Less than one in five states is making the grade when it comes to providing special education services to children with physical and mental disabilities, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was amended in 2004 to include an annual evaluation of how well each state is implementing the requirements of the Act.As part of this amendment, each state is required to implement a State Performance Plan and then turn in an Annual Performance Report (APR), describing its progress in meeting the goals set forth in its plan.

Upon review of these APRs for the 2005-06 school year, submitted in February 2007, the U.S. Department of Education has divided the states into four performance categories – Meets Requirements, Needs Assistance, Needs Intervention, and Needs Substantial Intervention – based on how well they are meeting the requirements of the Act for children ages 3 to 21 years old.

While the good news is that no states fell into the fourth category (“needs substantial intervention”), a U.S. Department of Education policy update released in June 2007 says that only nine states – Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Michigan, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Wyoming – are fulfilling the requirements of serving children with special needs.

Thirty-six states could use some help in implementing the IDEA, while five states – Colorado, Indiana, North Carolina, North Dakota and Washington – fell into the “needs intervention” category.