What can you do if the school appears unwilling and/or unable to create a program or services to prevent your child from falling further behind or to narrow the gap with his or her peers?  The school may say “Your child is making good progress” or “Your child is making passing grades”.

Recall the Law

An individualized education program “must include … A statement of measurable annual goals, including academic and functional goals designed to— (A) Meet the child’s needs that result from the child’s disability to enable the child to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum; and  (B) Meet each of the child’s other educational needs that result from the child’s disability; … (4) A statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services, based on peer-reviewed research to the extent practicable, to be provided to the child, or on behalf of the child, and a statement of the program modifications or supports for school personnel that will be provided to enable the child— (i) To advance appropriately toward attaining the annual goals;  (ii) To be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum”.  300.320(a)(2)(i)

The IDEA definition of “Special Education” focuses on “specially designed instruction” which is defined as “adapting, as appropriate to the needs of an eligible child … the content, methodology, or delivery of instruction– (i) To address the unique needs of the child that result from the child’s disability; and (ii) To ensure access of the child to the general curriculum, so that the child can meet the educational standards … that apply to all children.”  300.39(3)

Multiple Texas laws require extra instructional support for students who fail to meet the passing standard on a state assessment, who exhibit academic difficulties, or at risk of dropping out.

Texas law (TEC 28.006) requires districts to administer reading tests 3 times a year to students in kindergarten through second grade to assess their “reading development and comprehension” and to train educators in administering the reading instruments; and to apply the results to the instructional program.  Districts are to inform parents of any child who is at risk for dyslexia or other reading difficulties, and must “implement an accelerated reading instruction program for students who are determined … to be at risk for dyslexia or other reading difficulties”.  The ARD/IEP team determines the manner in which the student with a disability served by special education will participate in an accelerated reading instruction program.

The Student Success Initiative (SSI) (TEC 28.0211) requires accelerated instruction for students in grades 3rd through 8th.  This also includes students in special education.

Districts must provide accelerated instruction to any student who does not pass an end-of-course (EOC) test, or meets the criteria for dropping out of school.  (TEC 28.0217, 29.081, 39.025(b-1)

Texas law (TEC 28.0212 & .02121” say that students in middle and high schools who do not perform satisfactorily on the STAAR or are “not likely” to receive a high school diploma before the fifth school year following their enrolling in 9th grade are to have a personal graduation plan developed for them.  The plan identifies “educational goals for the student, includes monitoring, and an intensive instruction program.  It also must provide innovative methods to promote the student’s advancement, including flexible scheduling, alternative learning environments, on-line instruction, and other interventions proven to accelerate the learning process and have been scientifically validated to improve learning and cognitive ability.”  The plan must also address participation of the student’s parent, including consideration of their educational expectations for their child.

28.0213(b)  “A school district shall design the intensive program of instruction … to:  (1) enable the student to:

(A) to the extent practicable, perform at the student’s grade level at the conclusion of the next regular school term; or

(B) attain a standard of annual growth specified by the school district and reported by the district to the agency”

“The accelerated instruction plan must provide for interim progress reports to the student’s parent or guardian and the opportunity for consultation with the teacher and/or principal as needed.”  TAC 101.2007(i)

The Response

A student’s IEP may be used as their personal graduation plan.  If this is done, parents can request that consideration be given to the innovative methods and other options mentioned in state law, since these frequently are not included in an IEP.

It is important that parents push for high expectations in the goals set for their child.  With the use of technology, appropriate research based instruction programs and strategies, and accelerated instruction, expectations should be “reasonable”, but high.  Texas law sets an expectation of one academic year of growth per year for general ed students.

Laws requiring accelerated instruction and intensive programs of instruction applies to students with disabilities who participate in special education programs.  Schools decide the appropriate form, content and timing of the instruction based on the student’s needs.  Instruction can be provided before or after normal school hours and may include times of the year outside normal school operations.

“Students in special education, including those who take alternate state assessments and those who are not required to pass state assessments in order to graduate, are not excluded from the laws requiring accelerated instruction and intensive programs of instruction.”  The ARD committee is responsible for “determining the instructional interventions needed to assist the student in achieving the state academic standards and/or the standards set forth in the student’s IEP.”

Remember that the requirements for accelerated instruction, also apply to students provided services through Section 504.  This could be a way to request services/programs that schools do not typically offer for students with Section 504 plans.  This includes students served through a district’s dyslexia program.

Students with disabilities are to have access to all programs available to other students.  It is important to be aware of all programs available at the campus and district levels. The emphasis should be placed on the requirement that the student have access “to the general curriculum, so that the child can meet the educational standards … that apply to all children.” If an ARD/IEP team says that a program, including accelerated instruction and intensive programs of instruction is not appropriate for a child, the question should be “Why is this program not appropriate for my child?”  and “Why can accelerated instruction and intensive programs of instruction not be developed that will help them meet the state educational standards?”  If the team will not agree to the parent’s request, the parent must be provided prior written notice of refusal.

TEA says “Accommodations are changes to materials, actions, or techniques, including the use of technology, that enable students with disabilities to participate meaningfully in grade-level or course instruction. The use of accommodations occurs primarily during classroom instruction as educators use various instructional strategies to meet the needs of each student.”

“Digital books or text-to-speech functions on computers and mobile devices provide access to general education curriculum for students with dyslexia.”

Possible Questions for Parents to Ask the School

“Why is this program not appropriate for my child?” and “Why can accelerated instruction and intensive programs of instruction not be developed that will help them meet the state educational standards?”

“What can be tried with my child to close the academic gap with their peers in (subject(s))?

“What intensive programs of instruction have been successful with other students on this campus with needs similar to my child?”

“The dyslexia program being used with my child has been tried for ( x period) and they have made little/no progress.  I am requesting that a dyslexia consultant be used to determine what program and changes might work with him.”

“I am requesting that an instructional &/or technology consultant observe and evaluate my child to determine what strategies, programs, and technology can assist him in reaching the academic standards for his grade.”

“What technology is being used with my child to assist them in learning grade-level curriculum?”

This article was written by Chuck Noe, PRN Education Specialist.