The Marshall Islands was the only US-affiliated island that met new performance requirements of US Special Education legislation.
In 2018, more rigorous standards were used by the Office for Special Education Programs (OSEP) of the US Department of Education to quantify how well states and US-affiliated areas are implementing special education legislation. Up until 2017, the standards focused on meeting regulatory requirements outlined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). RMI had met those requirements for the last several years.
New more rigorous standards were introduced in 2016-17 that went beyond compliance and included student outcome data such as participation of students with disabilities in the Marshall Islands Standard Achievement Test (MISAT), dropout rates, and graduation rates for students with disabilities. The Public School System relies heavily on US federal funding to support its national Special Education program.
In anticipation of the new, more rigorous standards for Special Education, the PSS Special Education team worked with schools, PSS administrative staff and stakeholders to improve student outcomes.
PSS existing procedures were reviewed and revised as appropriate. School principals and teachers were trained on the new requirements of IDEA and received professional development specifically tailored to improve the participation of students with disabilities in the MISAT, reduce drop out rates, and improve graduation rates for students with disabilities. Improving graduation rates and reducing dropout rates have been the main goal of the PSS’s State Systemic Improvement Plan (SSIP), initiated in 2014.
The efforts to improve student outcomes include assistance directly from OSEP, and the OSEP-sponsored centers providing technical assistance. The effort of PSS, their staff, school principals and teachers, and technical assistance providers paid off, as participation rates improved, dropout rates were reduced, and graduation rates are improving.
Preliminary data indicate student outcomes continue to improve for the next round of performance measures (data from school year 2017-18).
“We need to recognize the successful effort PSS staff have invested to achieve progress so far,” said Cesar D’Agord, who works with the US National Center for Systemic Improvement and has been providing technical assistance for the past several years. “Although Marshall Islands and a few other Pacific entities have been meeting the requirements of special education legislation for the last several years, with the implementation of the higher standards, Marshall Islands is the only entity to meet the new requirements.”
Read more about this in the August 24, 2018 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.