Final Regulations for ESSA - Every Student Succeeds Act
On November 28, 2016 final regulations were issued to implement provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) regarding school accountability, data reporting, and state plans. These regulations clarify ESSA's statutory language by ensuring the accountability systems use multiple measures of school success, including academic outcomes, student progress, and school quality, thereby reinforcing that all students deserve a high-quality and well-rounded education that will prepare them for success.
The regulations allow each state to set its own goals and measurements of progress for academic outcomes. Accountability will be based on academic achievement, graduation rates for high schools and academic progress for elementary and middle schools, progress in attaining English language proficiency, and at least one state-selected indicator of school quality or student succedss. This accountability will be required for subgroups, including a subgroup of students with disabilities.
States must continue to direct funds set aside for school improvement to schools most in need of support. The regulations reinforce the state's key role in providing technical assistance, monitoring, and other support, including ongoing efforts to evaluate the use of these funds for evidence-based interventions to improve student outcomes.
Homelessness and Young Children
Almost half of children in homeless shelters in the United States are under age six. More than 150,000 very young children stay in shelters each year, and even more are sharing housing with others due to economic hardship. This is particularly troubling given that research suggests that homelessness during pregnancy and in the early years is harmful to children's development.
The U.S. Departments of Health and Human Serivces, Housing and Urban Development, and Education released an interagency policy statement on early childhood homelessness on October 31, 2016. The statement recommends ways early childhood and housing providers can collaborate to better meet the needs of pregnant women and families of young children who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness.High-quality early childhood programs provide critical support for children in these challenging situations, in part, by offering security and constancy for children with familiar caregivers and peers. They also identify needs, build trust, and connect families to housing resources. Similarly, the most effective housing providers also identify the early developmental needs of children and connect families to high-quality child care, Early Head Start, Head Start, preschool, home visiting services, or early intervention and early childhood programming.
Segregation of Students Qualifies as Discrimination
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. Schools are required to educate students with disabilities in the regular educational environment, along with students without disabilites, to the maximum extent appropriate. Schools must place students with disabilities in the regular educational environment unless the recipient can demonstrate that the education of the student with a disability in the regular educational environment cannot be achieved satisfactorily even with the use of supplementary aids and services.
The Office for Civil Rights recently investigated Yonkers Public Schools in New York and found IEPs that contained no specific reason demonstrating that students could not be educated in the regular educational environment even with the use of supplementary aids and services; IEPs that did not demonstrate that any other supplementary aids or services were considered or attempted; IEPs where there was no evidence that a behavior plan was implemented or other interventions were tried before students were placed in a self-contained education setting; IEPs that did not indicate other settings that were considered; and IEPs that contained no evidence of evaluations or test results that supported the restrictive settings in which students were placed. OCR found that the District's practices were not consistent with Section 504.
On October 20, 2016 the District agreed to implement a Resolution Agreement that requires
In determining placement, the District agrees to-
-describe how these interventions were implemented
-provide a statement regarding the amount of time these interventions were implemented
-provide a statement regarding why and how these interventions did not result in satisfactory achievement
-or demonstrate through an educational assessment by a licensed practitioner that the student's disability is SO SEVERE that attempting interventions in the regular educational environment was not necessary
The District is required to train all administrators, teachers and other staff who make placement decisions about the requirement for first placing students in the regular education environment with supplementary aids and services. The District is also required to review the placement of ALL students who have been moved to self-contained settings to ensure that these students were appropriately placed, and if the student is found not to be in the least restrictive environment, change the placment and provide compensatory and/or remedial services.
Funding to Improve Literacy for Students with Disabilities
The U.S. Department of Education awarded $4.4 million in grants to improve literacy skills, outcomes and results for students with disabilities on October 3, 2016.
"When we improve literacy skills for children with disabilities, including those with dyslexia, we are not just teaching them how to read, we are opening doors to a lifetime of more positive opportunities, such as improved academic skills, reduction in behavioral incidences, increased school completion, and lifelong learning", said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. "These awards will continue to address inclusion, equity and opportunity for all children, including those with disabilities."
The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) awarded the following:
These grants align with the My Brother's Keeper (MBK) initiative, a corrdinated federal effort to address persistent opportunity gaps and ensure that all young people can reach their full potential. MBK is focused on six milestones, the second of which is literacy, Reading at Grade Level by Third Grade, ensuring that all children read at grade level by age 8 - the age at which reading to learn becomes essential.
Appropriate Use of School Resource Officers
To assist states, schools, and their law enforcement partners in assessing the proper role of School Resource Officers, the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice released letters on September 8, 2016 emphasizing the importance of well-designed School Resource Office programs. "As educators, we are all bound by a sacred trust to protect the well-being, safety, and extraordinary potential of the children, youth and the young adults within the communities we serve," U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. said. "School resource officers can be valuable assets in creating a positive school environment and keeping kids safe. But we must ensure that school discipline is being handled by trained educators, not by law enforcement officers."
The purpose of the letters is to assist districts in revising School Resource Office related policies to align with common-sense actions steps that lead to improved school safety and better outcomes for students while safeguarding their civil rights. The Departments are working to provide districts with effective alternatives to exclusionary discipline practices in order to keep kids in school and out of the justice system.
Class Action Lawsuit Related to Children with Mental Health or Behavioral Disorders
On September 6, 2016, a federal judge granted preliminary approval of a proposed settlement agreement in the N.B. v Norwood class action lawsuit. This lawsuit was filed in 2011 on behalf of Illinois Medicaid-eligible children under the age of 21 who have been diagnosed with a mental health or behavioral disorders and for whom a licensed practitioner of the healing arts has recommended intensive home and community-based services to correct or ameliorate their disorders.
The proposed settlement would give access to a continuum of Medicaid-authorized mental and behavioral health services based on clinical decisions and medical necessity to these children, including residential services. Annual budget proposals for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services will include sufficient funds necessary to develop and maintain the services, supports and structures described in the proposed budget. The judge will conduct a hearing on December 20, 2016 to determine if the settlement is fair and adequate and if it should receive final approval by the federal court.
Licensing Teachers Who Teach Grades 5 Through 8
Due to updates to Illinois and national learning standards, all teachers are required to teach more in-depth content that ever before. Students are expected to know more by the time they get to the middle grades Strong content educators are needed for middle grade classrooms, and robust preparation programs specifically focused on this unique age group of students are needed to prepare these educators. The Illinois licensure structure is changing to meet this need. On or after February 1, 2018, NEW teachers of children in grades 5-8 will need a Middle Grades Endorsement which will be earned by completing 21 semester hours of content-specific coursework, 3 semester hours of content-specific methodology coursework focused on the middle grades, and passing the applicable content test(s). Currently educators could add a middle school endorsement by completing 18 hours of middle school content and 6 semester hours of middle school professional education coursework.
Inclusive Education Vital - United Nations
The United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner issued a news release on September 1, 2016 regarding the importance of inclusive education. The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities notes that "education of persons with disabilities is often poor quality, sets low expectations and limits learners' opportunities". They added that "by contrast, a truly inclusive learning environment values the contribution and potential of persons with disabilities, and equips them with essential life, language and social skills".
The committee goes on to state that "placing students with disabilities in mainstream classes without accompanying structural changes to, for example, organization, curriculum and teaching and learning strategies, does not constitute inclusion. Rather inclusive education focuses on the full and effective participation, accessbility, attendance and achievement of all students, especially those who, for different reasons, are excluded or at risk of being marginalized".
Sue Swenson, Acting Assistant Secretary of the United States Department of Education Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services commented on the news release by saying "Sometimes I think we forget that our shared work to develop more inclusive schools is, in fact, the foundation of peace in our communities and in our world".
Accessibility Supports for the Assessment and Instruction of All Students
"Education is a basic right for all children in the United States. With legislation aimed at the inclusion of all students comes the drive to ensure equal access to grade-level standards. Academic standards are educational targets outlining what students are expected to learn at each grade level. Teachers ensure that students work toward grade-level standards by using a range of instructional strategies based on the varied strengths and needs of students. For some students, accessibility supports are provided during instruction and assessments to help promote equal access to grade-level content." CCSSO Accessibility Manual
In August 2016, the Council of Chief State School Officers released the CCSSO Accessbility Manual: How to Select, Administer, and Evaluate Use of Accessbility Supports for Instruction and Assessment of All Students. This manual is designed to provide a framework of universal features, designated features, and accommodations for school administrators and staff as they work with students who need accessbility supports for instruction and assessment. The manual emphasizes that individualized accessbility decisions are to be made thoughtfully and are to be documented in IEPs (Individualized Education Programs) and Section 504 Plans. The guide explains a five-step decision-making process:
If your child needs accommodations, modifications, or assistive technology supports in order to be successful at school, this manual will show how schools are to design those supports.
School Assistance in Enrolling Students in Health Care
A toolkit was released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Education on August 31, 2016. The toolkit Happy, Healthy and Ready to Learn: Insure All Children! is meant to assist school districts to identify uninsured children through a routine school registratio process and enroll them in health coverage. The motivation is that healthy children are better learners. The toolkit offers a clear set of steps, useful tools, tips, and lessons learned that superintendents, school districts, teachers and parents across the county can embrace.
Georgia Sued for Unnecessarily Segregating Students with Disabilities
On August 23, 2016, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the state of Georgia alleging that the way students with mental health and behavior-related disabilities are served in that state violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. The state of Georgia finances and operates the Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Support Program (GNETS) to serve these students. The lawsuit is about the segregation of these students into classrooms, buildings, and attendance centers that exclusively serve only students with this classification and that keep them from interaction with peers without disabilities. U.S. Attorney John A. Horn of the North District of Georgia says "The law mandates that all children, including those with behavior-related siabilities, must have equal opportunities for education, and several existing programs within our Georgia schools show that with appropriate support and services, these students can enjoy far greater integration with their peers."
The lawsuit alleges that as a result of the state's unnecessary segregation, students in the GNETS lack equal access to academic and extracurricular opportunities enjoyed by their peers. It alleges that the GNETS students do not receive grade-level instruction that meets state standards and do not have access to gymnasiums, cafeterias, libraries, science labs, music rooms, or playgrounds. The complaint alleges that Georgia failed to provide adequate training to general education teachers regarding students with behavior-related disabilities in integrated educational settings throughout the State and that the exit criteria requires the students to meet behavioral standards that result in students unnecessarily remaining in the GNETS Program when they could be served in general education schools.
Students Who Attend Public Virtual Schools
Public virtual schools, although attended online, are similar to traditional schools in that teachers still oversee learning, students learn from curriculums that align with state standards, and the special education needs of students with disabilities are identified and met.
The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Eduation and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) issued guidance on August 11, 2016 to ensure students with disabilities are getting the special education and supports that they deserve and is their right under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The guidance highlights that each district must implement the evaluation, eligibility, individualized education program (IEP) and least restrictive environment requirements under IDEA. It also clarifies that students with disabilities who attend virtual schools are included in all general state and district-wide assessment programs, including assessments with appropriate accommodations and alternate assessments, where necessary and as indicated in their respective IEPs.
Repeated Use of Disciplinary Actions
When a child displays inappropriate behavior, such as violating a code of student conduct or disrupting the classroom, this may indicate that behavioral supports should be included in the child's IEP. This is especially true when the child displays inappropriate behavior on a regular basis or when the behavioral incidents result in suspensions or other disciplinary measures that exclude the child from instruction.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that individualized education program (IEP) teams consider the use of positive behavior interventions and supports. These supports chosen should be individualized to the child's needs and based on peer-reviewed research. Examples of supports that schools may use include instruction on, and reinforcement of, school expectations for behavior, violence prevention programs, anger management groups, counseling for mental health issues, life skills training, social skills instruction, meetings with a behavioral coach, or other approaches. Schools should exercise caution in using disciplinary measures that remove a child from his or her current placement, such as suspension. Research has shown that exclusionary measures, in general, are not only ineffective at reducing or eliminating the reoccurrence of the misbehavior but may even be harmful to the child, possibly leading to lower academic performance, disengagement from school, and the decision to drop out.
On August 1, 2016 the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) issed a Dear Colleague letter to provide significant guidance for schools to clarify their responsibility to provide children with disabilities appropriate behavioral interventions and supports that are necessary to ensure they have meaningful access to their education.
Workforce Innovation and Opportunity
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) was signed into law in July 2014. Final rules for implementing the law were made available in July 2016. WIOA provides access to services to help people get a job and advance along a career pathway. It improves access to job training and education opportunities for people who have traditionally faced barriers to employment including individuals with disabilities, out-of-school and at-risk youth, youth in foster care and young adults who have aged out of foster care.
Educating Homeless Children and Youth
The 1.3 million homeless students in the U.S. experience significant academic, social, and socio-emotional challenges. Being homeless is associated with lower school achievement and increased risk of dropping out of school.
The U.S. Department of Education released guidance to school districts on July 27, 2016 on how to protect and serve students who are homless so as to provide them with much needed stability, safety, and support. The guidance offers new technical assistance on promising practices for helping homeless youth through the implementation of homeless education requirements, especially those now required under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
ESSA reauthorized the McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youths program which, in part, requires schools to:
Equal Educational Opportunities for Students with ADHD
(even when they perform well academically)
Over the last five years, the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights has received more than 16,000 complaints that allege discrimination on the basis of disability in education program. More than 10% of those cases involved students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder who were no timely or properly evaluated for eligibility for special education or related services. OCR issued guidance on July 26, 2016 clarifying the obligation of schools to provide students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder with equal educational opportunity under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
The guidance makes clear that schools must not rely on the generalization that students who perform well academically cannot also by substantially limited in major life activities such as reading, learning, writing and thinking. It clarifies that students who experience behavioral challenges, or present as unfocused or distractible, could have ADHD and may need an evaluation to determine their educational needs.
The Department also released a Know Your Rights document that provides an overview of school's obligations to students with ADHD. The document explains that special education or related aids and services should be clear and detailed in a Section 504 Plan, or similar document, so that they can be implemented consistently.
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) was signed into law on July 22, 2014. The vision was that workers would be trained for job positions based on what employers indicated were needed so that jobs would be more immediately available to persons completing training programs. On June 30, 2016, the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education announced the advanced posting of the final regulations for the law.
Illinois Meets Requirements of IDEA
When the IDEA-Individuals with Disabilities Act was amended in 2004, each State was required to develop a State Performance Plan to accomplish the ideals of IDEA: equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency. Each year States must then complete an Annual Performance Report to show the progress that has been made in meeting the measurable and rigorous targets set in their State Performance Plans. These reports are submitted to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. An annual determination is made for each State regarding its progress on meeting IDEA requirements.
When determining whether a State is meeting IDEA requirements, both compliance issues and results data (outcomes) are evaluated. RDA-Results Driven Accountability brings into focus the educational results and functional outcomes for children with disabilities. Determinations are ranked in four categories:
For fiscal year 2014, the newest year to be analyzed, Illinois “met requirements”.
Read how each State was ranked and what specific technical assistance or enforcement actions will be taken for States that do not meet requirements over time: http://www2.ed.gov/fund/data/report/idea/ideafactsheet-determinations-2016.pdf
SAT Replaces PARCC for High School Students
The Every Student Succeeds Act, signed into law on December 10, 2015, continued the requirement that public school students take a state academic assessment each year during grades three through eight, and once during high school. Illinois now uses the PARCC-Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers computer-based test rather than the fill-in-the-bubble test of the past to assess students. PARCC is aligned with the Illinois Learning Standards and assesses how well critical knowledge, skills and abilities are being mastered.
On July 11, 2016 the Illinois State Board of Education announced that, while students in grades three through eight will continue to be assessed using PARCC, high school juniors will take the College Board’s SAT exam instead beginning in the 2016-2017 school year. Most college-bound students must take an entrance exam for admission. During ISBE listening tours to obtain insight from stakeholders, it was stressed that there should be equitable access to college entrance exams for all students and that the amount of testing time and the number of assessments administered to students need to be reduced. Using the SAT as the annual state assessment tool for high school students will eliminate redundancy and maximize the value of testing time.
“We applaud State Superintendent Dr. Tony Smith and the State Board for listening to input from stakeholders around the state and coming up with this common-sense solution,” said Dr. Brent Clark, executive director of the Illinois Association of School Administrators.
Read the news release at www.isbe.net/news/2016/july11.htm
School Improvement Grants
On June 23, 2016, the U.S. Department of Education awarded $113 million in grants for the nation’s persistently lowest-achieving schools. School Improvement Grants are meant to increase graduation rates, reduce dropout rates, and improve teacher quality. The Department awards these grants to states, which then award competitive subgrants to school districts that demonstrate the greatest need for the funds and the strongest commitment to provide adequate resources to substantially raise student achievement. The School Improvement Grants have supported more than 1,800 schools since 2009. The schools receiving past grants have seen gains in math and reading proficiency and improved graduation rates. Illinois will receive $22,114,021, the largest award in this round of grants.
An Overview of School Turnaround
Educational Gaps Remain Too Wide
On June 7, 2016 the Office for Civil Rights unveiled new data from the 2013-2014 school year showing gaps that still remain too wide in key areas affecting educational equity and opportunity for students of color, English learners, and students with disabilities, including
· -incidents of discipline
· -restraint and seclusion
· -access to courses and programs that lead to college and career readiness
· -teacher equity
· -rate of retention, and
· -access to early learning
Disparity in student discipline:
· Black preschool children are 3.6 times as likely to be suspended as are white preschool students
· In K-12 settings, black students are nearly 4 times as likely to be suspended and 2 times as likely to be expelled as are white students
· Students with disabilities are 2 times as likely as students without disabilities to be suspended in K-12 settings
· Students with disabilities represent two-thirds of students who are disciplined with seclusion or restraint although they are only 12% of the overall population
Disparity in access to advanced courses:
· 56% of schools with low numbers of black and Latino students offer calculus; 33% of schools with high numbers of black and Latino students offer calculus
· Two of three high schools with low numbers of black and Latino students offer physics; less than half of high schools with high numbers of black and Latino students offer physics
· Black and Latino students make up 42% of students enrolled in schools that offer Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) but they are only 28% of those who participate
· English learners make up 11% of students enrolled in schools that offer Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) but they are only 3% of those who participate
Disparity in teacher and staffing equity:
· 10% of teachers in schools with high numbers of black and Latino students are in their first year of teaching compared to only 5% in schools with low numbers of black and Latino students
· 11% of black students, 9% of Latino students, and 7% of American Indian or Alaska Native students attend schools where more than 20% of teachers are in their first year of teaching compared to only 5% of white students
U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. said that there is a continued need to focus on educational equity, especially in the implementation of the new Every Student Succeeds Act.
Additional Data from the Report
During the 2013-2014 school year:
· 6.5 million students, 13% of all students, were chronically absent from school
· More than 20% of high schools lacked any school counselor
· 1.6 million students attended a school with a sworn law enforcement officer but not a school counselor
· More than half of high schools did not offer calculus, four in ten did not offer physics, more than one in four did not offer chemistry, and more than one in five did not offer Algebra II (considered a gateway class for success in college)
The Civil Rights Data Collection for the 2013-2014 School Year is available at http://cdrc.ed.gov
Changes in the Illinois Regulations Regarding Special Education
Part 226 of the Instruction for Specific Student Populations subchapter of the Illinois education regulations was altered effective January 13, 2016. Some changes of interest include:
Equity in IDEA
The nation’s special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), aims to ensure fairness in the identification, placement, and discipline of students with disabilities. Yet disparities persist, and students of color remain more likely to be identified as having a disability and face harsher discipline than their white classmates. On February 23, 2016, the U.S. Department of Education took a step toward ensuring that children are not mislabeled and receive appropriate services by proposing regulations that would:
The proposed regulations would expand the use of Early Intervening funds in districts where disproportionality exists. The funds could be used for children from age 3 through grade 12, with or without disabilities. Under current regulations, these funds are only for children without disabilities from kindergarten through grade 12.
Comments about the proposed regulations can be made until May 16, 2016.
Read and comment on the Equity in IDEA Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
The Every Student Succeeds Act Signed Into Law
The Individuals with Disabilities Act – IDEA – is the federal education law that applies to students ages 3-22 who have been identified as having a need for specialized instruction due to a disability. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act – ESEA – is the federal law that applies to ALL students in America’s public schools. When the ESEA was last reauthorized in 2002, it became known as No Child Left Behind. On December 10, 2015, the newest reauthorization was signed into law by President Obama and is now known as the Every Student Succeeds Act.
The law has a goal of fully preparing students for success in college and careers and Congress feels it will be more workable for schools and educators than No Child Left Behind. According to Education Week, it puts “states and districts back at the wheel when it comes to teacher evaluation, standards, school turnarounds, and accountability”.
According to a White House fact sheet, it will help by “reducing the often onerous burden of testing on students and teachers, making sure that tests don’t crowd out teaching and learning, without sacrificing clear, annual information parents and educators need to make sure children are learning”.
The law does retain accountability for students with disabilities. It includes a 1% limit for the number of students overall that can be given alternative tests.
Family Engagement Policy
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Education have issued a draft policy statement about engaging families in their child’s development, learning, and wellness, across early childhood and elementary education settings. They say that family engagement is enabled by positive relationships between families and staff in the institutions where children learn.
Strong family engagement is central – not supplemental – to promoting children’s healthy development. Healthy development includes social-emotional and behavioral development and supporting academic achievement. The draft policy says that “there is a growing recognition that early childhood programs and schools cannot reach their full potetntial in preparing chidren for school success without partnering with families”.
The principles put forth in the draft policy are:
· Create continuity for children and families
· Value equal partnerships between families and professionals
· Develop goal-oriented relationships that are linked to development and learning
· Prioritize engagement around children’s social emotional and behavioral health
· Ensure that all family engagement opportunities are culturally and linguistically responsive
· Build staff competencies in engaging with families
· Build families’ capabilities and connections
· Systemically embed effective family engagement strategies within programs, schools, and with community partners
· Continuously learn and improve
Supporting and Responding to Behavior
On November 17, 2015, the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice released a new toolkit on evidence-based classroom strategies for teachers entitled Supporting and Responding to Behavior. Although designed for teachers, the information can help parents articulate what they feel would promote desirable behaviors in their child, including such things as:
-establishing predictable patterns and activities
-recognizing student success in following routines and procedures
-posting list of things to do when work is completed
-offering guided practice opportunities
-posting a list of expected behaviors
-teaching expectations using examples and non-examples
-asking students how they are doing, showing an interest in their responses
Supporting and Responding to Behavior
New Website with Resources for Preparing Children and Youth with Disabilities for Success
The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) launched a new website entitled IDEAs that Work: Preparing Children and Youth with Disabilities for Success on November 17, 2015. Parents and educators can access resources to assist them in supporting the academic, social, emotional, and behavioral needs of students as they become college and career ready.
IDEAs that Work: Preparing Children and Youth with Disabilities for Success
Ensuring Children with Disabilities Reach Grade Level Standards
Research has demonstrated that children with disabilities can successfully learn grade-level content and make significant academic progress when appropriate instruction, services, and supports are provided. IEPs (Individualized Education Programs) must be aligned with the State’s academic content standards for the grade in which the child is enrolled. Alternate academic achievement standards are only to be used for those children with the most significant cognitive disabilities.
Each IEP must be designed to enable the child to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum – the same curriculum as for nondisabled children. Each child with an IEP receives specially designed instruction that is appropriate to the needs of the child which can include adaptations to the content, methodology, and delivery of instruction.
This information is the focus of a Dear Colleague Letter issued November 16, 2015 by the United States Department of Education. The letter also addresses what should be happening if a child is performing significantly below grade level. The letter explains that ambitious annual goals should be set, and specialized instruction should be adequate, in order to close the gap between that student’s achievement and others of the same grade.
DEAR COLLEAGUE LETTER
The U.S. Department of Education’s “Rethink Discipline” campaign aims to create supportive school climates and decrease suspensions and expulsions. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said at a press conference on October 30, 2015 that “schools must be safe havens. They must be filled with compassion and love. But it’s clear that as a nation, we are severely underestimating the traumatic impact of our children being subject to, or even just seeing or witnessing, unnecessary physical force and arrests in our schools and classrooms. If we want to maintain the trust of parents and communities in our schools, we must start by treating our children with respect and human dignity.” He added “Schools must be productive places for teaching and learning, but we also have to rethink how we create safe and supportive learning environments for all of our students, and for the adults in school, and the staff. Our schools must be a pathway to opportunity, not a pipeline to prison. And no student should feel unsafe or fearful of being harmed while in school, in class.”
Click on the area of this map where your school district is located to see the rate of out of school suspensions in your district:
No More Than 2% of Classroom Time to be Spent Taking Tests
On October 24, 2015 the U.S. Department of Education released guidance on the testing of students. The recommendation is that children will spend no more than 2% of their classroom instruction time taking tests. The Council of Great City Schools found that students currently take an average of eight standardized tests per year. The U.S. Department of Education states: “One essential part of educating students successfully is assessing their progress in learning to high standards. Done well and thoughtfully, assessments are tools for learning and promoting equity. They provide necessary information for educators, families, the public, and the students themselves to measure progress and improve outcomes for all learners. Done poorly, in excess, or without clear purpose, they take valuable time away from teaching and learning, draining creative approaches from our classrooms.”
Schools are Not Prohibited from Using the Terms Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, and Dysgraphia
A Guidance Letter was issued by the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services on October 23, 2015 stating that there is nothing in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act that would prohibit the use of the terms dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia in IDEA evaluation, eligibility determinations, or IEP documents. The letter includes this statement: “There could be situations where the child’s parents and the team of qualified professionals responsible for determining whether the child has a specific learning disability would find it helpful to include information about the specific condition (e.g., dyslexia, dyscalculia, or dysgraphia) in documenting how that condition relates to the child’s eligibility determination. “
The letter also states that “if a child’s dyslexia, dyscalculia, or dysgraphia is the condition that forms the basis for the determination that a child has a specific learning disability, OSERS believes that there could be situations where an IEP Team could determine that personnel responsible for IEP implementation would need to know about the condition underlying the child’s disability”.
Illinois Can Proceed to Close Murray Developmental Center
On October 15, 2015 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that the State of Illinois can close Murray Developmental Center in Centralia, IL. Equip for Equality released a statement explaining the actions taken to date, including:
-The State’s proposal to close the institutional facility
-An appeal filed in federal district court seeking to stop the closure
-Rejection of the appeal by the district court
-An appeal filed to the U.S. Court of Appeals
-The Courts rejection of the appeal
The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals points out that ONLY New Jersey and Texas have more people than Illinois in institutional care. Illinois has the second lowest percentage of developmentally disabled persons living in apartments that house six or fewer persons. The ruling points out that “evidence and academic studies reveal that even persons who are severely disabled mentally or behaviorally or both do better in community-based facilities”.
Inclusive Educational Services during the Early Childhood Years
On September 14, 2015 the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services released a policy statement highlighting the importance of making sure all young children with disabilities have access to inclusive high-quality early childhood programs.
The Executive Summary of the new policy notes that attitudes and beliefs are “the most frequently reported barrier to early childhood inclusion, and may be influenced by misinformation of the feasibility of inclusion, resistance to changing existing practices, stereotyping of children with disabilities, and lack of awareness of the benefits for all children.” The summary goes on to state that “Families are children’s first and most important teachers and advocates. Schools and programs should ensure all families are knowledgeable about the benefits of inclusion and include them in policy development, advocacy efforts, and public information initiatives.”
On August 24, 2015, a new law in Illinois was signed that limits the use of suspensions and expulsions for students. Public Act 099-0456 will go into effect on September 15, 2016 and it states, in part, that:
Read the law at www.ilga.gov/legislation/publicacts/fulltext.asp?Name=099-0456
High Expectations for All Students During Standardized Testing
Starting in third grade, students are assessed annually using standardized tests. Students in Illinois are now given the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). School districts are allowed to provide some limited accommodations to those tests if a student qualifies based on a disability. Students with the most significant cognitive disabilities (1% of students) may be assessed using alternate achievement standards. Starting in 2007 some states also started using modified academic achievement standards for another 2% of students. Illinois did not start this practice. This allowance for another 2% of students to be given a modified test was eliminated in an amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) on August 21, 2015.
Background information for this recent amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act states:
· High standards and high expectations for all students and an accountability system that provides teachers, parents, students, and the public with information about students’ academic progress are essential to ensure that students graduate from high school prepared for college and careers in the 21st century.
· In 2007, the Department amended the Title I regulations to permit States to define modified academic achievement standards for eligible students with disabilities and to assess those students with alternate assessments based on those modified academic achievement standards.
· Since these regulations went into effect, additional research has demonstrated that students with disabilities who struggle in reading and mathematics can successfully learn grade-level content and make significant academic progress when appropriate instruction, services, and supports are provided.
· Nearly all States have developed new college and career-ready standards and new assessments aligned with those standards.
· For these reasons we (The U.S. Department of Education) believe that the removal of the authority for States to define modified academic achievement standards and to administer assessments based on those standards is necessary to ensure that students with disabilities are held to the same high standards as their nondisabled peers and that they benefit from high expectations, access to the general education curriculum based on a State’s academic content standards, and instruction that will prepare them for success in college and careers.
Read about this amendment in an article from Disability Scoop: www.disabilityscoop.com/2015/08/24/new-rule-ends-modified-tests/20589/
Inclusive Services as a Pathway to Employment
A "Dear Colleague" letter issued by the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) on July 29, 2015 states that "youth and young adults with disabilities must have access to career preparatory experiences that can bolster their careers".
ODEP created a guide for youth service professionals interested in helping young people pursue volunteer opportunities. The guide explores the benefits of volunteering and offers a framework for youth service professionals to find service opportunities that are good fits for their customers.
Fostering Inclusive Volunteering and Service Learning Guide: www.ncwd-youth.info/sites/default/files/Fostering-Inclusive-Volunteering-and-Service-Learning.pdf
Poverty Harms Brain Development in Children
A new study provides more tangible detrimental effects of growing up in poverty on brain development. Children living 1.5 times below the federal poverty level had smaller volumes of several brain regions critical for cognitive and academic performance.
Read an article by Dorothy L. Tengler, MA about the study: http://exclusive.multibriefs.com/content/study-poverty-harms-brain-development-in-children/medical-allied-healthcare
Learn about the study in the article from The JAMA Network – The Journal of the American Medical Association:
Picky Eating May Suggest ADHD, Depression, or Anxiety
A new study published in Pediatrics has found an association between eating habits and neurological conditions. Rachel Rabkin Peachman wrote an article about the study in Motherlode - New York Times. She emphasized that Nancy Zucker, lead author of the study and professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Duke University School of Medicine, noted that this doesn’t mean picky eating causes psychological issues or vice versa; it only shows a correlation between the two. “Their sensory experience is more intense in the areas of taste, texture and visual cues” says Dr. Zucker.
Also read about the study in the ADDitude Magazine: http://www.additudemag.com/adhdblogs/19/11484.html
Breaking The School to Prison Pipeline for Students with Disabilities
The National Council on Disability released a report on June 18, 2105 that examines the policies and practices that push the nation’s schoolchildren into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. The findings and recommendations in the Breaking the School-to-Prison Pipeline report are based upon testimony given at a stakeholder forum in October 2014, interviews with experts, and review of available research.
NCD has concluded that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) can and should be an important part of the solution. The report focuses on ways to improve special education delivery and enforcement systems to better meet the needs of students with disabilities.
The full report can be found at: www.ncd.gov/site/default/files/Documents/NCD_School-to-PrisonReport_508-PDF.pdf
Rethinking School Discipline
Over 3 million students are suspended or expelled every year in this country. The U.S. Department of Education hosted a conference on July 23, 2015 related to creating positive school climates and effective discipline practices. Creating a supportive school climate requires close attention to the social, emotional, and behavioral needs of all students. Attendees addressed positive alternatives to suspensions and expulsions to keep students at school and engaged in learning.
To learn more about the work achieved at the conference, go to: www.ed.gov/rethinkdiscipline
Listen to Michael Yudin from the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services discuss this topic:
Life After Special Education
The 2015 edition of Education Week’s Diplomas Count report – Next Steps: Life after Special Education released June 4, 2015 highlights the challenges and opportunities awaiting youth as they leave the education system. The report underscores that “early and comprehensive transition planning that fully involves the youths and their families can be a crucial step in identifying ambitious but realistic goals for students with disabilities, and helping them navigate the often-unfamiliar terrain of the post-high-school world”.
The report shares the profiles of five youth with a range of disabilities and features the latest graduation rates for the nation and states.
The full Diplomas Count 2015 report and interactive tools is located at: www.edweek.org/go/dc15
Illinois results can be found at: http://www.edweek.org/ew/dc/2015/map-graduation-rates-by-state-student-group.html
New Parent Checklist to Help Children Thrive at School
Engaging with educators is one of the first steps in supporting a child’s education. On July 17, 2015 the U.S Department of Education, America Achieves, National Council of La Raza, National PTA, and the United Negro College Fund released a checklist offering key questions for parents to ask their child’s school to help their child thrive. Answers to the questions will indicate if a child is getting a quality education.
Questions on the parent checklist I have a Question…What Parents and Caregivers Can Ask and Do to Help Children Thrive at School relate to:
-Preparation for Success
-Safety and Health
-Equity and Fairness
Find this parent checklist at: http://www2.ed.gov/documents/family-community/parent-checklist.pdf
Additional resources to supplement this guide: Disability Issues: www.parentcenterhub.org
Early Childhood Learning: www.ed.gov/early-learning
The checklist follows the June 26, 2015 release of a set of rights for families related to their child’s education. Learn more at:
Children with Disabilities with High Cognition
Some students may be doing well academically at school, but still qualify for special education services. The U.S. Department of Education is concerned that some school districts are hesitant to conduct initial evaluations to determine eligibility for special education and related services for these students. The Department noted that this seems to be happening for students with emotional disturbance or mental illness in particular. On April 17, 2015, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services issued a memorandum to the State Directors of Special Education reminding them of the federal regulation that states, in part –
…in determining whether a child has a disability…the IDEA requires the use of a variety of assessment tools and strategies to gather relevant functional, developmental, and academic information about the child, and prohibits the use of any single measure or assessment as the sole criterion for determining whether a child is a child with a disability and for determining an appropriate educational program for the child.
The Department requested that their Letter to Delisle, issued on December 20, 2013, be widely distributed to school districts reminding them of their obligation to evaluate all children, regardless of cognitive skills, suspected of having one of the 13 special education eligibility categories.
Read the Letter to Delisle here: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/memosdcltrs/122013delisletwiceexceptional4q2013.pdf
Read more about the special education eligibility categories in the parent guide from the Illinois State Board of Education: http://www.isbe.net/spec-ed/html/parent_rights.htm
Respecting the Parental Right to File a State Complaint
Parents who are unable to reach an agreement with their school district on what constitutes a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) for their child, have specific formal options for resolving disputes. Those options include mediation, State complaints, and due process hearings.
Some issues that may be resolved through a State complaint, could also be addressed in a due process hearing. If a State complaint is filed over the same issues that are part of a current due process hearing, the State must set aside those issues in the formal complaint resolution process until a final decision or dismissal is issued by the hearing officer assigned to the due process. It has come to the attention of the U.S. Department of Education that some schools may be filing due process complaints against parents concerning the same issue that is the subject of an ongoing State complaint resolution to delay the State complaint process and force parents to participate in, or ignore at considerable risk, due process hearings.
A “Dear Colleague” letter was released April 15, 2015 from the U.S. Department of Education strongly encouraging schools to respect parents’ reasonable choice to use the State complaint process rather than a due process hearing.
Read the letter here: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/memosdcltrs/dcl04152015disputeresolution2q2015.pdf
"Stay Put" Remains in Effect Through Final Resolution
When a parent disagrees with an educational placement decision made by the IEP team for their child, and files for mediation or a due process hearing to work out the issue, the child is allowed to remain in the current setting until the case is resolved. This rule applies unless the child has possessed a weapon, possessed illegal drugs, or inflicted serious bodily injury to another person.
The United States Supreme Court was recently asked to determine if the “stay-put” rule remained in place when a case is taken to the district court level or even when a case is appealed to a federal district court. On May 18, 2015 the Supreme Court declined to grant the Ridley School District’s petition to allow them to change the placement of a student whose case had been appealed to a federal district court. This denial means that the “stay-put” rule remains in effect through every stage of the appeal process.
The “stay-put” rule is found at 34 CFR 300.518: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CFR-2011-title34-vol2/xml/CFR-2011-title34-vol2-sec300-518.xml
Read the Supreme Court case here: http://www.nsba.org/sites/default/files/reports/13-1547NSBA%20Amicus%20Brief.pdf
Kids and Reading
In January 2015, Scholastic released its annual survey related to children’s reading. A summary of the findings from www.edcentral.org/4-surpreise-scholastics/ show:
1-Boys and older teenagers are reading books for fun with less frequency than 4 years ago.
2-Parents and preschoolers place high importance on reading aloud to their children, but less than 2/3 do so daily.
3-Kids want books in print – as opposed to electronic format – even more than they did 2 years ago. So do their parents.
4-Kids wish their parents had continued to read to them after they reached school age.
Read the Scholastic report here: www.scholastic.com/readingreport/
Are We Closing the School Discipline Gap?
The Center for Civil Rights Remedies published a report in February 2015 about the effect of disciplinary suspensions on student success. The report concludes that “if we ignore the discipline gap, we will be unable to close the achievement gap”. Suspensions have a negative impact on both student achievement and graduation rates. The report determined children with disabilities have the highest suspension rates. Read the full report at:
Social and Emotional Learning: Skills for Life and Work
Independent researchers in the United Kingdom have found that it is important to focus on social and emotional skills early in a child’s life. Those skills include self-perceptions, self-awareness, self-direction; motivation; self-control, self-regulation; relationship skills, communication skills; and resilience and coping. The studies indicate that social and emotional skills matter for adult mental health, life satisfaction, socio-economic reasons, and employment. Read the 2015 summary of findings at:
Harsher Penalties for Truancy of Students with Disabilities
House bill 3402 was introduced in the Illinois Legislature in February 2015. It would increase the maximum penalty for parents whose child with a disability is truant. Parents of students can be fined up to $500 and jailed for up to 30 days under current Illinois law. HB 3402 would increase those maximum penalties to $1,000 and a six months in jail for parents of children with disabilities and leave the maximum penalty the same for other parents. You can monitor the status of this Bill at www.ilga.gov/legislation/billstatus.asp
Professional Development for Educators and School Staff
The BEST Act – Better Educator Support and Training Act – was introduced on March 31, 2015. U.S. Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island said “If we want our children to have a quality education, with top-notch instruction and support, we’ve got to invest in our teachers as well as our classrooms.” U.S. Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania noted that the BEST Act “aims to provide comprehensive resources that educators need to help students achieve their academic best.” If enacted the Act would provide educator mentoring and professional development to the entire educational team – librarian, counselors, principals, and teachers. Learn more at:
Educational Services for Youth in the Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Systems
Children involved in the foster care system or in the juvenile justice system experience hardships related to “trauma, changes in placement, family mobility, disabling conditions, and economic disadvantage”. The National Evaluation and Technical Assistance Center for the Education of Children and Youth Who are Neglected, Delinquent, or At-Risk lists these hardships in their new guide entitled “Quality Education Services Are Critical for Youth Involved With the Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare Systems”. The guide is designed to assist child-serving agencies address barriers and challenges for the children and families they serve. The guide offers policy-related recommendations and actionable items that staff can use to ensure better outcomes for youth.
View or download the guide at: http://www.neglected-delinquent.org/sites/default/files/NDTAC_Correctional_ED_Practice_Guide_508.pdf
Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act
On December 19, 2014 the ABLE Act was signed into federal law. Regulations or guidance related to the new law will be issued by June 2015. Each state will decide whether to offer an ABLE program.
The ABLE Act allows families to create a savings account for their family member with a disability to save for future disability-related expenses. These ABLE accounts resemble the 529 accounts that parents can set up to save for their children’s college tuition. The new accounts protect eligibility for Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, and other federal benefits. The money can be used for housing, transportation, employment training, assistive technology, education, funeral and burial expenses, and other approved expenses.
Learn more details from The Arc of Illinois: https://files.ctctcdn.com/92d3c2d6001/c0d1c5c0-d9cc-4cae-83e9-9404ce412f19.pdf
A Vision for the Future of the Education in the United States
On January 14, 2015, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan outlined what he wants to see change as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is reauthorized. He calls for increasing the opportunity for quality preschool, increasing funding and assistance for school and educators, reducing time spent on testing, and informing parents, teachers, and students about progress toward college and career readiness.
Find all Duncan’s comments here:
The Arc of Illinois New Assitive Technology Program
The Arc of Illinois, through a generous donation, has developed a new Assistive Technology Program. This program will fund, or partially fund, the purchase of assistive technology for individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, such as an iPad, for social and communication skills. There must be an evaluation/assessment completed by a qualified provider to prove need and reason for the requested device.
The goal of The Arc of Illinois Assistive Technology Program is to enhance and improve the quality of life for persons with intellectual/developmental disabilities by providing opportunities for individuals to receive technology to help with education, employment, community living and independence. With today’s technology, there are assistive features on devices, such as iPads, that can really improve learning for students with special needs. One mom recently told us, “I am so excited about the possibility of this program especially for people like my son, who has autism. A device like an iPad would mean such a difference to him in being able to communicate with the people in his life.”.
The maximum amount funded will be $500.00 per person or family. Upon approval, the device will be shipped directly to the applicant. Once the device is received it is the responsibility of that person and/or family to make sure it is used in the appropriate manner and that an evaluation is filled out to assure future funding for this project. There are not many programs like this in the state of Illinois and The Arc of Illinois is overjoyed to be able to provide this much needed assistive technology for people with intellectual/developmental disabilities.
Go here to apply: The Arc of Illinois Assistive Technology Application.
The Arc of Illinois is a non-profit statewide advocacy organization representing individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families and has emerged as a leading advocacy organization in Illinois. The Arc is committed to enhancing the quality of life for children and adults with disabilities and their families and insuring persons with disabilities have services and supports available to them when needed. For more information about The Arc of Illinois visit our website: www.thearcofil.org or call the office at 815-464-1832.
Equal Access At School For English Language Learners
The U.S. Department of Education and Justice released guidance on January 7, 2015 explaining how school districts can meet their obligations to English learner students. The guidance explains the schools’ obligations to:
A fact sheet about obligations of the school is available in English at:
A fact sheet about obligations of the school is available in other languages at: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/ellresources.html
To view the entire guidance document, go to: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-el-201501.pdf
Educational Gaps Remain Too Wide
On June 7, 2016 the Office for Civil Rights