Who Can Provide Special Education Services?

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“My 10-year-old made little to no progress in reading over the last 3-4 years. A reading specialist evaluated him and recommended a different reading program. To help our child catch up, we asked for intensive tutoring from 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.”

“Is this right? Can’t a child receive instruction or tutoring by a reading specialist who is not a special ed teacher?”

Young boy working with a reading specialist

Reading tutor teaches boy to read.

Short Answer: Yes, your child can receive intensive reading instruction from a person who is not a special ed teacher. The IDEA and federal special ed regs DO NOT require that special ed teachers provide special education and related services in IEPs.

I’m sorry but not surprised that your child hasn’t progressed with the services provided by a special ed teacher. At most colleges, teacher prep programs don’t require special educators to know how to teach kids to read, even though the American Federation of Teachers says:

“Teaching students to read by the end of third grade is the single most important task assigned to elementary schools.

At the end of third grade, education shifts from teaching children to read to children reading to learn other subjects. If a child isn’t a proficient reader when he enters 4th grade, he will not be able to keep up.

Your child’s IEP is supposed to include all special education services, related services, and supplementary aids and services your child needs and that the school will provide. (Wrightslaw: All About IEPs, page 37)

If the team agrees that your child needs an instructional service – like intensive reading instruction – but refuses to include it in the child’s IEP – you have to assume they don’t plan to provide it.

What can you do?

First, write a short note or email describing your child’s situation, what you requested, 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 educators are the only staff who can provide special ed services? (I will be surprised if they have a policy on this issue).

Third, if you do not receive a response to your email or note, write a follow-up note to request the policy – and send copies to the principal and the special ed director. At the top of this email or letter, type “SECOND REQUEST” (attach a copy of your first request).

Please keep us posted.

  1. When an IA is in a General Ed Classroom and there is no RSP teacher, do the IA support minutes count as SAI minutes? Our district said there is a new law that says it does. I’m in California and I can not find anything on it

    • Ramona, I’m going to give you a long answer to your short question. The problem I had with your question is that you used abbreviations for state-specific terms that are not familiar to people (RSP, SAI minutes) in other states. I had to use Google to translate the abbreviations.

      The child’s IEP must include the frequency, location, and duration of special education and related services and supplementary aids and services and modifications and supports the child will receive from the special ed teacher or related services provider.

      In CA, a special education teacher is referred to as a “RSP” (Resource Specialist Program”. An RSP or special ed resource teacher must:

      * have an undergraduate degree, at a minimum
      * satisfy the state’s basic skills requirements
      * demonstrate subject-matter competency
      * pass the Reading Instruction Competence Assessment test

      RSP teachers provide “SAI”, an abbreviation for “Specialized Academic Instruction.” As an IA (paraprofessional), you haven’t met the requirements to be an “RSP” (resource specialist) and are not qualified to provide “SAI” (specialized academic instruction).

      Source: https://sites.google.com/site/rspteachersurvivalguide/what-is-an-rsp-teacher-anyway
      It’s hard to believe California passed a law to make support from an IA equal to specialized academic instruction (SAI) from a certified special education teacher (RSP).

      To receive federal IDEA funds, states are required to submit info to the feds about whether their policies and practices comply with federal requirements in IDEA. Making an IA equal to a special education resource teacher (RSP) would violate federal requirements.

    • Hi Ramona, If an IA is under supervision by a credentialed RSP (special ed) teacher, then the minutes they push in to support students counts towards student SAI minutes.

  2. I am a Reading Specialist in Michigan. Does Michigan have separate rules in the MARSE that requires a teacher to be certified as a special education teacher to provide services? Or am I allowed to provide reading remeditaion for Dyslexic students with an IEP? I know I can within the Federal Law but MARSE seems to indicate that the person has to be endorsed in special education.

  3. I work in a charter school where students IEP’s state they receive inclusion reading in the gen ed environment by a special ed teacher however, they have aides in the classrooms to “provide” these services who have no training in special ed and do not even know which students are special ed. I know this is doing a disservice to these kids but when I say that they are not providing them their appropriate services, I am told that they are. Is this true?

  4. I am an inclusion teacher looking for solutions to providing successful services/instruction to students with disabilities. Is there any legal restriction to a general ed teacher also being the provider for special education services to students in an inclusion classroom if the teacher has dual certification in special ed AND gen ed? This model would include a lower class size so specialized instruction was possible. We are looking at more effective ways to make sure our special education students are getting the instruction they need in our secondary schools.

  5. I’m a dyslexia teacher at a new charter school in Texas. I have questions on the location of services to be provided. I’m going over Dyslexia services on the students services page. Some students location states (general education) other students location of service states (special Education) I was told I need to pull all of the students out for Dyslexia services. Some students have 45 minutes 5x a week. I feel that’s a lot to be pulling them out of classes they love. It’s my understanding that if on the service page, if the location is stated as General education then the students can be seen in their general ed class for dyslexia service. If the location on the service page states (special education ) as the location of the service to be provided, then I need to pull them out to service them in a group where all the other students have an IEP.
    Which way is the correct one?

    • As a teacher who is responsible for teaching kids with dyslexia, you must know you need to individualize instruction, depending on each student’s needs. I don’t see how that would work in either scenario.

      If you are trying to teach kids in a class where other subjects are being taught at the same time, your dyslexic student will be distracted. How can you individualize instruction, assuming that you understand the need to do this.

      Your other option is to pull students out and teach them (please, you do NOT “service them”) in groups of “other students who have an IEP”?

      These proposals are completely at odds with over 70 years of research about how to teach kids with dyslexia and guarantee your dyslexic students will NOT learn to read, write and spell, but will become even more demoralized.

  6. I’m a SPED para w/no SPED certified teacher on staff. I am being required to serve both math & reading minutes w/zero instruction to 10 students. In addition, my campus pulls me repeatedly to cover gen ed staff shortages vs meeting w/my students. Is any part of this legal [in Dallas, Texas]. I KNOW these students are actively ‘falling thru the cracks’/not having their needs met. This is making me physically ill.
    Please, PLEASE advise.

    • This is a violation of federal, and TX rules. (The IEP is not being followed.) Obviously, you care about the kids, but you have no control over the lack of staff. I suggest that you write the principal, & special ed director about the situation. As a caring, & loyal employee, you are simply bringing this situation to their attention. You may have some thoughts on what might help you, & the students until more staff can be found. I am with the federally funded parent training & information project for TX.

  7. I am a student teacher working as an aide. I do not have any certifications. A student in my classroom recently had an IEP meeting during which Wilson Reading was added to her IEP for 40 minutes per day. I am being told that I need to provide all of the services (40 minutes per day). I looked at the Wilson Reading website that says people implementing the program should be Level 1 certified by Wilson Reading prior to implementing the program to ensure fidelity which has a direct impacts student progress.

    My question – does the IEP service require an appropriately certified person to provide the service?

    • Lisa, the district, and possibly you could end up in a complaint of not following the program with “fidelity”, leading to a lack of or limited progress.

    • Quick answer: Yes. The child’s IEP says the child will receive “40 minutes a day of Wilson Reading.” I can’t provide Wilson Reading or do surgery, or extract teeth because I haven’t been properly trained. You are in the same boat.

      The Wilson Professional Learning Program describes the knowledge and skills required by a “systematic, multisensory, structured language approach” like the Wilson Professional Learning Program, as described in What Are the Benefits of Wilson Professional Learning?

      Reading is the gateway skill – children need to be proficient readers before learning history, literature, science, math, etc. If you think about it, the fact that most beginning teachers don’t know how to teach kids to read – the gateway skill – is shocking and sad.

      I hope you will get trained in a program like the Wilson Reading Program. You may have to pay for this training on your own. The cost will be repaid many times. As a teacher who took the initiative to get trained in Wilson, you will be in demand.

    • On the services page it should say who’s providing the service, more than likely it says special Ed teacher.
      I am surprised that they put Wilson on the IEP. That’s a no no. They should have pull out reading, small group, multisensory approach.
      Look into Orton Gillingham/ Science of Reading approaches to reading.

  8. I’m not sure where to post my question… I’m a SETSS provider. The school I work in has a very experienced reading specialist. I’ve observed some of his sessions, it’s a real shame he’s not certified. Question: I expect to be out on maternity leave, and I was thinking that this guy would be a very good substitute for some of my cases. Am I allowed to set up the program and plans, supervise him remotely, and have him do the actual one on one work, obviously with everyone’s permission… I am just asking about the legal side of it, as I don’t want to look like an utter fool suggesting this… Or do I need a certified replacement?

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