Comments that Parents Hear: “Your child is too smart to have an IEP.”

Fact: Intelligence has no bearing on disability or need. Even individuals with genius level IQs can have a disability that affects their ability to access the curriculum.

A student with a disability and “high cognition” can have needs (organizational skills, homework completion, social skills, counseling, and classroom behavior, etc.) that need to be addressed through special education and related services.

IDEA does not require schools to help a child reach their potential. However, OSEP does say that the school should “consider information about outside or extra learning support provided to the child”.  This would include support the family is providing directly or through tutors, assistive technology, related service providers or information on the amount of time the child spends studying and doing homework.

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“Since your child just moved here, there is no reason to review the IEP.”

It’s time for another of Chuck’s Comments that Parents Hear posts!

How should you respond if the school says: “Since your child just moved here, there is no reason to review the IEP. We will just transfer the old goals to our new forms.”

Recall the Law

The regulations differentiate between a student who has transferred within the state and one who transferred from another state.

If the student came from another school within the same state, the new school “in consultation with the parents” must provide FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education) to the child (including services comparable to those described in the child’s IEP from the previous public agency), until the new public agency either (1) Adopts the child’s IEP from the previous public agency; or (2) Develops, adopts, and implements a new IEP that meets the applicable requirements in 300.320 through 300.324.” 300.323(e)

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TEA’s Special Education Data Sharing Request

On Monday, June 19, 2017, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) sent the following letter to school administrators titled “Special Education Data Sharing Request – Eligibility for Reimbursement“. Many parents might wonder if sharing IEPs with the state is a violation of confidentiality. FERPA rules allow state education agency staff to view records for several purposes, including research. We believe the U.S. Department of Education is most likely aware that this will be part of TEA’s response to their report of the investigation of special education services in Texas.
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The Texas Education Agency (TEA) is committed to supporting districts, schools, and teachers as we strive to serve all our students well. As educators, we share a commitment to ensuring that all students, including those with disabilities, achieve academic success.

As part of this continued commitment, we are embarking on a process to utilize data from many sources and stakeholders to inform our long-term policy and programmatic goals to improve outcomes for students served by special education. Your participation in this project is important because the data from a large sample will help to ensure that we create a plan that is effective and responsive to the needs of all our students.

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Texas Legislative Update for June 2017

Chuck Noe, PRN Education Specialist,  shares his insights on newly signed Texas legislation.  Please keep in mind that even though a bill is effective immediately, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) must go through the process of developing and posting rules before schools can begin implementing some of the laws.

HB 657 

An ARD committee (IEP team) may promote a student to the next grade level if the committee concludes that the student has made sufficient progress in the measurable academic goals contained in the student’s IEP despite not passing the STAAR.  At the beginning of each school year, a district must inform parents of the options of the ARD committee if the student does not perform satisfactorily on an assessment instrument.  Effective immediately

HB 1645 

If a district allows a student to participate in a Special Olympics event, they must allow the student to earn a district letter.  This seems to be addressing a “fairness” or discrimination issue.  Effective immediately

SB 160

TEA may not adopt or implement a performance indicator in any agency monitoring system, including the performance-based monitoring analysis system, that solely measures a school district’s or open-enrollment charter school’s aggregated number or percentage of enrolled students who receive special education services.  TEA may still collect and examine data to determine whether significant disproportionality based on race or ethnicity is occurring in the state and in the school districts and open-enrollment charter schools.  Effective 5/22/2017

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Facilitated IEPs in Texas

In the last ten years, Texas has taken interest in the growing use of “facilitated IEPs” to assist in dealing with “difficult” IEP meetings and resolving disagreements.  In 2013, the Texas passed legislation addressing facilitated IEPs.  IEP facilitation offered by a school is now an option for resolving disputes.

TAC 89.1196 (a)  – IEP facilitation “refers to a method of alternative dispute resolution that involves the use of a trained facilitator to assist an admission, review, and dismissal (ARD) committee in developing an IEP for a student with a disability. The facilitator uses facilitation techniques to help the committee members communicate and collaborate effectively. While public schools are not required to offer IEP facilitation as an alternative dispute resolution method, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) encourages the use of IEP facilitation as described in this section.”

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IEPs and School Transfers

IDEA provides guidelines for a child with a disability transferring to another school in or out of district within the same state or out of state. The guidelines are specific as to the child’s right to have a free appropriate public education with services that are comparable to those in the previous IEP. It is important that the parents get copies of school records for their files, check with the new and existing schools to be sure the transfer request is made, make sure all records related to special or related services are included, and follow up with both schools if the transfer is not completed in a timely manner.

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Supreme Court Decision in Endrew F. Focuses on Mainstreaming, Progress, and Designing IEPs to Meet Child’s ‘Unique Needs’

What a great day! On March 22, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court issued another unanimous ruling in favor of children with special needs and their parents.

The Court emphasized that full inclusion is the primary standard, with the “child progressing smoothly through the regular curriculum.”

The Court held that “merely more than de minimis” progress is not enough. Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “…IDEA demands more. It requires an educational program reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.”

If a child is not fully included, school officials must look at the child’s unique needs before developing an IEP that is “pursuing academic and functional advancement.”

The decision in Endrew F. is a great victory for those who advocate children being fully integrated in regular education classrooms.

Per the statute – unique needs = specialized instruction.

Read Pete Wright’s analysis of the Supreme Court decision in Endrew v. Douglas County.

Return to Data Collection

What do you know about your child’s unique needs? You will get information about your child’s unique needs from test data that measures your child’s strengths, weaknesses, and educational needs.

How do you measure the educational benefit? You look at changes in the test data over time.

  • Are your child’s standard scores, percentile ranks going up over time or going down?
  • Is your child regressing? Is he being damaged by an inappropriate educational program?
  • Is your child making progress and showing educational benefit?

We hope that the decision in Endrew F. will lead to a return to data collection and analysis of the data over time, instead of relying on subjective perceptions about a child’s progress.

Schools used to rely on data and objective measures of progress, before the 1991 decision in Shannon Carter’s case. After Carter, school districts stopped using objective tests to measure progress and embraced subjective “teacher observations.”

This is a great day! In Endrew F., the Court focused on educational progress, growth, and developing IEPs to meet the child’s unique needs, while also re-emphasizing the goal of integration or inclusion in regular education.

Congratulations to Endrew F’s parents and their attorney, Jack Robinson, Esq. of Spies, Powers & Robinson, Denver, CO. This was such a long battle. You lost at every level, until the Supreme Court agreed to hear your case, then ruled in your favor.


ARD/IEP Committee Decision Making Process

Federal regulations refer to an IEP team.  In Texas, this team is referred to as the Admission, Review, and Dismissal or ARD committee. This committee meets at least once a year to develop, review and/or revise a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP).

IDEA says that the IEP meeting serves as a communication vehicle between parents and school personnel, and enables them, as equal participants, to make joint, informed decisions regarding-

  • The student’s needs and appropriate goals designed to enable them to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum;
  • The extent to which the student will participate in the regular education environment and State and district-wide assessments;
  • The supplementary aids and services needed to support that involvement and participation (including in extracurricular and non-academic settings), and to achieve agreed-upon goals; and
  • The program modifications or supports for school personnel that will be provided to enable the student to advance toward their goals and to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum.

Parents are considered equal partners with school personnel in making these decisions, and the ARD committee must consider the parents’ concerns and the information that they provide regarding their child.

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Ignoring This Will Derail Your Child’s IEP Goals: An IEP Strategy

Traits, personality traits, or characteristics … no matter what you call them, if ignored, it is almost a guarantee that your child’s IEP goals will fail. What are these traits you ask?  They are the immeasurable qualities that make your child who they are.

Things like:

  • Your child’s learning style
  • Your child’s interests
  • Your child’s anxiety triggers or fears
  • Your child’s view of themselves

Knowing and documenting these characteristics will help everyone on the ARD committee understand how best to provide services to your child. It will also help you determine if a particular intervention or accommodation is right for your child. For example, because my son is a visual learner, with auditory processing and concentration issues, having read-aloud as an accommodation is counter-intuitive. Because I know this, I would ask that the accommodation be adapted (i.e, giving my child a book to follow along with or using turn-taking during read aloud).

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Amending an IEP without a Meeting

Today’s post discusses IEP amendments, when it can be useful to amend without a meeting, and things to consider when you are deciding whether to amend your child’s IEP without a meeting.

What is an IEP amendment?

During the school year, a parent or ARD committee member might decide that a student’s IEP needs a slight adjustment that may not warrant a full ARD meeting. When changes are small or limited to a particular service, amending without waiting for a meeting can be a useful way to quickly enact the change. For example, a new semester or school year might mean that goals or services need tweaking to work in the new setting. These adjustments may not require consulting with the entire ARD committee. Similarly, a conversation between the parent and a speech therapist may reveal that the student needs a new speech/language goal. The parent and speech therapist might agree on an appropriate goal without feeling the need for input from the rest of the ARD committee. In these situations, the parent and district can agree to change the IEP without calling a meeting of the entire team. This change is called an IEP amendment.

An IEP amendment cannot take the place of the required annual IEP meeting.

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