Michigan Is the Only State That Needs Intervention in Special Education, According to Recent Federal Report

A recent evaluation by the U.S. Department of Education concluded that the state of Michigan requires intervention due to its failure to meet the federal special education requirements outlined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

In fact, Michigan was the only state slated for intervention (although some other states also failed to meet certain requirements and were classed as “needs assistance”). Washington D.C., Palau, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands also received “needs intervention.”

Why Does Michigan Need Special Education Intervention?

Some of the factors federal officials cited in Michigan’s designation include the following:

  1. A high dropout rate for students with disabilities. In Michigan, 29 percent of students with disabilities dropped out of school. In comparison, Massachusetts (which met IDEA requirements) had a dropout rate of 15 percent.
  2. Poor student performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). For example, 22 percent of Michigan fourth graders with disabilities scored basic or above in reading, compared to 45 percent of Massachusetts fourth graders with disabilities. In math, the percentages were 19 (Michigan fourth graders) and 46 (Massachusetts fourth graders).


What Does This Designation Mean?

If a state “needs intervention” for three consecutive years, there will be enforcement action, which may involve a corrective action plan, compliance agreement, or withholding of federal funding.

Marcie Lipsett, a special education advocate and civil rights activist, told The Detroit News that “Michigan has dropped further and further…the result is children with disabilities are suffering every year. The outcomes are nothing more than egregious.”

Lipsett attributed the state of special education in Michigan to insufficient funding and a lack of transparency at the Michigan Department of Education.


Chambers, Jennifer. “Feds: Mich. Only State to Need Special Ed Intervention.” Detroit News, DetroitNews, 17 July 2018, www.detroitnews.com/story/news/education/2018/07/16/feds-michigan-needs-special-education-intervention/788247002/.

“2018 Determination Letters on State Implementation of IDEA.” U.S. Department of Education, www2.ed.gov/fund/data/report/idea/ideafactsheet-determinations-2018.pdf.  

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