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U.S. Department of Education: Promoting Educational Excellence for all Americans

Special education teachers teaching multiple subjects

Section 300.18(d) permits special education teachers who are not new to the profession and teach two or more core academic subjects exclusively to children with disabilities to demonstrate competence in all the core academic subjects that the teacher teaches in the same manner as other elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers who are new to the profession under 34 CFR 200.56(c), including through a High Objective Uniform State Standards of Evaluation (HOUSSE) covering multiple subjects. The final regulations allow more time (two years after the date of employment) for new special education teachers who teach multiple subjects and who have met the highly qualified requirements for mathematics, language arts, or science to demonstrate competence in other core academic subjects that they teach, as required by 34 CFR 200.56(c). The final regulations also clarify in Sec. 300.18(e) that States have the option of developing separate HOUSSE standards for special education teachers, including a single HOUSSE for special education teachers of multiple subjects. States may not establish lesser standards for content knowledge for special education teachers, however.

We are unable to estimate the number of new teachers who teach two or more core academic subjects exclusively to children with disabilities who might be affected by the additional time afforded by the regulation. However, the extent of savings relates to the number of subjects taught by teachers of multiple subjects and the benefits of enabling the affected teachers to take whatever coursework they need to demonstrate competence in those additional areas over a longer period of time. Under prior law, public agencies might have needed to employ additional teachers (or redeploy some existing teachers) in those subject areas in which their newly hired teachers could not immediately demonstrate competence. The Secretary concludes that the benefits of being able to hire teachers who are qualified in at least one subject area outweigh any costs to students being taught by teachers who currently do not meet the requirements in other areas but are working to demonstrate their knowledge in other areas in which they teach.

Since States are not permitted to establish a lesser standard for the content knowledge requirements for special education teachers, they are not likely to realize additional savings due to reduced expenses for coursework or professional development for special education teachers who have not demonstrated content area knowledge. States may realize administrative savings, however, by being able to use separate HOUSSE standards that are both aligned with their licensing or certification standards for special education teachers and that cover multiple subjects. The Secretary concludes that the final regulations could produce administrative savings for States without adversely affecting the quality of instruction provided to children taught by special education teachers assessed through a separate mechanism that upholds the same standards for content knowledge.

Limitation on number of reevaluations in a single year

Section 300.303(b)(1) prohibits conducting more than one reevaluation in a single year without the agreement of the school district and the parent. The previous regulations required reevaluations when conditions warranted one or at the request of either the child's parent or teacher.

Multiple evaluations in a single year are rare and are conducted when parents are not satisfied with the evaluation findings or methodology, children have a degenerative condition that affects the special education and related services needed, or very young children (ages three through four) are experiencing rapid development that may affect the need for services. The final regulations will not significantly affect the number of evaluations in the latter two instances because public agencies and parents are likely to agree that multiple evaluations are warranted. These cases, however, account for a very small number of the cases in which multiple evaluations are conducted each year.

Because evaluation findings may be used to support requests for due process hearings, we can use data on the number of requests for due process hearings to estimate the number of cases in which more than one evaluation in a single year would have been conducted because parents were not satisfied with the evaluation findings or methodology. Based on data from the recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, "Special Education: Numbers of Formal Disputes Are Generally Low and States Are Using Mediation and Other Strategies to Resolve Conflicts" (GAO-03-897), in which States reported receiving 11,068 requests for due process hearings during 1999-2000, we estimate that States would receive 20 requests for every 10,000 students with disabilities during the 2006-2007 school year. Based on the prevalence of complaints by parents, we estimate that, of the 1.7 million children estimated to be eligible for reevaluation in 2006-2007, multiple evaluations would have been requested by parents for an estimated 3,400 children. If we assume that these additional evaluations would cost about $1,000 each, public agencies could save $3.4 million under the final regulations by not agreeing to more than one evaluation of children in these instances.