Must Services in the IEP be Provided by a Special Ed Teacher?

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“My 10-year-old with Downs Syndrome made no progress in reading over the last 4-5 years. A reading specialist evaluated her and recommended a different reading program. The school agreed to provide this program. To help our child catch up, we sked for intensive tutoring by the reading specialist.

“The school told us, “we can’t write services by the reading specialist in the IEP because the specialist is not a special ed teacher.”

“This can’t be right. Can a child receive reading instruction/tutoring by a specialist who is not a special ed teacher?”

Young child with Down syndrome laughing

LIttle girl Laughing

Yes! The IDEA and federal special ed regs do not require that the special education and related services in a child’s IEP be provided by a special ed teacher.

Most children with disabilities receive most (or all) special education in regular ed classes taught by regular ed teachers. The IDEA requires the child’s IEP team to include at least one regular ed teacher because . . .

Regular ed teachers know the curriculum and what students are expected to learn and be able to do. With input from the regular ed teacher, the team can determine the accommodations, supplementary aids and services, and modifications the child needs to learn and make progress. (Wrightslaw: All about IEPs, page 11)

The IEP must include all special education services, related services, and supplementary aids and services the child needs and the school will provide. (Wrightslaw: All About IEPs, page 37)

If the team agrees to an instructional service but refuses to include it in the IEP, you should assume they don’t plan to provide it.

What should you do?

First, write a short note or email describing your daughter’s situation and what you were told. Ask if your understanding of the school’s position is correct. Second, request a copy of the school district policy about how special education services are provided. Does the policy say special ed services can only be provided by a special ed teacher? (I will be surprised if they have a policy on this issue).

If the school district does not respond to your email or note, write a follow-up letter requesting the policy. At the top ofyour email or letter, type “SECOND REQUEST” (attach a copy of your first request).

Please keep us posted.

  1. I have a question. I’m basically being accused of “offering services” to a parent. That is not what I did or how I stated it. My question is, isn’t it the job of the special education case manager to make suggestions or throw out options but that does not mean we are offering services unless we have an IEP meeting and the team makes the decision. Isn’t the language of “would we be able to?” asking a question and not “offering a service?”

    • Hi Danielle, I think I understand your situation. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

      Yes, all IEP members should make suggestions and throw out options. The problem arose when you discussed your ideas and suggestions with the parent. You just discovered an important hidden, unwritten law – that most decisions about the services in the child’s IEP are by school personnel / IEP team members and DO NOT include the parent (who often doesn’t know about these “school staff only” meetings).

      If you had a discussion with the parent and wondered if it might be possible for the school to provide X, Y, Z services because the child would probably benefit from X, Y, Z, an administrator (or another IEP team member) is probably annoyed, or worse, because they didn’t plan to offer those services – or even let the parent know these services existed.

      ¥ou let the cat out of the bag.

      When you, a school employee, mentioned the X, Y, Z services to the parent, the admins view this as an “offer of services.” They worry they may have to provide these services if the parent insists.

    • Who is responsible for implementing academic accommodations (ie. Test questions read aloud) in the classroom if the student only receives speech services? Should that student have an educational specialist as their case carrier or is it the SLP’s responsibility to generate and ensure academic accommodations are met? Thank you!

      • If the student has an IEP, it is the responsibility of the classroom teacher to ensure the accommodation is followed in their classroom. The case manager would share the accommodations and provide information and insight into how that accommodation could be implemented. I am not sure if an SLP could be a sole case manager, but regardless the teacher, once informed of the accommodation, should ensure they have the materials necessary for the student. Often, an SLP or other specialist will provide detailed information or resources to teachers, especially on request- their specific knowledge in their areas of expertise may go beyond that of an Education Specialist. I can’t recall at the moment the answer to your original question, but I hope this information that I do have is helpful for the student. Also, ultimately the accommodations should be determined by the IEP team, which will include the SLP in this case, an Ed Specialist, at least one general education teacher, the parent(s), and possibly the student as well as a district representative. It is true that usually an Ed Specialist will draft the accommodations based on data and recommendations, but all IEP decisions ultimately come down to the whole team which includes specialists, generalists, and parents.

  2. Can someone with an adapted curriculum special education licensure write IEPs and facilitate meetings for a student in a general education class that is receiving resource?

  3. I am aware that IEP meetings must be held at at time that is convenient for the parents. I am aware that the special education teacher/case manager must be present. It is best practice to have classroom teachers, OT/PT, SLPs, and other specialists in the meeting. I am a teacher. We love our students and want to meet all of our students’ needs. I am trying to find information about how to make sure that those teachers and specialists are not attending IEP meetings outside of their contracted hours. My school district (in Missouri) does not compensate teachers for IEP meetings that occur during non-contracted hours. Are there public schools that do? How can we find considerate language for contracts and collective bargaining agreements that will insure that FAPEs are at at the expense of teachers?

  4. My child has a goal for behavior in his IEP. The counselor said she would meet regularly with my child, but refuses to be written into the IEP as a related service provider. I would like sect 7 to note “school ounselor “ for one of the related service providers for this goal.

  5. How does this work when the person that they are trying to use to provide the service minutes is an aide with no training, credential or education past high school? Are there requirements on who can provide the service minutes for the IEP?

    • The state education agency, & national & state licensing organizations (physical, occupational, speech therapy, etc.) have rules on this. Your state parent training & information project can help you find out what they are in your state, Also IEPs can include supports to staff (training, etc) working with students.  http://www.parentcenterhub.org/find-your-center

  6. My son has severe dyslexia & I needed to get a specialized teacher & teaching program as he was not progressing. I asked the school & signed the official school document for a specialized language arts standardized test. Once they got the test it was proven that my son did not progress as intended by the IEP. It was clear that the school was not providing FAPE & they agreed to provide the specialized reading program (alphabet phonics). Since no one at the school could provide this program we were able to get them to pay for an outside reading specialist that specialized in the program. In 4 years my son went from a pre-primer reader to 10th grade level. He saw the tutor every day for one hour during the year & 3 x per week in the summer.

  7. My child has dyslexia and is benefiting/progressing from a private agency delivering OG reading instruction from OG trained instructors, who also happen to be retired teachers. Our Charter school says that they cannot provide that service, and they cannot provide it from them because they must be an NPA and they are not. If they will become an NPA then they will provide it. However our local school district uses them for their sped kids. Does IDEA say the agency must be certified as an NPA. I’m in California.

    • That could be a state for charter schools or a decision of the charter school. Your state parent training and information project should be able to provide you information and guidance on your situation.

  8. with much of our school being individuals with disabilities, it would be hard to have the very few SPED/ specialist teachers be in every remote/ virtual class to help but we wish we could. charter schools attract diverse kiddos and I trust our teachers to provide accommodations and modifications, and ask us for help if they need it.

  9. My child has on her Supplemental Aids O-G for reading under Frequency the district has “weekly” I wanted it to be reflected of what she is getting 2, 40 min meeting one small group and 1:1. However, they are refusing becasue a gen ed teacher ( not sped) is providing the service. They are not using the O-G as intended as well. Does this make sense? When I read everything it seems to be coming down to its and RTI 3. Therfore not part of the IEP and they do not need to document as such. I feel like its a work around. By the way guess what days her O-G support its giving you guessed it. MONday and Fridays … why is that folks?

  10. At my school our Speech Teacher told us that she is not allowed to implement academic goals for students. What she does is when a speech only student requires academic goals, she turns it over to us saying she can no longer be the case manager or go in as the inclusion teacher to meet these goals. We are in Texas. We totally understand that a speech student might have a need for an academic goal, our trouble is that it is then turned over to us to implement. If an aide can serve inclusion minutes, why not a speech teacher?
    Any information you have on this or if you could point me in the right direction to find these answers, I would really appreciate it. I have read everything I can find online (TEA and other resources) and can’t find anything that specifically addresses this question

    • Not sure what the teacher means by academic goals. Most academic goals would not apply to a speech teacher, but some could. The ARD/IEP paperwork should indicate who is responsible for the goals. So if the paperwork does not indicate who is responsible for these, then that is a problem for everyone, & the campus & district. It is not clear if you are a paraprofessional or general ed teacher. But teachers, general ed or special ed need to be responsible for these goals. Now who is a “case manager” for a specific child is a district decision. I work for Partners Resource Network, a federal funded project to help parents, & educators. You can find resources, and our staff in your area on our webpage.

  11. Question: When a SPED teacher is absent and a substitute (not SPED certified) is brought in, do the minutes they are pulled for still count?

    • Possibly, depending on the specifics of the situation. The focus of the parent, & educators should be on progress toward appropriate goals. If adequate progress is not being made that should be addressed regardless of the cause.

  12. When my child’s sped teacher is absent, is it legal for substitutes (not sped certified) to fulfill my child’s SDI minutes when the provider is indicated as a sped teacher in the IEP?

    • I don’t think it would be illegal because the sped teacher would have let the substitute plans on how to deliver the SDI.

      • Agree. In some cases campus may have no other options. However, if this happens “often” or there is noticeable impact on a student’s progress this could be the basis for requesting additional instruction to catch them up.

    • As long as the substitute and or para professional is under the direction of the SPED teacher in sub plans, it is permissible. As a SPED teacher I would write that my teaching assistant or sub can cover my minutes as long as they are following my sub plan.

      • Oops I need to clarify that I write that my minutes can be covered by myself or my assistant/sub in the IEP.

  13. my question is the flip of this. can a school agree to several hours a week of co-teaching, not specifically state “co-teaching” in the IEP (didn’t specify any staff position) and then simply provide an instructional assistant all year – who doesn’t provide any co-teaching or any services at all? But still count those hours towards required service hours. IA did not receive any training or instruction from sped ed chair, and does not have experience or degree in ed. Other than occasionally offer to take pics of notes (that should have been provided already as an accommodation) all the IA did was stare at my child.

    • To me the issue here is the intent of the co-teaching should have been to help the student achieve an IEP goal, and to progress in the general ed curriculum. If either of these did not happen, then they were not providing FAPE (free appropriate public education). This can be the basis for requesting appropriate services this year, and compensatory services for last year.

  14. Hi there,
    Is it illegal for special education staff to be assigned to a group of general education students instead of the special education students on their caseload to conduct parent contacts, student engagements, and hold collaboration sessions?

    • My thoughts. That could depend on the amount of time that this activity takes. Are they providing services to, or for special ed students and this is on top of that? If part of their salary is being paid from general ed funds, that would make it legal.

  15. The only issue I see where a school might legitimately balk is the idea of naming a specific person (here, the reading specialist).

  16. How does this work legally when your reading specialist is paid out of Title 1 funding? Would that be considered illegal due to “double dipping” with Federal funding?

  17. Can it be written into an I.E.P. that the Special Education teacher will do the test modifications? A regular education teacher is overriding the modifications I have made for a student without trying it out or discussing it with me.

    • Typically this should be allowed, if the team decides this. Also principals should remind all teachers that decisions in the IEP are to be followed.

      • I don’t see where I can post a question, so I’d like to post it here. I am a special ed resource teacher which means I pull students to the resource room to work on math and reading based on the goals and minutes in the IEP. I have several students that I pull to take their major reading assessments with me as per the IEP. The LEA at my school insists on putting in the IEP that I am also to provide retesting for scores under 70 for the major math or reading tests. I have asked her not to do that because I have discovered that the Gen Ed teachers aren’t providing the accommodations on the first test then handing me a test to do a retest. The IEP states they are to pull the students to small group and provide narrowed choices and extended time. The LEA said either I have to put in the IEP as an accommodation that I will administer the first attemp of the test or put in the IEP an accommodation that I do the retest. I’m not sure that is the law and wonder if anyone can help me with this. If there is something in the law, could I please have the place where it is stated as such…either way…so I’ll know what to do about it. The LEA at my school has a tendency to say something then later say she never said it so I’d like some back up. Thanks.

  18. I’m a parent of a 7th grade student in a Louisiana public school. My daughter’s IEP Services page shows “Special Education Instruction Regular Class 30 mins x1, and Special Class 30 mins x1 per week. The person I thought was an Inclusion teacher in the class is a child specific aide, it turns out. The head of Instruction for the District says that every class teacher is “Dually Certified” to teacher Sped and Inclusion. She also said that a my child is rotated out to the content mastery class to a para. But thats NOT happening! What do I need to do next? I don’t feel like I understand what to say to debate this issue with the people in charge. Is it ok for them to have a para provide inclusion minutes in the presence of a dually certified teacher?
    Is this legal?

  19. Can paras help support hours for special education if trained by the special ed teacher with the special ed teacher in the room but working with a second group of students? Meaning two groups going on at the same time and one with the para and one with the teacher and then the groups flip?

    • Yes. We write it into the IEP that minutes could be covered by a para that is under the supervision and guidance of the SPED Teacher just for clarity.

  20. I am a secondary general education teacher with approximately 35 special education students. My administration has told all gen ed teachers that we are now responsible for evaluating & recording each sped student’s progress for each of their goals.

    Is this legal? I don’t feel like I’m qualified to make those evaluations, especially for ones that target subjects I’m not legally able to teach. I teach 6th – 10th grade sciences but am asked to evaluate goals targeting grade specific math and english goals. Can they legally require me to do this?

    • Legally, I am not sure, logically how can you know about other subjects. A teacher association of the state education agency may be able to help, if you have not already done so.

    • Would the other general ed teachers of those other subjects have any responsibility for tracking goals in their classes? Or is it one teacher only for such-n-such students in charge?

  21. I’m a teacher, not a parent. I’m looking for some legal information. SPED teachers miss service hours for meetings, ARDS, trainings, etc. Even though the students have a legal right to that time, it still happens. My school, however, has been pulling resource teachers to sub for the self-contained LIFE unit for students with severe disabilities. This seems like a legal concern. My student has lost two days of her service hours because of this practice. Are there any legal exceptions for a SPED teacher not meeting a student’s service hours when the student is present at school?

    • Legally, the fact is the IEP is not being followed since the student is receiving the service even though they are at school. The problem for parents, & educators is, how much is too much missed service? That is left up to the state education agency, hearing officer or judge to decide. Parents can request compensatory services.

  22. Hello,
    I just met with my son’s IEP team and asked for some SDIs and supports to be written into goals because the goals were too vague. His case manager said he doesn’t write SDIs into goals (or anywhere on the IEP) because it limits what he can provide since then he’s legally obligated to provide what’s written.
    Example goal (we have this issue with almost all of them, though): “when given an opportunity to turn in assignments, student will use an organizational system, improving assignments turn in rate from X% to X%.” I want examples of what the school is doing to instruct/guide my son in using an organizational system written into the IEP, so the school can be held accountable for providing SDI. Is this an unreasonable request? Thanks for your advice!

    • Kristi,

      This is not unreasonable. The specifics of the organizational system can easily be spelling out in the summary at the beginning of the IEP (as states have different IEP platforms, I am not sure what yours is called…In Virginia we call it the “Present level of performance”) Any and all parts of the IEP are legally binding so it doesn’t need to be in the goal. Also, ask to see the data every 4 weeks that backs up the goal. This will also give you an idea of what the school is doing to help him with organization. Ask how they will track the assignment turn in rate? Ask for a copy of the “organizational” system so you can review with your son at home. This also helps you hold them accountable.

      Hope this helps.

      Vanessa

    • Putting one specific intervention into his IEP ties them to that intervention. By leaving it slightly vague they will be able to use a variety of “organizational systems” until they find one that allows your son to show improvement. For example, if they write in he will use an agenda, then that’s it he will use an agenda. If agenda isn’t working and they need to try something else, it’s not an option unless there is an amendment to the IEP. Leaving it vague is fine as long as they are able to tell/show what was used at progress reporting/monitoring.

    • Goals should be SMART:
      Specific, Measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. The fact you don’t understand what the SPED teacher means because IEP are written so parents can understand the teacher needs to be more specific in the goal. He could state like blah blah blah or a comparable blah blah blah to support your understand and the next teacher that gets to work with your student.

  23. Good evening, my son has pull out resource math and in class resource science and I can not find a definition of in class resource. Can anyone help with this? This is his first year with this new science class and one of his aids from this special ed class walked him to the room and just left him. I’m really not sure this is best for him or if that’s normal. Any help is greatly appreciated, Thanks

    • Typically “in class support or resource” means a special ed teacher goes into the classroom at times to assist the student & teacher, &/or works with the teacher outside of the class times. You can request (in writing) how they define this term in general and in your son’s case.

  24. My nieces’ IEP states that she should have daily ESL inclusion support but she is only receiving that support every other day. Is that ok?

    • Candy,

      That is not okay at all. If this is happening than you niece’s IEP is not being followed and her FAPE is being denied. You or her parents can request at any time for an IEP meeting to discuss any concerns you all may have and this is the time to bring up about her receiving services everyday. If you get no where you can write letters up the chain of command and even request mediation or due process hearing.

    • Does ESL stand for English to Speakers of other Languages? If so, that is not covered in IDEA and is not related to her IEP. You would need to speak with the ESL department. English language learning is not a disability.

      Apologies in advance if ESL stands for something else.

      • ESL stands for English as a Second Language. Her Gen Ed. teacher should be ESL trained and certified. If the SPED personnel is also ESL certified, that’s a bonus, but not required. I’m assuming that the language “ESL inclusion support” would mean that it must be provided in an ESL classroom.

  25. My son has a specific learning disability in reading and has had an IEP since he was in Kindergarten. He has always been in a Collaborative classroom with the regular ed teacher as well as a Special Education Teacher in all of his core classes. This year none of his classes have a Special Education Teacher in them and he is failing. When I asked his case manager about this she told me that they do not have to provide a Special Education Teacher in any of his classes because he isn’t in any classes that require an SOL. Is that true?

    • What does his IEP say in placement? Does it say that he is receiving collaborative services which in my school district (I realize this may be different in other areas) means that the child does not need specialized instruction for the entire segment and might even just need a paraprofessional to help keep the child on task or read assignments to the child. Where I am, co-taught means that the child requires specialized instruction from bell to bell and would be in a class with both a special education and general education teacher.

  26. Can iep minutes designated to special education be counted if co-teaching in the general education classroom?

  27. I guess in some ways, I can understand the response to this question – services do not have to be provided by a special education teacher. But I guess my question is this: Is the reading intervention considered a general education intervention? If so, then I don’t think it would be appropriate to include it in the IEP as it is not a special education or related service. It is a service that is provided to all students. I’m not sure about how services are set up in the original poster’s district, but in my district, any student can receive reading instruction from our reading specialist. Thus, it’s considered a general ed support and it wouldn’t be written into an IEP for a student. It’s possible that this is the case in the district for the original poster.

  28. Hello, I am a special education teacher, but now I am general education teacher. I have two students that I never see AT ALL, yet the students are on my roster and I am listed as the teacher of record. Is this legal? I have seen their IEPs, but I do not see them or services them…they are in the special education room. Again is this legal that I am the teacher of record? When I get papers back from the special education teacher who is servicing them, for me to grade, there are not accommodations listed and I know for sure these students do not get 100 on every paper. I thought that the teacher of record is the one who actually service the students and the general education teacher is the one who helps with input on what is being taught in the classroom. What do I do?

  29. My principal is saying that the gen Ed teacher can fill the minutes required by the iep and that special education teacher only need to give gen Ed teachers work with accommodations. Is this true?

    • The IEP should state who is to provide a service. If this is not clearly stated, the special ed director needs to get involved. Staff involved with a student should have access to their IEP.

  30. Can a reading specialist provide special education pull out minutes? Or does the IEP need to specifically state who will be providing the services?

  31. My child was given a 504 plan today but we wanted her to have an IEP. School says she doesn’t qualify because until last year she has always made good grades. She was evaluated by psychologist we took her to and another one court ordered and was found to have severe anxiety disorder. This prevents my child from asking her teacher anything at all even if she needs help understanding the work. It also created a wall for her to such degree as she would physically be sick and hives at thought of going. I feel she should have some individualized instruction she was failed last year because she couldn’t catch up. That alone has been a back step in social and academic learning . Please help

  32. Arizona is changing a law about who can provide Specialized Instruction. Now saying any “Certified ” person can.

  33. In my school district, additional supportive services in the IEP can be provided by a paraprofessional. This is great for my child with executive functioning issues who just needs an adult to help with initiation, planning and organization. The paraprofessional also provides services such as reading the test to the children with reading disorders. So I would say,no, the services don’t always need to be provided by a SPED teacher.

  34. Is there a law or regulation that defines what special ed “staff” is? Who can provide services to my child. If a person makes copies for the special ed department then they could technically be sped staff .

    • The state or school district would be the one who might define this term. In most districts the person you describe would be “special ed staff”, if paid for by special ed funds.

      • Thank you for the response. It says in IDEA and our state site (Georgia) that the IEP must be served by a “highly Qualified” teacher . It then goes on to describe this as one who has a special ed certificate among other things. It also defines that other providers may serve the student such as persons who provide therapies. I am asking because there was a situation with a long term substitute who was not sped certified.

        • Often states have rules about the use of staff who is not “highly qualified”. Sometimes parents have the right to ask that their child be changed to another teacher. If a child is making limited progress, a parent could ask that additional services be provided to their child. Find out what the district policy says, & write to the special ed director.

  35. Can someone please post a link or the IDEA section that tells us that a gen ed teacher can provide a service that gets listed in the child’s iep. I will need this for a meeting as I was just told a gen ed teacher’s service cannot be written into my son iep.

    • Laura: A few questions: What IEP “service” specifically? Who “told you”? Did you request a written copy of the regulation/policy they are using?
      20 U.S.C. Section 1401(33); 34 CFR 300.42; 34 CFR 300.107; 34 CFR 300.117 should help.

  36. I just sent a written request to the school asking them to please tell us who is who in our IEP. My son doesn’t seem to have a clue who he’s working with day to day. He keeps telling us he worked with a “para” today – odd thing is, the school nor state has any listed as being employed by/at the school – further mind boggling – there is no mention of our child working with a paraprofessional in our iep, but now i noticed it says “ADULT;” wonder if that would included the janitor or Fedex guy… Suddenly it all seems rather vague.

    • Ask the principal & special ed office in writing the position(s) of the staff working directly with your child. You can request an IEP meeting. Despite who is working with him, do you feel that the goals, & objectives are appropriate, & is he making progress?

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