noncompliance. We anticipate resolving most of the noncompliance 
identified through the CIMP by the end of the calendar year.

You discuss the need to improve States' data reporting systems and 
provide technical assistance to the States about collecting performance 
data. OSEP also identified this as a concern and is addressing this 
through our investments in several OSEP-funded centers that provide 
States with important technical assistance to improve their data 
collection. Specifically, the National Center on Special Education 
Accountability Monitoring is developing a parent involvement survey for 
use by States. This survey is moving into the pilot-test phase and 
should be available for State use next summer. Other centers are 
working with OSEP to prepare model data collection and analysis 
strategies for reporting in areas such as early childhood and secondary 
transition, preschool and post-secondary outcomes, and dispute 
resolution.

The Department is in favor of using the compliance agreement process, 
as appropriate to an individual State's situation, and as a way for a 
State to continue to receive federal funds while working to correct 
noncompliance within a reasonable period of time not to exceed 3 years 
from the date of the agreement. Because the compliance agreement 
process is voluntary on the part of the State, the Department cannot 
independently use our "authority to initiate compliance agreement 
proceedings" as you recommend, however. We have attempted, in the past, 
to make States aware of the benefits of entering into a compliance 
agreement and will continue this practice.

We appreciate the acknowledgement in the draft report that the 
Department continues in its efforts to improve accountability measures 
in a way that drives and supports increased compliance and improved 
results for children with disabilities. We note that the Draft Report 
confirms our analysis of the deficiencies in the CIMP and we believe 
the Department's new CIFMS is effectively addressing these deficiencies 
in a way that promotes accountability for results in a timely manner.

As is customary, we are providing suggested technical and production 
edits separately. We are available to discuss any of our suggested 
changes with your staff if this would be helpful to you.

Sincerely,

Signed by: 

Troy R. Justesen, Ed.D.
Delegated the authority to perform the functions of Assistant Secretary 
for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services:

Enclosure: 

[End of section]

Appendix IV: GAO Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments:

GAO Contacts:

Deborah Edwards, (202) 512-5416, edwardsd@gao.gov Tamara Fucile, (202) 
512-9895, fucilet@gao.gov:

Staff Acknowledgments:

The following people also made important contributions to this report: 
Ellen Soltow, Summer Pachman, Behn Kelly, Susan Bernstein, and Walter 
Vance.

[End of section]

Related GAO Products:

Special Education: Additional Assistance and Better Coordination Needed 
among Education Offices to Help States Meet the NCLBA Teacher 
Requirements. GAO-04-659. Washington, D.C.: July 15, 2004.

Special Education: Clearer Guidance Would Enhance Implementation of 
Federal Disciplinary Provisions. GAO-03-550. Washington, D.C.: May 20, 
2003.

Special Education: Numbers of Formal Disputes Are Generally Low and 
States Using Mediation and Other Strategies to Resolve Conflicts. GAO- 
03-897. Washington, D.C.: September 9, 2003.

School Dropouts: Education Could Play a Stronger Role in Identifying 
and Disseminating Promising Prevention Strategies. GAO-02-240. 
Washington, D.C.: February 1, 2002.

Student Discipline: Individuals With Disabilities Education Act. GAO- 
01-210. Washington, D.C.: January 25, 2001.

FOOTNOTES

[1] Hereafter, we will use the term "states" to refer to states, U.S. 
territories, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Bureau of Indian 
Affairs. 

[2] IDEA requires that the IEP team include (1) the child's parents; 
(2) at least one of the child's regular education teachers, if the 
child is participating in the regular education environment; (3) at 
least one special education teacher, or if appropriate, at least one 
provider of the child's special education; (4) a representative of the 
public agency qualified to provide, or supervise, special education and 
who is knowledgeable about the general curriculum and the resources 
available from the public agency; (5) an individual who can interpret 
the instructional implications of educational results; (6) at the 
discretion of the parent or the agency, other individuals with 
knowledge or expertise about the child; and (7) the child, if 
appropriate.

[3] The procedural safeguards afforded parents include written prior 
notice whenever Education proposes to initiate or change, or refuses to 
initiate or change, the identification, evaluation or educational 
placement of the child, and the provision of a free, appropriate, 
public education to the child. 

[4] The special conditions require correction of noncompliance during 
the 1-year grant period.

[5] Education must provide the state education agency with reasonable 
notice and the opportunity for a hearing before withholding funds, 
disapproving a state's grant application, seeking a cease and desist 
order, entering into a long-term compliance agreement, or making a 
referral to Justice. According to Education, the type of hearing will 
differ depending on which enforcement action is proposed.

[6] The 1997 amendments authorized the Education, at its discretion, to 
withhold part of a state's IDEA funding, instead of just the entire 
grant. Additionally, the amendments established the authority for 
Education to refer noncompliant states to Justice.

[7] Back to School on Civil Rights, National Council on Disability, 
Jan. 25, 2000. The National Council on Disability is an independent 
federal agency that makes recommendations to the President and Congress 
on disability-related issues. 

[8] States are not required to report procedural data to Education that 
are not closely related to student performance, such as information 
about the distribution of procedural safeguard notices, local education 
agencies' applications for state grants, and compliance with IDEA 
confidentiality provisions. States are required, however, to monitor 
state systems in these procedural areas to ensure that states and 
localities are in full compliance with IDEA regulations.

[9] Measures of various educational environments are related to IDEA's 
requirement that children with disabilities be educated in the least 
restrictive environment, that is, educated with nondisabled children to 
the maximum extent appropriate. IDEA requires states to report these 
data, as well as graduation and dropout rates.

[10] Under Education's current monitoring system, CIFMS, these visits 
will be called "focused monitoring visits" because they will focus on 
specific critical indicators of performance, such as measures of 
various educational environments. 

[11] Plans addressing noncompliance may be called either corrective 
action plans or improvement plans. According to Education officials, 
corrective action plans address only noncompliance, while improvement 
plans address noncompliance, as well as other performance issues.

[12] Education officials told us that they do not specifically look for 
noncompliance during data verification visits, but if noncompliance is 
detected they address it.

[13] Seventy-five percent of the 24 states were selected for site- 
visits because the results of the audits revealed potential data 
collection problems, while the remaining 25 percent were randomly 
selected.

[14] These are the focused monitoring visits mentioned previously.

[15] For more information on variations in school dropout rates, see 
GAO, School Dropouts: Education Could Play a Stronger Role in 
Identifying and Disseminating Promising Prevention Strategies, GAO-02- 
240 (Washington, D.C.: Feb. 1, 2002).

[16] As of July 2004, the center is working with approximately half of 
all states, including 2 of the 5 states we visited. 

[17] For our analysis, we defined a service compliance issue as an 
activity that directly provides the student with a basic service 
required by IDEA or an activity that will immediately facilitate the 
provision of a basic service required by IDEA. A procedural compliance 
issue was defined as an activity that meets a process-oriented 
requirement of IDEA. While the implementation of these process-oriented 
requirements might improve the special education program immediately or 
over time, the activity or process does not directly provide or 
immediately facilitate a basic service to a student. 

[18] We could not determine from the documentation Education provided 
the nature of the issues that remain unresolved in the 23 states that 
have not yet closed their findings of noncompliance. For the 7 states 
that have closed their findings of noncompliance, Education issued 
letters to the states indicating that all issues of noncompliance had 
been addressed.

[19] In the 12 cases where Education's documentation included dates 
needed to calculate this period of time, states took from 2 to 18 
months to submit the initial corrective action plan.

[20] In the enforcement case against 28 states for failing to report 
publicly on alternate assessments, the sanction was imposed in a 
shorter period.

[21] We examined records for 17 states, but due to incomplete 
documentation and other reasons, we were able to draw conclusions about 
the timeliness of resolution for only 9 states.

[22] The 1997 amendments organized IDEA into four parts: A, B, C, and 
D. Part A contains general provisions of the act, including the act's 
purposes and definitions. Part B contains provisions relating to the 
education of school-aged and preschool children, including eligibility 
requirements, funding formulas, and educational placement and service 
requirements. Part C pertains to services for infants and toddlers with 
disabilities. Part D concerns national activities designed to improve 
educational programs for disabled children.

GAO's Mission:

The Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of 
Congress, exists to support Congress in meeting its constitutional 
responsibilities and to help improve the performance and accountability 
of the federal government for the American people. GAO examines the use 
of public funds; evaluates federal programs and policies; and provides 
analyses, recommendations, and other assistance to help Congress make 
informed oversight, policy, and funding decisions. GAO's commitment to 
good government is reflected in its core values of accountability, 
integrity, and reliability.

Obtaining Copies of GAO Reports and Testimony:

The fastest and easiest way to obtain copies of GAO documents at no 
cost is through the Internet. GAO's Web site ( www.gao.gov ) contains 
abstracts and full-text files of current reports and testimony and an 
expanding archive of older products. The Web site features a search 
engine to help you locate documents using key words and phrases. You 
can print these documents in their entirety, including charts and other 
graphics.

Each day, GAO issues a list of newly released reports, testimony, and 
correspondence. GAO posts this list, known as "Today's Reports," on its 
Web site daily. The list contains links to the full-text document 
files. To have GAO e-mail this list to you every afternoon, go to 
www.gao.gov and select "Subscribe to e-mail alerts" under the "Order 
GAO Products" heading.

Order by Mail or Phone:

The first copy of each printed report is free. Additional copies are $2 
each. A check or money order should be made out to the Superintendent 
of Documents. GAO also accepts VISA and Mastercard. Orders for 100 or 
more copies mailed to a single address are discounted 25 percent. 
Orders should be sent to:

U.S. Government Accountability Office

441 G Street NW, Room LM

Washington, D.C. 20548:

To order by Phone:

 

Voice: (202) 512-6000:

TDD: (202) 512-2537:

Fax: (202) 512-6061:

To Report Fraud, Waste, and Abuse in Federal Programs:

Contact:

Web site: www.gao.gov/fraudnet/fraudnet.htm

E-mail: fraudnet@gao.gov

Automated answering system: (800) 424-5454 or (202) 512-7470:

Public Affairs:

Jeff Nelligan, managing director,

NelliganJ@gao.gov

(202) 512-4800

U.S. Government Accountability Office,

441 G Street NW, Room 7149

Washington, D.C. 20548: