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The Special Ed Advocate Newsletter
April 21, 1998

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ISSN: 1538-3202


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The Special Ed Advocate is our free online newsletter about special education legal issues, cases, tactics and strategy, educational methods that work, and Internet links.

We publish this newsletter occasionally, when time permits. Back issues of The Special Ed Advocate are archived at our web site -

http://www.wrightslaw.com

As a subscriber to The Special Ed Advocate, you will receive announcements and "alerts" about new cases and other events. Contact, copyright, and subscription information can be found at the end of this newsletter.


HIGHLIGHTS OF IDEA-97

IDEA-97 is a "wake up call" to public school administrators—improve special education outcomes now! Special education will be "a service for children, not a place where they are sent." Here are some highlights of IDEA 97 -

* Schools Must Use Effective Practices and Research Based Methods

* Schools Must Use Effective Early Intervention Techniques

* To Improve Special Ed Outcomes, IDEA 97 Strengthens the Role of Parents and Educators

* IEPs Must Have "Measurable Annual Goals" to Monitor the Child’s Progress

* Parents Must Be Included in All Decisions About Evaluations, Eligibility, IEPs, Placement

* Parents’ Concerns and Information Must be Considered in Developing IEPs

* Parents Must Be Advised About Child’s Progress or Lack of Progress Toward IEP Goals

* Regular Education Teachers Are Members of the IEP Team

* Children with Disabilities Will Be Integrated into Regular Education Classes, Learn General Curriculum


IEPs and the NEW Proposed Appendix C

Appendix C is a great tool for parents and educators. The U. S. Department of Education has published the new proposed Appendix C. The new proposed Appendix C includes 32 Questions and Answers about IEPs. You can read the full text of the NEW proposed Appendix C at our site. This is a "must read" article for all parents and educators who attend IEP meetings. The new regulations about IEPs become effective July 1, 1998.

In the past, special education efforts and IEPs have often focused on "school issues" - teaching children to follow school rules and what is expected of them as students. Is this the purpose of special education? Not according to IDEA 97.

Special education should teach children to read, write, spell, and do arithmetic. Children need these skills to succeed later - in work, school, and independent living. IDEA 97 emphasizes the importance of comprehensive transition services in IEPs to prepare children for life after school.

To find out what the regulations propose about IEPs, read "IEPs and the NEW Appendix C." Read these proposed regs, highlighter in hand, and become a real expert on special education law!

What Are Measurable Annual Goals and Measurable Short-term Objectives?

IEP Goals must relate to the child’s disability - and they must be MEASURABLE. The new law mandates "measurable annual goals, including benchmarks or short term objectives." In addition to MEASURABLE goals, the IEP must include MEASURABLE intermediate steps (short-term objectives) or major milestones (benchmarks) so that parents and educators can measure the child’s progress during the year. The child’s IEP should be reviewed and revised whenever necessary during the year. (Question 1 in IEPs and Appendix C)

The new law gives power to parents. What happens if the parents and school disagree about some portion of the child’s IEP? "The IEP meeting serves as a communication vehicle between parents and school personnel, and enables them, as equal participants, to make joint, informed decisions" about the child’s needs, appropriate goals and objectives, the extent to which the child will be mainstreamed, and the services the child will receive.

"Parents are to be equal partners with school personnel" in all decisions about testing, IEP goals and objectives, placement, assessment, and needed services. The IEP team must consider the parents’ concerns and information about the child in developing and reviewing IEPs (See Question 9 in "IEPs and Appendix C")

Who should attend IEP meetings?

Feeling overwhelmed or intimidated by the number of school staff at the IEP meeting? Take heart. The new law says that IEP team should only include "individuals who have knowledge or special expertise about the child." (This is a change from prior law.) "Attendance at IEP meetings should be limited to those who have an intense interest in the child." (See Question 26 in IEPs and Appendix C)

How often should IEP meetings be held?

Do you have concerns that your child is not making good progress in special ed? The school should convene a meeting and revise the IEP to address your concerns about "Any lack of expected progress toward the annual goals and in the general curriculum." The school should revise the IEP when there is new information about the child - from new testing or from the child’s parents or teachers. There should be as many IEP meetings as any one child needs. (See Question 20 in IEPs and Appendix C)

To get a copy of IEPs and the NEW Appendix C, go to -


TWO NEW CASES ABOUT DAMAGES - DIFFERENT OUTCOMES

Law changes and evolves. Different courts will interpret a statute - or the same words in a statute - differently. These differing interpretations cause the body of law to grow from statutes and regulations to case law.

On April 3, a jury awarded $600,000 to the parents of a handicapped child in Whitehead v. Hillsborough.

http://www.wrightslaw.com/whitehead.html
On April 13, the Fourth Circuit held that damages were not available in the case of an 18 year old boy who did not receive special education services until late high school. See Sellers v. Manassas.
http://www.wrightslaw.com/sellers_manassas.html
Two damages cases - different outcomes. To learn why, read these new cases in The Law Library.

HOT LINKS!

LD Online - An Award Winning Site! LD Online is a great source for information about the needs of children with disabilities.

IDEA 97 focuses on using "what works" - effective educational practices that are replicable and research based. To provide parents and educators with up-to-date information about "what works," LD Online is hosting an "Ask the Expert Panel" from April 11 through April 24, 1998. To read the postings, go to the bulletin board section.

At the LD Online site, you will find information about—

ADD/ADHD
Technology

Family Issues

Gifted/LD

IEPs

Assessment

Legal Issues

Social Skills

Transition

Reading

Math Skills

Writing

Processing Deficits

Teaching Techniques

More Links: IEPs and IEP Meetings

Check out the excellent article "Writing Individualized Education Programs for Success" by Dr. Barbara Bateman. Dr. Bateman wrote "Better IEPs." (LD Online site, "LD In-Depth," Section About IEPs)

We have written two articles about IEPs. Read both. We believe that if parents want to participate in IEP meetings and assume a rule in the draftsmanship of the IEP, they must understand educational progress - how to measure success or failure. Educational benefit is best measured independently and objectively, by disinterested observers who do not have an interest in the outcome of the test data. That is the theme of our articles, "Your Child’s IEP: Practical and Legal Guidance for Parents" and "Understanding Tests and Measurements." Both are available at our website.


Effective IEP Teams

Read "Seven Habits of Highly Effective IEP Teams" by Eileen Hammar and Anne Malatchi. (at LD Online site, LD In-depth Section on IEPs) With thanks to Stephen Covey, this article focuses on an active, organized approach to IEP meetings:

Rule 1: Be Proactive. "Taking initiative does not mean being pushy, obnoxious, or aggressive. It does mean recognizing our responsibility to make things happen."Rule 2: Begin with the End in Mind. The IEP team must know the child and envision the future. What are this child’s strengths? Weaknesses? Goals? Needs? The IEP team should focus on the big picture - being successful in "life after school" - then decide how to get from the present to the future.

Rule 3: Put First Things First—Prioritize. Understand what needs to be accomplished, focus on what, not how; results not methods. Spend time. Be patient. Visualize the desired result.

Rule 4: Think Win- Win. Effective IEP teams look for real solutions to problems. When school personnel draw lines in the sand or refuse to provide necessary services, they damage the relationship between parents and school. In "Win-Win" solutions, there is awareness of the importance of mutual benefit.

Rule 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood. Most people want to be understood - this means we don’t listen to understand. We are either speaking or preparing to speak. Learn how to listen.

Rule 6: Synergy. Good IEPs are developed by effective parent-child-school teams Effective teams work together, understanding that parents and educators are necessary to educate children.

Rule 7: Sharpen the Saw. "This is the habit of continuous improvement that lifts you to new levels of understanding . . ."



More About IDEA 97 -

For more about the changes in IDEA 97, including the stronger parental role and the need for accountability, read "Believing in Children - A great IDEA for the future" by Judy Heumann and Tom Hehir at the Department of Education web site.

We close our first issue of The Special Ed Advocate with a story.

Many of our readers are long-time advocates for children with special needs. You may remember that the special ed law was stuck in Congress for more than two years as competing interest groups (school administrators v. parents and disabilities advocates) fought about changes to the law.

Suddenly, on May 14, 1997, the logjam broke. The Senate passed the new IDEA by an astounding vote of 98-1!

Why? What happened? Why do Senators refer to IDEA-97 as "Gregory’s Law?"

Read "How One Boy Moved Congress" at the Department of Education web site.

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