Special Ed Advocate is a 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 -
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new cases and other events. Contact, copyright, and subscription
information can be found at the end of this newsletter.
(1) NEW SLIDE SHOW - "A picture
is worth a thousand words." Create great graphs of your child's
NEW UPLOADS TO THE LAW LIBRARY!
(2) "Evans v. Rhinebeck" - To
learn about the factors that make a child's special education program
appropriate or inappropriate - and a roadmap to FAPE.
(3) Lawyer v. Chesterfield"
- To learn why school districts should NOT "draw lines in the sand"
about ESY services -
LETTERS TO THE WEBMASTER
(4) Read what James Brody of North
Carolina wrote about his Big Case.
EFFECTIVE PRACTICES LINK
(5) The new law emphasizes the need
to use research-based effective practices - Learn about "Reading
Recovery - The Claims v. The Facts"
(6) SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION
NEW!! SLIDE SHOW IN THE SPECIAL ED
(1) "A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND
WORDS" - CHECK OUT OUR NEW SLIDE SHOW ABOUT EDUCATIONAL PROGRESS
Many parents are worried about their
child's progress - or lack of progress - in special education. These
parents know that homework takes hours to complete - or that the
child is still struggling to read. When parents share their observations
with the teacher or IEP team, they are usually assured that the
child is making good progress. If the school is "in denial," what
can parents do?
We are happy to report that the #1
article on our web site is "Understanding Tests and Measurements
for the Parent and Advocate." In this article, we teach parents
how to measure educational progress with test and subtest scores
from the child's evaluations. The article is required reading for
all of our parents.
Because a picture is worth a thousand
words, our parents learn to create graphs of their child's test
scores. If you have a software suite like MS Office, you can use
the Wizard will help you make graphs in Excel or PowerPoint. If
you prefer to take the "low tech route," you can use graph paper
and bright colored markers.
We added a short slide show to supplement
our article about Tests and Measurements. At the beginning of the
show, you'll see the test scores we used to make the graphs as both
standard scores and percentile ranks. We took the child's standard
scores, made a graph of that data. Next, we converted the standard
scores to percentile ranks and made graphs of the data. Then we
took that graph and simply duplicated it several times. In order
to isolate the reading, we then deleted all data but the reading
percentile ranks. For the next graph, example-writing, we deleted
all data except the writing percentile ranks. In other words, we
started with a master graph and then duplicated it, and deleted
all data except for one educational skill area. These graphs show
that the child was not making much progress. The graphs became evidence
in one of our cases. Enjoy!
NOTE from Wrightslaw: The slide
show is being revised and updated. We will add a new slide show
(2) NEW UPLOADS TO THE LAW LIBRARY!
What factors make a special education
program appropriate? Inappropriate? The decision in "Evans
v. Rhinebeck" provides a roadmap to FAPE.
Two weeks ago, we uploaded the Second
Circuit's decision in Walzak
v. Florida Free
Union and the Eleventh Circuit's decision in Weiss
v. Hillsborough. Both cases were adverse to the parents.
Yet, we included lengthy discussions of both cases in this newsletter.
Several people wrote to ask "Why?"
Adverse decisions teach valuable lessons.
In Walzak, the Second Circuit
decided that the public school was providing the child with an appropriate
program. After analyzing the child's academic progress, the court
concluded that the child benefited from the public school program.
If the public school provides an appropriate program, parents are
not entitled to be reimbursed for a private program.
This week, we added Evans
v. Rhinebeck to The
Law Library. In this case, the parent asked the court to
order reimbursement for her son's education at the Kildonan School.
(Kildonan specializes in educating children with severe language
learning disabilities like dyslexia.)
v. Rhinebeck, the judge concluded that the public school
program was NOT appropriate. What factors led him to conclude that
the Rhinebeck program was not appropriate for Frank?
To determine if a school district has
provided an appropriate education (FAPE), hearing officers and judges
must analyze two issues:
(1) Procedural requirements
- Did the district comply with the procedural requirements and provisions
in developing the child's IEP?
(2) Substantive requirements
- Is the district's IEP "reasonably calculated to confer educational
If you read the Walzak case,
you know that parents are NOT entitled to the BEST education. Parents
are NOT entitled to an education that "maximizes" the child's potential.
Disabled children ARE entitled to an
education that is "sufficient to confer some educational benefit
upon the handicapped child . . . (including) specialized instruction
and related services which are individually designed to provide
educational benefit to the handicapped child." (Rowley,
458 U.S. at 200-01.) (NOTE: Rowley was the first special education
case heard by the U. S. Supreme Court. The Rowley
decision is available in Wrightslaw:
Special Education Law. )
v. Rhinebeck, the judge found that the District violated several
important procedural requirements of IDEA:
1. The district did not convene a due
process hearing within 45 days of the parent's request;
2. The district did not have an IEP
ready to implement at the beginning of the school year;
3. The district did not include accurate
information about Frank's present levels of functioning, nor did
they include objective strategies to evaluate progress in his IEP;
4. The district did not prepare a written
report about how they determined that Frank had a learning disability.
In his decision, the judge discussed
testimony by several "experts on dyslexia" about whether Frank received
educational benefit from the public school program:
"According to each one, the program
currently proposed by the district to educate Frank is not reasonably
calculated to provide him with educational benefit, and in fact
may harm him."
The judge cited testimony by the District's
special education teacher. Although the special education teacher
provided "intensive one-on-one instruction eight times a week,"
and modified Frank's homework and class work, his performance declined.
The judge noted that "Frank failed every major academic subject
of his seventh grade year."
In his decision, Judge Parker included
Frank's scores on educational achievement tests. These test scores
provided objective evidence that Frank did not make progress in
the public school program - that he did not receive educational
Here is how Judge Parker analyzed Frank's
"The testimony and documentary evidence
tell a compelling story of a very intelligent, but emotionally vulnerable,
child who is at great risk of dropping out of school, despite a
demonstrated capacity to succeed academically, socially and emotionally
in an appropriate program."
"The expert testimony establishes that,
the nature of Frank's dyslexia in conjunction with his emotional
problems, is such that he needs an intensive program of individualized,
integrated, multi-sensory, sequential training with students of
similar needs. The IEP proposed for Frank is not such a program,
and therefore cannot meet his needs."
To read the compelling decision in
v. Rhinebeck - go to
(3) NEW UPLOAD TO THE LAW LIBRARY!
To Learn Why School Districts Should
NOT "Draw Lines in the Sand" About ESY Services, Read "Lawyer
Danny Lawyer is a young child with
autism. At age six, he had expressive language and phonological
processing problems. The experts who evaluated and treated Danny
advised his parents that his ability to be self-sufficient and independent
later in life would depend on his ability to communicate.
During the summer, Danny regressed
in his ability to communicate. His behavior deteriorated. His school
district refused to provide any speech language therapy during the
summer months - and refused to reimburse his parents for the services
they purchased for their son.
The parents requested a special education
due process hearing - and prevailed. The school district appealed.
The Review Officer overturned the Hearing Officer's decision. The
case was appealed to Federal Court.
After reviewing the record and hearing
new testimony, Judge Spencer concluded, "Regression is not the only
factor" in deciding if a child needs ESY services. He listed several
additional factors that IEP teams should consider in making ESY
- The child's rate of progress;
- The child's behavioral or physical
- The availability of alternative
- Areas of the child's curriculum
that need continuous attention;
In the Lawyer
decision, Judge Spencer discussed regression and recoupment.
He also discussed the need to take advantage of "windows of opportunity"
in educating children with disabilities:
- The child's vocational needs.
"Danny's regression in the
summer, coupled with nominal recoupment, severely limits the educational
benefits he receives from instruction during the school year. His
rate of progress is minimized by the interplay of continuous regression
Read the decision in Danny
Lawyer's case at this URL:
"Moreover, Danny's behavioral problems
are compounded by his severe language deficit. His inability to
effectively communicate triggers unacceptable behavior. Therefore,
it is critical that Danny be provided with continuous speech and
"Finally, the evidence provided by
expert witnesses indicates that for children who suffer from moderate
to severe childhood autism, there is a small, but vital, window
of opportunity in which they can effectively learn. Such period
is generally between the ages of five and eight years old . .
. The Court concludes that it is extremely important that at this
critical stage of development, Danny receive uninterrupted speech
(4) LETTERS TO THE WEBMASTER
What is it like to go through a special
education due process hearing - from the child's perspective? James
Brody - a young man from North Carolina - writes about his "Big
Did you read the Review Officer's Decision
in James Brody's case? Did you read his parents' "Letter to the
Stranger?" Find out what James thought about his case in the Letter
from James Brody at this URL:
Different views, tactics, strategies, beliefs, opinions, and prejudices
make for interesting reading. After all - Wright's way is not the
If you have a favorite tip, tactic,
or strategy that you would like to share, send it to
EFFECTIVE PRACTICES LINK -
(5) "Reading Recovery - The Claims
v. The Facts"
In June, 1997, the new IDEA was signed
into law. In the new law, you will find the following statement:
"However, the implementation of this
Act has been impeded by low expectations, and an insufficient
focus on applying replicable research on proven methods of teaching
and learning for children with disabilities."
Special education has generated negative
publicity because the system often fails to teach basic academic
skills. Special education outcomes are poor. To change these poor
outcomes, the new law emphasizes the need to use "proven methods
of teaching and learning" based on "replicable research."
During the past several years, hundreds
of school districts around the country implemented "Reading Recovery"
programs for young children who are identified as having reading
problems. In Reading Recovery, a RR trained teacher works one-on-one
with each child over a period of several weeks. Reading Recovery
claims that their program is very successful. Is this true?
Serious problems have emerged with
Reading Recovery research. Children who have reading problems caused
by neurological conditions like dyslexia do not benefit from RR.
When schools place these children in RR programs - for weeks or
months - the children do not receive the kind of remediation they
need. It appears that for many children, gains made in Reading Recovery
don't last. By third grade, most RR children have fallen behind
For an in-depth analysis of Reading
Recovery, read "Reading Recovery - An Analysis of the Benefits and
Costs" at the University of Oregon's website: