Recent News

(Posted 05/10/18)
Compensatory Educational Services

On April 19, 2018, the U.S. Department of Education issued a letter related to when school districts might be responsible for providing compensatory education services to students with disabilities. If a parent files a state complaint, and the state education agency determines that the district failed to provide appropriate services, the SEA has broad flexibility to determine appropriate remedies to address the denial of appropriate services, In addressing the failure, according to the department's letter, the SEA could order compensatory services as a corrective action. Nothing in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or its implementing regulations limit the awarding of compensatory services or require such an award.

Letter to Lipsitt

 

(Posted 05/07/18)
Reading and Math Scores

In early April 2018, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) released the Nation's Report Card. This report card is released bi-annually. This report compares reading and math scores from 2015 to scores from 2017 for the nation's students.

Math Scores (you will be able to click on the map of Illinois to get state specific scores)

Reading Scores (you will be able to click on the map of Illinois to get state specific scores)

The Advocacy Institute has information on the results specific to students with disabilities.

Advocacy Institute Blog

 

(Posted 05/04/18)
Report from Our Nation's Schools Including Information on Bullying

The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights released their 2015-2016 Civil Rights Data Collection report on April 24, 2018. Included in the report is information from 17,337 school districts, which included 96,360 schools. Students with disabilities who qualified for special education made up 12% of the student population. An additional 2% of students were served under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

The report includes information on school climate and safety and reports data on serious offenses, law enforcement referrals and school-related arrests, restraint and seclusion, school discipline, and harassment or bullying. The report notes that 135,600 individual allegations of harassement or bullying were reported during the 2015-2016 school year. 11% of those involved allegations on the bassis of disability.

School Climate and Safety-Civil Rights Data Collection

The report also includes information on students taking STEM courses - Science, Tehcnology, Engineering and Mathematics.

STEM Course Taking-Civil Rights Data Collection

 

(Posted 04/19/18)
Counseling Available to Youth

The Illinois Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code was amended on August 18, 2017 and by Public Act 100-0196 which became effective on January 1, 2018. The number of therapy sessions a minor can receive without parental consent was increased from five to eight by the revision.

Any minor 12 years of age or older may request and receive counseling services of psychotherapy on an outpatient basis without parental consent for up to eight 90-minute sessions. During the sessions, the provider will determine whether attempting to obtain parental consent would not be detrimental, the minor is to be notified that consent will be requested to continue the services beyond the eight sessions. Reasons for not obtaining parental consent may be related to allegations of neglect, sexual abuse, or mental or physical abuse by the parent. Parents are not liable for the costs of outpatient counseling services or psychotherapy which is received by the minor without the consent of the minor's parent.

Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code Sections 3-501

 

(Posted 04/13/18)
Scholarships for Student with Disabilities

Disability scholarships exist to provide college funding for students who possess numberous cognitive, behavioral, and emotional impediments that would make it difficult to attain a college degree. These scholarship opportunities help deserving students stay in school and out of debt, allowing them to more easily achieve their educational and career goals.

Disability scholarships are funded by a variety of scholarship providers with different requirements. They can be intended to help students with a specific disability pay for school, or they can be aimed at a wider range of students who have physical or mental issues.

Scholarships.com offers a list of scholarships available to students with disabilities.

Available Scholarships - This site includes scholarships for students with disabilities for 2018 and 2019. There are scholarships available for students with vision loss, hearing loss, diabetes, blood disorders, learning disabilities, etc.

Here are just a few examples of the scholarships listed on the site:

AAHD Frederick J. Krause Scholarships on Health and Disability
Application deadline: November 15, 2018
The AAHD Frederick J. Krause Scholarship on Health and Disability is awarded annually to a deserving student with a disability who is pursuing undergraduate/graduate studies (must be at least enrolled as a junior in college) in an accredited university who is pursuing studies related to the health and disability, to include, but not limited to public health, health promotion, disability studies, disability research, rehabilitation engineering, audiology, disability policy, special education and m ajors that will impact quality of life of persons with disabilities. For more information or to apply, please visit the scholarship provider's website. scholarship@aahd.us

Allegra Ford Thomas Scholarship
Application deadline: November 13, 2018
The Allegra Ford Thomas scholarship is a $2,500 one-time scholarship awarded to a graduating high school senior with a documented learning disability who will be enrolled in a two-year community college, a vocational or technical training program, or a specialized program for students with LD in the fall. The ideal Allegra Ford Thomas Scholar is a student who:

  • Articulates his or her LD and recognizes the need for self-advocacy
  • Is committed to post-high school academic study/career training and has begun to set realistic career goals
  • Has demonstrated perseverance and is committed to achieving personal goals despite the challenges of LD
  • Participates in school and community activities
  • Demonstrates financial need

Eligibility:

  • Be a graduating high school senior who will be attending a two-year community college, a vocational/technical training program, or specialized program for students with LD in the fall
  • Demonstrate financial need
  • Provide most current documentation of an identified learning disability
  • Be a United States citizen

afscholarship@ncld.org

Google Lime Scholarship for Students with Disabilities
Application deadline: December 10, 2018
Google partnered with Lime Connect to help university students with disabilities work toward their academic goals in the field of computer science. Students must have a visible or invisible disability, be enrolled as an undergraduate or graduate student at a university for the upcoming school year and plan to enroll as a full-time student at a university in the US or Canada for the upcoming school year. They must also be pursuing a degree in computer science, computer engineering or a degree in a closely related technical field. 
recruiting@limeconnect.com

Michael Yasick ADHD Scholarship by Shire
Application deadline: May 31, 2018
Shire is sponsoring the Michael Yasick ADHD Scholarship to recognize students who are legal residents of the United States who are diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and who are accepted to or enrolled in a two-year or four-year undergraduate program or graduate program (of one or more years in length) at an accredited college, university, technical school, trade school, or vocational school. Each scholarship recipient will receive a one-time tuition payment of $2,000 and one year of ADHD coaching services from the Edge Foundation (approximate value of coaching services: $4,400).
shireadhdscholarship@benchworkscommunications.com

(Posted 03/21/18)
Office of Civil Rights Changes Procedures

On March 5, 2018, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released a revised edition of their Case Processing Manual. Changes in the new edition include:

1- Elimination of student appeals process related to discrimination

2- Right of the office to dismiss cases that will require too many resources to investigate

3- Reduces the amount of time complainants have to produce evidence of discrimination

The manual no longer includes language related to investigation "systemic" complaints.

OCR Case Processing Manual

 

(Posted 02/27/18)
PARCC Testing to Change

Each year in Illinois students in grades three through eight take the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam. This state exam assess a student's current performance, and indicated what students need to learn. The Illinois State Board of Education plans to performance, and indicated what students need to learn. The Illinois State Board of Education plans to continue to use the PARCC's core features, but will be making improvements. The test questions will be more or less advanced depending on the student's performance as they progress through the computer format of the exam. Scores results will be reported on a common scale and the results of the testing will be back to teachers in a more timely manner so that instruction can be adjusted.

February 9, 2018 Letter on PARCC from State Superintendent Tony Smith

The PARCC website offers information for parents to help them understand the exam including learning about accommodations that are available to students with disabilities.

Parent Resources on PARCC

 

(Posted 02/15/18)
Preparing Transition-Age Youth with Disabilities for Work

The Institute for Educational Leadership has released a February 2018 policy brief that informs school leaders about their responsibility to provide students with disabilities effective secondary school transition programs that help students excel in post-secondary education settings and secure employment. This brief explains that recent legal developments have clarified that schools may be liable under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Olmstead if they place students at serious risk of unnecessary segregation in postsecondary settings.

The document lists and explains six reasons why many school transition programs fail to lead to competitive integrated employment:

  • They are often modeled upon, and prepare students for, sheltered workshops
  • They typically do not prepare students with disabilities for competitive integrated employment
  • They often do not give students with disabiltiies marketable skills
  • At times, they segregate, stigmatize, and set low expectations
  • They often do not start early enough and are not individualized
  • They frequently do not address students' disabilities


The report states that "Thirty years of research in the field of supported employment services, however, has firmly established that even individuals with the most severe disabilities can work in competitive integrated employment (Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), n.d.). It is widely recognized in the field of supported employment that the most effective method to drive successful integrated employment outcomes is for individuals with disabilities to be placed first in competitive integrated employment and provided with the individualized training, services, supports, and accommodations necessary to cussed in that environment." The report also emphasizes the importance of recognizing the student's preferences, interests, abilities, and needs.

Preparing Transition-Age Youth with Disabilities for Work: What School Leaders Need to Know About the New Legal Landscape

 

(Posted 02/14/18)
Endrew F. Decision by United States District Court

Endrew F. has a diagnosis of autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. His school district, Douglas County School District in Colorado, agreed that he qualified for special education services and he was served in the public school until almost the end of his fourth grade year.  The parents, Joseph and Jennifer F., then moved Endrew to a private school that specialized in children with autism where he has made academic, social and behavioral progress.  Joseph and Jennifer believe he stopped making meaningful educational and functional progress during second grade. They argue that the final IEP (individualized education program) presented by the district was not reasonably calculated to provide Endrew with a free appropriate public education since it was not substantively different from prior IEPs that failed to evidence progress.  The district had also not conducted a functional behavioral assessment, or developed an appropriate Behavior Intervention Plan.  The parents filed for a due process hearing seeking reimbursement for private school tuition and transportation costs from the district.

 

After the hearing, the Administrative Law Judge issued a decision saying that the district did not violate the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) because Endrew had made “some measurable progress”.  This decision was then reviewed by Judge Babcock of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.  This judge also concluded that, even though Endrew did not meet all of his objectives, and did not make progress on every goal, he received “educational benefit”.  The judge relied on the mandate that educational benefit for students with disabilities need only be “more than de minimis”. 

 

Joseph and Jennifer F. then appealed to the U. S. Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court ruled that IDEA requires “an educational program reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances, just as advancement from grade to grade is appropriately ambitious for most children in the regular classroom”.  The case was remanded back to Judge Babcock for further proceedings consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision.  His decision was filed on February 12, 2018.  He agreed that the April 2010 IEP offered to Endrew was insufficient to create an educational plan that was reasonably calculated to enable Endrew to make progress, even in the light of his unique circumstances, based on the continued pattern of unambitious goals and objectives of his prior IEPs.  He also noted that Endrew’s IEPs consisted of only updates and minor or slight increases in the objectives, carrying over the same goals from year to year, or abandoning goals if they had not been met.  He noted that Endrew’s minimal progress was also impacted by the school’s lack of success in providing a program to address maladaptive behaviors. 

 

Judge Babcock determined that the law makes it clear that parents are entitled to reimbursement under the IDEA if: (1) the school district violated the IDEA; and (2) the education provided by the private school provides the child with an education that enables the child to receive educational benefits.  He ruled that the parents are entitled to reimbursement for the reasonable costs of his education at the private school.  The parents are also eligible for reimbursement of reasonable attorneys’ fees and litigation costs. 

 

Endrew F. U.S. District Court Decision Following Supreme Court Ruling

 

(Posted 02/13/18)

The Segregation of Students with Disabilities

On February 7, 2018, the National Council on Disability issued five reports examining the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The reports include:

  • Broken Promises: The Underfunding of IDEA
  • English Learners and Students from Low-Income Families
  • Federal Monitoring and Enforcement of IDEA Compliance
  • Every Student Succeeds Act and Students with Disabilities
  • The Segregation of Students with Disabilities


Each report provides the current state of policy and practice for each particular topic, provides a detailed account of progress or non-progress, and makes recommendations for improvement.

IDEA Reports - Series of 5

The report on The Segregation of Students with Disabilities, includes a letter from Clyde E. Terry, Chairperson of the National Council on Disability, to President Trump that includes this statement:

“As you know, the right of students with disabilities to receive a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment is solidly rooted in the guarantee of equal protection under the law granted to all citizens under the Constitution.  In enacting IDEA, Congress sought to end the long history of segregation and exclusion of children with disabilities from the American public school system. IDEA requires that students with disabilities be educated to the maximum extent possible with students without disabilities. However, many students with disabilities remain segregated in self-contained classrooms or in separate schools, with limited or no opportunities to participate academically and socially in general education classrooms and school activities.  Many do not have access to the same academic and extracurricular activities and services provided to other students. Frequently, these students leave school unprepared for adult life in the community.”

The study finds that “the opportunity for students to participate in their neighborhood school alongside their peers without disabilities is influenced more by the zip code in which they live, their race, and disability label, than by meeting the federal law defining how student placements should be made”.  The study also points out that “research demonstrates that inclusive education results in the best learning outcomes” and that there is “no research that supports the value of a segregated special education class and school”. 

The Segregation of Students with Disabilities NCD Report 2018

 

(Posted 02/13/18)
Implementation of the IDEA

In January 2018, the U.S. Department of Education released the 39th Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the law in place to ensure the free appropriate public education of all children with disabilities.

The report outlines the numbers and percentages of students served under Part C (ages 0 through 2) and Part B (age 3 through 21). There is information on the educational environments in which students receive services, participation and performance of students with disabilities on state assessments, and disciplinary removals.

Notable numbers for the reporting period:

  • 3% of infants and toddlers ages 0 through 2 were served under Part C Early Intervention
  • 85% of those infants and todderls served received those services in their home
  • 6.2% of children ages 3 through 5 received special education services with the most prevalent category of eligibility being speech and language impairment, followed by developmental delay and then autism
  • 8.9 % of children and youth ages 6 through 21 received special education services with the most prevalent category of eligibility being specific learning disability, followed by speech or language impairment, then other health impaired and then autism
  • From 2006 through 2015, the % of students ages 6 through 21 served under IDEA Part B educated inside the regular class 80% or more of the day increased from 55.2% to 62.7% (only 16.5% of students reported under the category of intellectual disability and 13.3 of students reporterd under the category of multiple disabilities were educated inside the regular class 80% or more of the day)

U.S. Dept of Ed 39th Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of IDEA

 

(Posted 02/12/18)
Employment Task Force Report:

Illinois is an Employment First State and seeks to ensure that persons with disabilities work in competitive jobs at or above minimum wage. In June 2017, the Employment and Economic Opportunity for Persons with Disabilities Task Force (EEOPD), created by the General Assembly in 2009, released recommendations for state agencies regarding competitive, integrated employment for persons with disabilities.

Per the report, the Workforce Development Work Group identified five areas of focus:

First, the State must align its mandated requirements under the Workforce Innovations and Opportunity Act (WIOA) with Employment First principles. This will result in opportunities for competitive and integrated employment for students with disabilities and people currently receiving sub-minimum wage.

Second, the State must transform into a model employer for people with disabilities. This will require significant changes, including modifying the existing "Rutan" process to ensure people with significant disabilities can receive reasonable accommodations, including exemptions from the current testing and interview process for state employees.

Third, the State must modify two of its programs - the Business Enterprise Program (BEP) and the State Use Program - to be consistent with Employment First. This will require statutory and regulatory changes.

Fourth, the State must ensure that its website structure and content on www.illinois.gov is in compliance with federal and state accessibility laws. This will require a centralized and coordinated audit of current content, and policies and procedures for posting content moving forward.

Fifth, the State must establish a training protocol on Employment First for new and existing employees. Using already existing materials and coordinating with ongoing training events will facilitate this process.

Employment and Economic Opportunity for Persons with Disabilities Task Force Recommendations Report

 

(Posted 02/07/18)
College and Career Readiness

In January 2018, the College and Career Readiness & Success Center in Washington, DC (www.ccrscenter.org) released a brief on how the Every Student Succeeds Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act can be used to promote college and career readiness for students with disabilities through high expectations and access to general curriculum.
How ESSA and IDEA Can Support College and Career Readiness for Students with Disabilities

Also noting that persons with a disability are less likely to graduate on time, attend college, or be employed than individuals without a disability, they released an infographic to highlight how participation and concentration in career and technical education programs can help improve readiness and success in college and careers for students with disabilities.
Why Is Career and Technical Education Important for Employment Success for Students with Disabilities?

 

(Posted 02/07/18)
Recognize, Assist, Include, Support and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act

In January 2018, The RAISE Family Caregivers Act was signed into law. This law creates a family caregiving advisory council to establish ways to support caregivers across the United States. Within 18 months, the Secretary of Health and Human Services is to establish recommendations for supporting family caregivers. These family caregivers are critical in the lives of persons with disabilities.
More information is available from Disability Scoop:
RAISE FAMILY CAREGIVERS ACT

 

(Posted 02/07/18)

Sexual Assault of College Students with Disabilities

Research has found that 31.6% of female undergraduates with a disability were victims of sexual assault. On January 30, 2018, the National Council on Disability released Not on the Radar: Sexual Assault of College Students with Disabilities. This report outlines steps colleges should be taking, including: 

-developing and implementing sexual assault prevention and support service training with messaging campaigns that are inclusive and welcoming to students with disabilities
-ensuring sexual assault services are provided to students who have hearing impairments and other sensory issues
-guaranteeing that first responders have access to interpreters or communication devices so that victims of assault can communicate immediately

Not on the Radar: Sexual Assault of College Students with Disabilities

 

(Posted 01/10/18)

What Constitutes a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)?

Do students with disabilities only get an education that provides "merely more than de minimis" benefit? On March 22, 2017 the U.S. Supreme Court said 'no'. Their decision in the Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District interprets the law as meaning that students get an educational program that is calculated to "enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child's circumstances" and the court emphasized that "every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives".

On December 7, 2017 the U.S. Department of Education issued a Question and Answer document on this important case to explain the issue, the decision, and how IEP teams can implement the new standard for children with the most significant cognitive disabilities. The document explains that the decision emphasizes the individual decision-making required in the IEP process that includes consideration of the child's present levels of performance, disability, and potential for growth when writing annual goals. The Department notes that "Each child with a disability must be offered an IEP that is designed to provide access to instructional strategies and curricula aligned to both challenging State academic content standards and ambitious goals, based on the unique circumstances of that child".

This Question and Answer document addresses the need to revisit the IEP if expected progress is not occurring and states that the IEP team must then revise the IEP to ensure the child is receiving appropriate interventions, special education, related services, and supplementary aids and services.

Questions and Answers on U.S. Supreme Court Case Decision Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District Re-1

 

(Posted 12/22/17)
The Priorities of the Department of Education

On October 12, 2017 the Department of Education issued proposed priorities for the department and the public comment period was open until November 13, 2017. 

The proposed priorities are:

1-Empowering Families to Choose a High-Quality Education that Meets Their Child’s Unique Needs

-access to quality educational options/choices

-access to high-quality preschool through 12th grade education

2-Promoting Innovation and Efficiency, Streamlining Education with an Increased Focus on Improving Student Outcomes, and Providing Increased Value to Students and Taxpayers

-increase focus on outcomes, decrease emphasis on compliance

3-Fostering Flexible and Affordable Paths to Obtaining Knowledge and Skills

-equip students with skills or knowledge required by employers

4-Fostering Knowledge and Promoting the Development of Skills that Prepare Students to be Informed, Thoughtful, and Productive Individuals and Citizens

-provide students with knowledge of civics, financial literacy, problem solving, and employability skills

5-Meeting the Unique Needs of Students and Children, including those with Disabilities and/or with Unique Gifts and Talents

-ensure students with disabilities have equal access to a high-quality education to be prepared to live productive, independent lives

6-Promoting Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Education, with a Particular Focus on Computer Science

-Expand the capacity of elementary and secondary schools to provide all students with engaging and meaningful opportunities to develop knowledge and competencies in STEM subjects

7-Promoting Literacy

-promote literacy interventions supported by strong evidence

-provide families with evidence-based strategies for promoting literacy at home

-facilitate the accurate and timely use of data by educators to improve reading instruction and make informed decisions about how to help students build literacy skills while protecting student and family privacy

-integrate literacy instruction into content-area teaching

8-Promoting Effective Instruction in Classrooms and Schools

-support educators as teacher quality is the most important school-related factor in impacting student academic performance

-support recruitment or retention of effective educators

-increase professional development for teachers of science, technology, engineering and math subjects

9-Promoting Economic Opportunity

-promote economic mobility of low-income parents and children

-build greater effective family engagement in their students’ education

10-Encouraging Improved School Climate and Safer and More Respectful Interactions in a Positive and Safe Educational Environment

-ensure that students and educators of all backgrounds are able to engage in respectful dialogue without fear of retribution

-stop bullying and ensure that every child can learn in a safe environment

11-Ensuring that Service Members, Veterans, and their Families Have Access to High-Quality Educational Choices

 

(Posted 12/21/17)
Stay Put Placement Rule

Due process hearings are the most formal way of resolving a dispute between parents and school districts.  When a parent files a due process hearing request, the request triggers “stay-put”.  This is a provision designed to make sure that no changes are made to a child’s placement until issues that might affect the placement have been decided by a hearing officer.  The child remains in the last placement the parties agreed to prior to the due process request.  A district can proceed with a placement in 10 calendar days after an IEP meeting unless the parent has made a formal objection, so filing for the due process when a parent wants the “stay-put” provision to be implemented must be done within that 10 days. 

Recent changes to the law have also made the “stay-put” provision available during the mediation process.  Mediation is a less formal, voluntary process designed to help parties reach agreements to resolve potential disputes.  A mediation can take place whether or not a due process case has been filed. 

House Bill 2618 amended the Illinois School Code, effective August 18, 2017, to clarify that if a parent seeks to preserve the child’s “stay-put” placement by requesting mediation, the 10-day timeline for the parent to request a due process hearing in order to continue to maintain the “stay-put” placement starts to run when the mediation is terminated without an agreement or the school district declines necessary to participate in mediation. 

The bill also requires the State Board of Education to review and revise as deemed necessary its standard notification of procedural safeguards for parents at least every 2 years.  

 

(Posted 12/05/17)
Complaints to the Office for Civil Rights

During November 2017 the Education Department in Washington DC proposed that civil rights investigations done at schools should focus on individual complaints rather than systemic problems. Also proposed was a revision that would allow schools to negotiate a resolution agreement with the Office for Civil Rights before the written findings are released to parents. These proposals will be reviewed and a final version will be released next year after suggestions are received from staff.

Civil Rights Work in Schools

 

(Posted 12/05/17)
Revision to the Illinois School Student Records Act

The Illinois School Student Records Act governs what records schools keep, for how long, and who has access to both permanent and temporary records.

A "student permanent record" includes such things as the student's name, birth date, address, grades and grade level, parents' names and addresses, and attendance records. A "student temporary record" may include family background information, intelligence test scores, aptitude test scores, psychological and personality test results, teacher evaluations, individualized education program forms, and information on serious disciplinary infractions.

A parent or any person specifically designated as a representative by a parent has the right to inspect and copy all school student permanent and temporary records of that parent's child. A student has the right to inspect and copy his or her school student permanent record.

Previously the school had 15 school days after receiving a request to inspect or copy student records to comply with that request. Effective September 22, 2017, a school district must respond to a request for student records within 10 business days. A "school day" is definded as Monday, through Friday, except for Federal and State holidays. This will mean that record copies will be available to parents over the summer months.

Public Act 100-532

 

(Posted 09/18/17)
New Illinois Voucher Program for Education

Senate Bill 1947, signed into law by Governor Rauner as Public Act 100-0465 on August 31, 2017, provides funding for Illinois School Districts. Included in this legislation is a new voucher program for public school children to attend private schools. Taxpayers can donate money to any approved scholarship organization who will then offer scholarships for students to attend the private school of their choice. The donor will receive a tax credit of 75% of the donation amount.

All students from families that earn $73,000 a year or less are eligible for scholarships which are capped at the state's average state-wide per pupil expenditure. (In 2014-2015 that was $12,821.)

Public Act 100-0465

 

(Posted 09/18/17)
No Plan, No Diploma

In April 2017 Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel mandated that, starting in 2020, every public school student in Chicago must have a postsecondary plan in place before receiving a high school diploma. Students will need to present their school with an authorized document confirming they are enrolling in a college, being admitted to a trade school, enlisting in the military, or have been hired for a job. This mandate was approved by the school board. Chicago Publix Schools in the first district in the United States to have this requirement for receiving a high school diploma. The idea is to reduce the number of high school graduates who end up without employment and who are forced to make money by dangerous means. In Chicago 47% of black men ages 20-24 are neither employed or in a school setting.

Read more about this mandate from CNN News:

Chicago's New Requirement for High School Students: No Plan, No Diploma

 

(Posted 08/16/17)
A Chance to Provide Input on Federal Regulations

Following the passage of a federal law, regulations governing the implementation of that law are developed and then coded in the Federal Register. Regulations related to special education and Early Intervention are coded under Title 34 - Education, Subtitle B, Chapter III in the Code of Federal Regulations. On June 22, 2017, the federal government requested input on regulations that may be appropriate for repeal, replacement, or modification. The comment period was to have ended on August 21, 2017, but the deadline has been extended to September 30, 2017. The Department of Education will consider all input, but will not respond directly to individual comments. Commenters should be as specific as possible, and:

  • provide a Federal Register (FR) or CFR citation when referencing a specific regulation or, where practicable, a link when referencing a particular guidance document;
  • include any supporting data or other applicable information;
  • provide specific suggestions regarding repeal, replacement, or modification; and
  • explain with specificity why the referenced regulation or guidance should be repealed, replaced, or modified.
     

Regulations specific to the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services - OSERS

Valuable information to consider before submitting comments

Comment submission

 

(Posted 08/11/17)
Illinois State Board of Education's Consolidated State Plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act

The Every Student Succeeds Act, the federal education law for all students, requires that each state submit a plan on student achievement goals and measuring school performance. Governor Rauner signed the Illinois Plan on April 11, 2017. The plan states that a "universal culture of high expectations is fundamental to creating and supporting the conditions that provide the best opportunities for all students". The vision is that "Illinois is a state of whole, healthy children nested in whole, healthy systems supporting communities wherein all citizens are socially and economically secure".

Illinois has a goal that 60% of its residents earn high-quality degrees and career credentials by 2025. The long-term goals to be achieved by 2032 are:

  • 90% or more of third-grade students are reading at or above grade level
  • 90% or more of fifth-grade students meet or exceed expectations in mathematics
  • 90% or more of ninth-grade students are on track to graduate with their cohort
  • 90% or more of students graduate from high school ready for college and career

 

Student growth will be monitored by the administration of PARCC testing in grades 3-8 and the SAT in high school. Students with the most significant disabilities will be assessed using the Dynamic Learning Maps Alternative Assessment. Factors that will be considered when deeming a student to be on track for graduation include if they earn at least five full-year course credits and have no more than one semester F in a core course in their first year of high school. Indicators of college and career readiness will include a GPA of 2.8 out of 4.0 and 95% attendance in high school junior and senior years. Chronic absenteeism will also be assessed as a student success indicator.

ISBE will use a system of four tiers to differentiate schools.

  • Tier 1-Exemplary School: no underperforming subgroups; graduation rate greater than 67%; performance in top 10% statewide
  • Tier 2-Commendable School: no underperforming subgroups; graduation rate greater than 67%; performance not in top 10% statewide
  • Tier 3-Underperforming School: one or more subgroups performing at or below the level of the 'all students' group in the lowest-performing 5% of Title 1 schools. (These schools will receive targeted services.)
  • Tier 4-Lowest-Performing School: in the lowest-performing 5% Title 1 schools AND those high schools that have a graduation rate of 67% or less. (These schools will receive comprehensive services.

Subgroups of students include: 

  • Economically Disadvantaged Students
  • Children with Disabilities
  • English Learners
  • Former English Learners
  • Students Formerly with a Disability
  • Students from Each Major Racial and Ethnic Group

Subgroups must consist of at least 10 studetns to be reported, and at least 20 students to be differentiated for accountability.

The Illinois State Board of Education will provide access to supports identified as necessary to meet these goals by a district or school through IL-EMPOWER. Schools will identify areas where they need support and then select a vendor who can best assist in meeting those needs. The chosen vendor will work with the school to develop a work plan and ISBE will then grant the appropriate amount of funding to each school or district. Progress wil be monitored, and schools that are not making reasonable progress will work directly with ISBE to determine additional interventions.

Illinois State Plan

 

(Posted 07/25/17)
Updated Terminiology in the Law

Rosa's Law, signed in 2010, amended federal law by removing all references to "mental retardation" and replacing them with the words "intellectual disability". On July 11, 2017, these changes were also coded into the federal regulations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and The Rehabilitation Act. Rosa Marcellino has Down syndrome and her family led the fight for the removal of the outdated terminology. Her father, Nick, said "What you call people is how you treat them. If we change the words, maybe it will be the start of a new attitude toward people with disabilities."

 

(Posted 07/25/17)
Illinois Teacher Licensing Requirements

There is a critical shortage of teachers in Illinois. More than 1,000 positions are unfilled. Illinois Public Act 100-0013 was recently signed into law by Governor Bruce Rauner to reduce barriers for educators to become licensed. The new requirements to effect July 1, 2017.

Changes to the School Code include:

  • Lowers the minimum age for an individual to apply for an educator license to 19.
  • Allows individuals who hold a valid Career and Technical Education (CTE) license to substitute teach CTE courses.
  • Removes the 20-hour coursework requirement for individuals who want to renew a provisional CTE license.
  • Provides statutory authority for the Director of Special Education endorsement.
  • Applies the Administrator Academy requirement to maintain an active administrator license only to individuals who have worked in an administrative position within the past five years.
  • Allows school psychologists to renew their Illinois licenses by providing proof of valid national licensure.

 

To read the news release on the Illinois State Board of Education's Website: https://www.isbe.net/Lists/News?newsDisplay.aspx?ID=1162

To read the full text of Public Act 100-0013: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/publicacts/100/PDF/100-0013.pdf

 

(Posted 07/10/17)
IDEA Regulations Change

In 2015 the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  The changes to this federal education law required the federal SPECIAL education regulations to change in order to ensure consistency.  These changes to the regulations for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act were published in the federal register June 30, 2017.

Most of the changes are corrections to reference numbers in the new law.  However, the term “highly qualified” has been removed and references instead talk about special education teachers who “meet the applicable requirements”.  Those personnel qualifications are outlined in Section 300.156(c)

Additional changes to note relate to the definition of a high school diploma, references to student progress, and rules governing alternate assessment:

Section 300.102 (a)(3)(iv)

Old version:

…..the term regular high school diploma does not include an alternative degree that is not fully aligned with the State’s academic standards, such as a certificate or a general educational development credential (GED).

New version:

…..the term regular high school diploma means the standard high school diploma awarded to the preponderance of students in the State that is fully aligned with State standards, or a higher diploma, except that a regular high school diploma shall not be aligned to the alternate academic achievement standards…....  A regular high school diploma does not include a recognized equivalent of a diploma, such as a general equivalency diploma, certificate of completion, certificate of attendance, or similar lesser credential.

Section 300.157(a)(2)

Old version:

The State must have in effect established goals for the performance of children with disabilities in the State that are the same as the State’s objectives for progress by children in its definition of adequate yearly progress, including the State’s objectives for progress by children with disabilities.

New version:

The State must have in effect established goals for the performance of children with disabilities in the State that are the same as the State’s long-term goals and measurements of interim progress for children with disabilities. 

Section 300.160(c); 300.160(d); and 300.160(e)

Old version:

(c) Alternate assessments. (1) A State (or, in the case of a district-wide assessment, an LEA) must develop and implement alternate assessments and guidelines for the participation of children with disabilities in alternate assessments for those children who cannot participate in regular assessments, even with accommodations, as indicated in their respective IEPs, as provided in paragraph (a) of this section.

(2) For assessing the academic progress of students with disabilities under Title I of the ESEA, the alternate assessments and guidelines in paragraph (c)(1) of this section must provide for alternate assessments that—

(i) Are aligned with the State's challenging academic content standards and challenging student academic achievement standards;

(ii) If the State has adopted alternate academic achievement standards permitted in 34 CFR 200.1(d), measure the achievement of children with the most significant cognitive disabilities against those standards; and

(iii) Except as provided in paragraph (c)(2)(ii) of this section, a State's alternate assessments, if any, must measure the achievement of children with disabilities against the State's grade-level academic achievement standards, consistent with 34 CFR 200.6(a)(2)(ii)(A).

(3) Consistent with 34 CFR 200.1(e), a State may not adopt modified academic achievement standards for any students with disabilities under section 602(3) of the Act.

(d) Explanation to IEP teams. A State (or in the case of a district-wide assessment, an LEA) must provide IEP teams with a clear explanation of the differences between assessments based on grade-level academic achievement standards and those based on alternate academic achievement standards, including any effects of State or local policies on the student's education resulting from taking an alternate assessment based on alternate academic achievement standards (such as whether only satisfactory performance on a regular assessment would qualify a student for a regular high school diploma).

(e) Inform parents. A State (or in the case of a district-wide assessment, an LEA) must ensure that parents of students selected to be assessed based on alternate academic achievement standards are informed that their child's achievement will be measured based on alternate academic achievement standards.

(f) Reports. An SEA (or, in the case of a district-wide assessment, an LEA) must make available to the public, and report to the public with the same frequency and in the same detail as it reports on the assessment of nondisabled children, the following:

(1) The number of children with disabilities participating in regular assessments, and the number of those children who were provided accommodations (that did not result in an invalid score) in order to participate in those assessments.

(2) The number of children with disabilities, if any, participating in alternate assessments based on grade-level academic achievement standards.

(3) The number of children with disabilities, if any, participating in alternate assessments based on modified academic achievement standards in school years prior to 2015-2016.

(4) The number of children with disabilities, if any, participating in alternate assessments based on alternate academic achievement standards.

(5) Compared with the achievement of all children, including children with disabilities, the performance results of children with disabilities on regular assessments, alternate assessments based on grade-level academic achievement standards, alternate assessments based on modified academic achievement standards (prior to 2015-2016), and alternate assessments based on alternate academic achievement standards if—

(i) The number of children participating in those assessments is sufficient to yield statistically reliable information; and

(ii) Reporting that information will not reveal personally identifiable information about an individual student on those assessments.

New version:

(c) Alternate assessments aligned with alternate academic achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. (1) If a State has adopted alternate academic achievement standards for children with disabilities who are students with the most significant cognitive disabilities as permitted in section 1111(b)(1)(E) of the ESEA, the State (or, in the case of a district-wide assessment, an LEA) must develop and implement alternate assessments and guidelines for the participation in alternate assessments of those children with disabilities who cannot participate in regular assessments, even with accommodations, as indicated in their respective IEPs, as provided in paragraph (a) of this section.

(2) For assessing the academic progress of children with disabilities who are students with the most significant cognitive disabilities under title I of the ESEA, the alternate assessments and guidelines in paragraph (c)(1) of this section must—

(i) Be aligned with the challenging State academic content standards under section 1111(b)(1) of the ESEA and alternate academic achievement standards under section 1111(b)(1)(E) of the ESEA; and

(ii) Measure the achievement of children with disabilities who are students with the most significant cognitive disabilities against those standards.

(3) Consistent with section 1111(b)(1)(E)(ii) of the ESEA and 34 CFR 200.6(c)(6), a State may not adopt modified academic achievement standards or any other alternate academic achievement standards that do not meet the requirements in section 1111(b)(1)(E) of the ESEA for any children with disabilities under section 602(3) of the IDEA.

(d) Explanation to IEP Teams. A State (or in the case of a district-wide assessment, an LEA) must—

(1) Provide to IEP teams a clear explanation of the differences between assessments based on grade-level academic achievement standards and those based on alternate academic achievement standards, including any effects of State and local policies on a student's education resulting from taking an alternate assessment aligned with alternate academic achievement standards, such as how participation in such assessments may delay or otherwise affect the student from completing the requirements for a regular high school diploma; and

(2) Not preclude a student with the most significant cognitive disabilities who takes an alternate assessment aligned with alternate academic achievement standards from attempting to complete the requirements for a regular high school diploma.

(e) Inform parents. A State (or in the case of a district-wide assessment, an LEA) must ensure that parents of students selected to be assessed using an alternate assessment aligned with alternate academic achievement standards under the State's guidelines in paragraph (c)(1) of this section are informed, consistent with 34 CFR 200.2(e), that their child's achievement will be measured based on alternate academic achievement standards, and of how participation in such assessments may delay or otherwise affect the student from completing the requirements for a regular high school diploma.

(f) Reports. An SEA (or, in the case of a district-wide assessment, an LEA) must make available to the public, and report to the public with the same frequency and in the same detail as it reports on the assessment of nondisabled children, the following:

(1) The number of children with disabilities participating in regular assessments, and the number of those children who were provided accommodations (that did not result in an invalid score) in order to participate in those assessments.

(2) The number of children with disabilities, if any, participating in alternate assessments based on grade-level academic achievement standards in school years prior to 2017-2018.

(3) The number of children with disabilities, if any, participating in alternate assessments aligned with modified academic achievement standards in school years prior to 2016-2017.

(4) The number of children with disabilities who are students with the most significant cognitive disabilities participating in alternate assessments aligned with alternate academic achievement standards.

(5) Compared with the achievement of all children, including children with disabilities, the performance results of children with disabilities on regular assessments, alternate assessments based on grade-level academic achievement standards (prior to 2017-2018), alternate assessments based on modified academic achievement standards (prior to 2016-2017), and alternate assessments aligned with alternate academic achievement standards if—

(i) The number of children participating in those assessments is sufficient to yield statistically reliable information; and

(ii) Reporting that information will not reveal personally identifiable information about an individual student on those assessments.

To view the final IDEA regulations as of June 30, 2017, go to: https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?tpl=/ecfrbrowse/Title34/34cfr300_main_02.tpl

 

(Posted 07/10/17)
Preparing Students for Life after High School

What actions should students take from middle school through the end of high school to select the right postsecondary education option, to prepare for a career, or to access financial aid opportunities?

On June 22, 2017, Illinois adopted a new framework for supporting and advancing student efforts in these areas. The cross-agency effort is designed to ensure students have academic and work experiences that support them and their families in making well-informed plans and decisions for their adult life. The framework has been adopted by the Illinois State Board of Education, the Illinois Board of Higher Education, the Illinois Community College Board, and the Illinois Student Assistance Commission.

The one-page official PaCE framework is available at: www.isbe.net/Documents/PaCE_Revisions.pdf

 

(Posted 06/2/17)
New Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Website

On June 1, 2017 the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs lauched a new website about the federal law governing special education, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Features include:

  • a clean, modern, and intuitive design;
  • the ability to search among OSEP policy documents, letters, and memos, in addition to the IDEA statute and regulations;
  • content targeted toward our key stakeholder groups, and
  • enhanced accessibility features, including language assistance supports.

 

On the site's RESOURCE tab, parents can read articles of interest under the TOPIC AREAS link.

Examples of topics available:

  • Accessibility of Instructional Materials
  • Assessment - State and District-wide Testing
  • Bullying
  • Discipline/Behavioral Supports
  • Early Childhood Inclusion
  • Evaluation and Reevaluation
  • IEPs
  • Parental Rights
  • Secondary Transition

 

Visit the site at: https://sites.ed.gov/idea/?src=pr

(Posted 05/31/17)
Understood.org Helps Parents Organize Records Regarding Their Child's Education

Parents want the best for their children. We do, too. For the first time ever, 15 nonprofit organizations have joined forces to support parents of the one in five children with learning and attention issues throughout their journey. With the right support, parents can help children unlock their strengths and reach their full potential. With state-of-the-art technology, personalized resources, free daily access to experts, a secure online community, practical tips and more, Understood aims to be that support.

Organize your child's school records and information about your communication with the school using the IEP binder suggestions from Understood.org: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PM2ebK07yYM

IEP Binder checklist

School Contact List

Parent/School Communication Log

IEP Goal Tracker

(Posted 05/31/17)
National Center on Improving Literacy

The National Center on Improving Literacy has just launched its website. The center is funded by the U.S. Department of Education and is a partnership among literacy experts, university researchers, and technical assistance providers. Their mission is to increase access to, and use of, evidence-based approaches to screen, identify, and teach students with literacy-related disabilities, including dyslexia.

The resources on the site are divided into those for parents and families, schools and districts, and state agencies. The site includes a list of videos, downloads, and other websites to access.

The resource topics include: advocacy, assessments, auditory processing, comprehension, dyslexia, English learners, fluency with text, identification, interventions, language development, language processing, legislation, phonemic awareness, phonics, phonological processing, professional development, screening, vocabulary, and writing.

Visit the site at: http://improvingliteracy.org/

 

(Posted 05/31/17)

Special Education Eligibility under "Visual Impairment" 

Any impairment in vision, regardless of significance or severity, must be included in a State's definition of the special education eligibility category of "visual impairment including blindness", provided that such impairment, even with correction, adversely affects a child's educational performance.

Some states were implementing a two-step process for finding eligibility under this category. They were first determining if a child had a condition that the State identified as one that could affect visual functioning and, having found the condition present, then determining if this condition adversely affected the child's educational performance. The U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education and Rehavilitation Services issued a memo on May 22, 2017 explaining that this process might mean that a team could eliminate a child in the first step of the process even though the child might have a visual condition that would affect educational performance. The memo concludes that, while it is permissible for a State to provide EXAMPLES of the types of conditions that meet the eligibility criteria, the team must look at functional vision issues no matter what the visual impairment.

The memo points out that an evaluation of a child's vision status should be thorough and rigorous. The evaluation should look at the child's vision status should look at the child's ability to read, write, do math, use assistive technology, and make progress in the general curriculum. In addition, the evaluation must assess a child's future needs.

For information on visual impairments and how they can affect learning: www.parentcenterhub.org/repository/visualimpairment/

To read the memo: https://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/memosdcltrs/letter-on-visual-impairment-5-22-17.pdf