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August 31, 2022 Meeting Minutes - Transparency and Timelines

PALS Meeting Minutes

August 31, 2022 9:30 a.m.

Virtual Meeting using Zoom


Open Forum

Open Forum is an opportunity for participants to come together and discuss a variety of topics, offer resources, and ask questions related to special education.


Transparency and Timelines

We have often heard the stories and in some cases experienced a school district's lack of transparency when it comes to Special Education. From how to begin the evaluation process to the mandated timelines a district must follow, it can all be very overwhelming and frustrating. Although Child Find exists, things like Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) and Response To Instruction and Intervention (RTII) can cause some students to fall through the cracks or just get pushed through. Parents and caregivers often look to school districts to alert them of a challenge a student may face in their education, however far to often it is the parent who must educate themselves and advocate for what they believe is in the best interest of their child. Advocating for your child as you also teach them to advocate for themselves is not easy. The hill may seem too steep at first, however as you learn more about the process and grow, it will become easier. Take advantage of those around you who have shared experiences, even if the diagnosis of your child may be different than another, the process will be similar. The possible goals, accommodations, modifications, adaptations (also known as SDIs or Specially Designed Instruction) are boundless.


Let's break it down:


IDEA

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a law that makes available a free appropriate public education to eligible children with disabilities throughout the nation and ensures special education and related services to those children.


The IDEA governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education, and related services to more than 7.5 million (as of school year 2018-19) eligible infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities.


Infants and toddlers, birth through age 2, with disabilities and their families receive early intervention services under IDEA Part C. Children and youth ages 3 through 21 receive special education and related services under IDEA Part B.


Click here to learn more about IDEA.


CHILD FIND

Child find is the process of identifying and evaluating children with disabilities who may be in need of special education and related services. Both state and local education agencies are given the responsibility by federal and state laws, to conduct child find activities so that children who need special services have the opportunity to receive those services. Qualifying children who are age 3 through 22, are eligible for special education services.


Click here for more on Child Find in Pennsylvania.


MTSS, RTII, and RTI

You may find yourself faced with the dreaded, "We do that for all our students." statement. We love to hear that EVERY student receives the support they need. In reality, some students need even MORE support and they QUALIFY and deserve that support to be legally binding in the form of an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). Do not let this statement stop you for continuing to ask for an Evaluation. So, where does this all powerful statement come from? It's called Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS), Response to Intervention (RTI), and Response to Instruction and Intervention (RTII).


Pennsylvania’s Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) is a standards-aligned, comprehensive school improvement FRAMEWORK for enhancing academic, behavioral and social-emotional outcomes for ALL students. Response to Intervention (RTI) refers to the methodology that is used to determine how slow is slow (rate of growth) and how low is low (student’s level of performance), as an alternative to ability-achievement discrepancy within a comprehensive Specific Learning Disability (SLD) Determination process.


Pennsylvania, along with many other states, refer to this alternative as the “RTI Approach” to evaluating Specific Learning Disabilities. In order to use RTI for SLD Determination, schools must seek approval through the Bureau of Special Education’s (BSE) established RTI/SLD Approval/Renewal Process. Schools are required to demonstrate that they have technically adequate MTSS models for improving the outcomes of ALL students and that decisions rendered within the SLD Determination process are empirically-informed.


Click here for more information about MTSS and RTII.


TIMELINES

The timelines in Special Education are always a hot topic. Some school district will work at a pace that seems quicker than the allotted time and others seem to take the entire time allotted.


According to Pennsylvania Law, Chapter 14 Special Education Services and Programs and Federal Regulations Part 300, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), special education services must be delivered according to mandatory timelines. Chapter 14 regulations are adopted by the State Board of Education. These provisions are in addition to the federal regulations adopted for the delivery of special education to students in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.


In addition, a "reasonable amount of time" is generally considered to be 10 calendar days; however, there may be individual circumstances that would require additional days to respond to the parents’ request for an evaluation (e.g., when a student has recently enrolled in the district). A "school term" is the period of time elapsing between the opening of the public schools in the fall of one year and the closing of the public schools in the spring of the following year. (Pennsylvania Public School Code. Section 102: Definitions. [Online]. Available: www.legis.state.pa.us/WU01/LI/LI/US/HTM/1949/0/0014..HTM) Note: The time starts when the entire staff is present, not the first instructional day for students.


Click here for the Special Education Timeline pamphlet provided by PaTTAN.


PROCEDURAL SAFEGUARDS NOTICE

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Federal law concerning the education of students with disabilities, requires the Local Education Agency (LEA) to provide parents of a child with a disability with this notice containing a full explanation of the procedural safeguards available under the IDEA and the U.S. Department of Education regulations. A copy of this notice must be given to parents only once a school year, or: (1) upon initial referral or parent request for evaluation; (2) upon filing by parents of their first State complaint under 34 CFR §§300.151 through 300.153 and upon filing by parents of their first due process complaint under §300.507 in a school year; (3) when a decision is made to take a disciplinary action that constitutes a change of placement; and (4) upon parent request. [34 CFR §300.504(a)]

This procedural safeguards notice must include a full explanation of all of the procedural safeguards available under §300.148 (unilateral placement at private school at public expense), §§300.151 through 300.153 (State complaint procedures), §300.300 (consent), §§300.502 through 300.503, §§300.505 through 300.518, and §§300.530 through 300.536 (procedural safeguards in Subpart E of the Part B regulations), and §§300.610 through 300.625 (confidentiality of information provisions in Subpart F). This model form provides a format that LEAs may choose to use to provide information about procedural safeguards to parents.


Click here for a copy of the Procedural Safeguards Notice provided by PaTTAN.


IEP MEETINGS

YOU are a member of the IEP team just as members of the school and district are members. Your input is just as valuable as theirs. Make sure to always include your Parental Concerns during the Evaluation Process AND any time the IEP will be updated. Do not be afraid to provide more information than the form provides room for. This is your chance to express your observations, concerns, and the strengths and challenges you see in your child. It is a paper trail many parents have used to support setting new Goals or SDIs throughout grade levels.


Ask for a draft of the IEP to be sent to you before the meeting. As for a week, accept 48 hours. IEPs are to be written during an IEP meeting, however these IEPs are often drafted in advance and sometimes changes are made during the meeting. The person involved in drafting the IEP knows what will be discussed, why shouldn't you? You are an equal member of this team.


You can call an IEP meeting at anytime. You do not have to wait for an annual meeting. Make sure you do it in writing. Indicate what you believe needs to be discussed or modified within the IEP.


You can bring anyone with you to an IEP meeting; a friend, an educational advocate, a lawyer. Let the school know who will be joining you. You don't need a reason.


After the IEP Meeting, don't be shy. If you have a concern about what's going on in the classroom, or while your child is being pulled into a resource classroom, ask to meet with the teacher and/or aide. Present your concerns and work to find a solution.


The example that came up during our meeting was great. A parent doesn't agree with the 50/50 chance offered on an assessment being read aloud to the student and believes that ultimately it is leading to the student being pushed through and not really learning. Another parent indicated that the 50/50 chance would actually help their child express their knowledge of the material. Both circumstances may be correct, each student is different. Another view on this 50/50 chance offer on an assessment is, if the material is being read aloud to the student, HOW is it being read? Is the reader possibly striking a different tone when asking, "Is it answer "A" or is it answer "b"." The change could be giving the answer.


Sitting down and having a conversation about how the material is presented could be beneficial to the overall outcome. It's possible that the reader doesn't even realize they're doing it.


In addition, don't be afraid to request information from local and state standardized tests. Generally, school district will conduct a "local assessment" three times a year to measure growth in an academic area. They use this data to best support each student. "State assessments" are normally done once a year, during the Spring.


GOALS

The IEP specifies learning goals for students with disabilities and should be based on or referenced to PA Core Standards for Math and ELA, and the PA Academic Standards in Science. There are different ways to make the connection between the PA Core and Academic Standards, Assessment Anchors, Eligible Content or Alternate Eligible Content and the IEP.


Annual goals are designed to meet the student’s needs that result from his/her disability to enable him/her to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum. Annual goals are designed to meet each of the student’s other education needs that result from his/her disability. Measurable Annual Goal: Annual goals, including academic and functional goals, are statement in measurable terms that describe what reasonable expectations can be accomplished within a twelve-month period. A measurable goal must contain:

  • Condition: The condition (situation, setting, or given material) under which the behavior is to be performed.

  • The student’s name.

  • Clearly defined behavior: The specific action the student will be expected to perform.

  • The performance criteria desired: The level the student must demonstrate for mastery, the number of times the student must demonstrate the skill for mastery, and how frequently the teacher assesses the student’s mastery of the skill.

There must be a direct relationship between the annual goals and the present levels of academic achievement and functional performance. Annual goals are required for areas that are directly affected by the student’s disability. Describe HOW the student’s progress toward meeting this goal will be measured: The IEP team must decide how the annual goals will be measured. Goals can be measured through formal or informal assessment tools such as:

  • Math/Reading probes

  • Rubrics

  • Teacher-made tests

  • Checklists

  • Inventories How progress will be measured is determined by the IEP team. Progress monitoring is linked to the day-to-day instructional and assessment process. Describe WHEN periodic reports on progress will be provided to parents: The IEP team must decide when the progress on those annual goals will be reported to parents. This reporting must be done at least concurrent with the issuance of report cards through quarterly and other periodic reports, such as:

• Addenda to report cards • Special progress reporting instruments • Duplicated copies of the goals and objectives page of the IEP

• Documented phone conferences with parents, OR • Other means decided by the IEPteam

Report of Progress: This last column is to document the student’s progress toward each goal to the parent. It is not to be completed when the IEP is being developed. It may be helpful to write the date when progress will be reported. This page can be duplicated and sent home as the progress reporting instrument.


SDI

Specially designed instruction means adapting, as appropriate, the content, methodology, or delivery of instruction to address the unique needs of the student that result from the student's disability and to ensure access of the student to the general education curriculum so that he or she can meet the educational goals.


As a parent/caregiver and a member of your child's IEP Team, you can utilize the Parent Concern portion of an Evaluation, Re-Evaluation, or IEP to express an SDI that you believe would be beneficial to your child meeting an educational goal. You can research "SDI for Math", "SDI for Reading", "SDI for Physical Education", etc... to help root the modification you believe are needed in the language that the school and district use.

 

Next Meeting: September 28, 2022 9:30 a.m. Virtual Meeting using Zoom. We will be joined by Impact Parents and learn about the coach-approach to parenting complex kids.

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SPECIAL NOTE

All meetings will be held virtually until further notice.


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