“Finally, we are making some progress on behalf of districts who received a negative Local Determination for IDEA Compliance Indicators which would have impacted your ability to access IDEA funds from ARRA. The U.S. Department of Education has provided some additional flexibility that will benefit approximately half of the 320 districts. Additional details about this new flexibility can be found in the Special Education section of the weekly message. While this is good news, we will continue to seek flexibility for the remaining districts.
ISBE, like many of you, was concerned about how a “Needs Assistance” local determination for IDEA Compliance Indicators impacted your ability to utilize IDEA funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). [IDEA Money Watch note: To understand the impact of these local determinations see What's in a Rating]
ISBE staff continued to pursue flexibility for school districts in relation to the LEA Determinations after the April 29 issuance of the Determinations. Therefore, as mentioned in Dr. Koch’s June 9 Weekly Superintendent’s Message, ISBE staff have had several conversations with our counterparts at the United States Department of Education (USDE) over the past few weeks. During these conversations, ISBE staff advocated for maximum flexibility in regard to LEA Determinations as they relate to the utilization of ARRA funds
As a result of such conversations, ISBE received new information from the USDE Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) on June 5 regarding additional flexibility that was not previously allowed. On that date, ISBE was informed that, in addition to the ability to acknowledge substantial compliance for districts that meet an Indicator at 95% versus 100%, we are now able to utilize a cell size in relation to the LEA Determinations process.
Upon receipt of this new information, ISBE staff reconvened the LEA Determinations stakeholder group on June 9 to discuss the possibility of applying this latest flexibility for Illinois districts. At that time, the stakeholder group chose to implement a cell size of 45 students for IDEA Compliance Indicators 11, 12 and 13. For example, regarding Indicator 13, if a district has fewer than 45 sixteen-year-old students with IEPs, the district’s data would be considered “not applicable” for LEA Determination purposes only, and therefore, would not be considered in the district’s overall determination. However, this does not exempt the district from meeting the outlined State Performance Plan (SPP) target of 100% compliance for this Indicator. Instances in which a district does not meet the target of 100% compliance will still result in findings of noncompliance. The cell size of 45 students was selected to align with the cell size used to calculate Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).
The decision to incorporate the cell size flexibility option reduces the number of school districts designated as “Needs Assistance” from 321 districts to 159 districts. ISBE staff contacted the districts whose designation was positively impacted by the new cell size flexibility, including districts that had previously appealed their LEA Determination and were denied. These districts will receive a corrected LEA determination letter to document the change.”