Thursday, July 24, 2014

GAO Report-Education for Children in Nursing Homes

The GAO released a report on July 16, 2014, Additional Federal Actions Could Help Address Unique Challenges of Educating Children in Nursing Homes. Here are some excerpts from the GAO summary of the report

Children in nursing homes represent a relatively small group of children whose medically complex conditions often present unique educational challenges. Of the nearly 5,000 school-age children in nursing homes nationwide, about 40 percent needed a feeding tube for nutrition and one-third needed oxygen therapy to help them breathe, according to GAO's analysis of 2012 data ...   GAO observed on recent site visits that these children also had conditions that affected learning... Because of their complex medical needs, these children often stayed in nursing homes for long periods of time—about one-third of them for more than a year....

States GAO visited required nursing homes to refer children to school districts for educational services, and in nursing homes GAO visited, staff typically collaborated with school district officials to help them understand the children's needs. Because of the children's medical fragility, education services were delivered primarily in classrooms at the nursing homes or one-on-one (often bedside), with a few children transported to local schools. Teachers that GAO observed used assistive technology and other methods to aid instruction.

State and local school officials reported challenges to serving children living in nursing homes, including curricula development and teacher training. In GAO's nationwide survey, 31 states indicated having adequate training for teachers was a challenge. According to school officials GAO interviewed, teachers may not be fully prepared to teach children with profound disabilities, and several teachers said they could benefit from the experiences of other teachers about how best to serve these children. While the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) recognizes the importance of information sharing to improve educational results for children, current technical assistance efforts supported by the Department of Education (Education) do not include mechanisms for teachers to share best practices about how to serve children with significant cognitive and multiple disabilities. Such information sharing about effective approaches and strategies could help teachers of children in nursing homes be more fully prepared to provide children with education commensurate with their unique needs.

Education and HHS have different, yet complementary, monitoring responsibilities with respect to children in nursing homes... Although collaboration between agencies with a common interest is a key practice, these agencies do not coordinate their monitoring efforts with respect to the education of these children. The relatively small size of this population makes it difficult for Education and states to gather information on whether these children receive education that meets IDEA requirements. Coordinated efforts between the two agencies could help close any potential gaps in Education's monitoring and help ensure that all children in nursing homes receive an education.

A pdf of the full report is available here.

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