Recent News

(Posted 08/21/2019)
Does Attending a Child's IEP Meeting Fall under FMLA?
 
When a child has a serious health condition that qualifies a parent to take leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in order to care for the child and take the child to medical appointments, then attending school meetings to determine needed services in the child's Individualized Education Program would also fall under FMLA. This opinion is based on an essential need for parent attendance at the meetings to discuss the child's well-being and progress related to physical or psychological care. This opinion is based on an essential need for parent attendance at the meetings to discuss the child's well-being and progress related to physical or psychological care. This opinion is contained in a letter fromn the U.S. Department of Labor dated August 8, 2019.
 
(Posted 06/28/2019)
Keeping Students with Disabilities in the General Education Setting
 
L.H. is a 15 year old with Down Syndrome who lives in Tennessee. Through his second grade year, he received education setting with non-disabled peers. L.H. was making progress but he was not keeping pace with grade-level peers in math. He was slightly behind in reading. He had a one-on-one aide. For third grade, the school developed an IEP that listed placement in a segregated classroom that would offer very little interaction between disabled and nondisabled students. The other students in this classroom were not as advanced as L.H. in reading. The IEP did not tie L.H.'s goals to third grade learning standards. In this setting there would be no  homework assigned. L.H.'s parents did not accept that placement decision and told the district they were moving L.H. to a Montessori School. L.H. did very well there as he learned beside his peers. The parents filed for reimbursement of the cost of the Montessori School since they argued that the public school did not offer L.H. a free appropriate public education (FAPE).
 
The Administrative Law judge ruled against the parents, so they appealed to the district court. The district court ruled that the public school had not offered services in the least restrictive environment but said that the Montessori School did not satisfy the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) as a place where the student with disabilities could be calculated to make progress in light of their circumstances, so the parents would not be reimbursed. Both the school and the parents appealed this "split" decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth District.
 
The school district claimed that even if students with disabilities are in a general education setting, they are still isolated inside that room and that including students in general education when there is an academic gap holds no value. The court found these arguments to be "a bit biazarre", "disingenuous", "without merit", and "worrisome". The ruling on August 20, 2018 was that the school had violated IDEA by removing L.H. from his least restrictive environment AND that the parents could be reimbursed for the Montessori School costs because it did meet L.H.'s educational needs.
 
(Posted 06/25/2019)
Documenting Special Education Services on IEP Forms
 
When a student qualifies for special education services, information about the student's specialized instruction and related services is documented on an Individualized Education Program (IEP form. The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) provides a recommended form to school districts in the state. Some districts use their own form, but it must include all needed information as outlined by ISBE. In February 2019, the recommended form was revised, as was the instructions on how to complete the form. The IEP form is set up to lead IEP team members through the process of individualizing services for a student. After basic information such as name, address, parent information, etc. is completed, the form moves through
  • documentation of evaluation results and information used to determine special education eligibility
  • a list of present levels of performance that documents strengths, concerns, academic achievement, and functional performance
  • secondary transition information, including post-school goals (for students 14.5 or older)
  • behavioral assessment data and behavioral interventions (if appropriate)
  • annual goals and objectives/benchmarks (the number of goal pages will vary from student to student)
  • a list of educational accommodations and supports
  • information on how the student will participate in classroom, district, and state assessment tests
  • information on accommodations for students who are English Language Learners (if appropriate)
  • an explanation of where educational service minutes will take place for the student (general education with no supplementary aids, general education with supplementary aids, special education and related services within a general education classroom, special education services outside general education, and related services outside general education)
  • documentation of whether a student's behavior was a manifestation of their disability (for students with IEPs who are facing more than 10 days of disciplinary action)
  • and a section to use later to record progress on the annuals goals. 

The instruction document goes through the IEP, section by section, describing what needs to be included and how to document needs and services, It can be helpful to parents to look at their child's IEP document while reading the instruction document in order to get a clear understanding of the content or to assist in formulating questions to be addressed at the next IEP meeting.

ISBE Recommended IEP Form

ISBE IEP Form Instruction Sheet

 
(Posted 06/13/2019)
Termination of Parent Employees Due to School Meeting Attendance
 
In February 2019, an Illinois Bill was introduced that would prohibit employers from terminating parents because they were absent from work due to attendance at a school meeting for their child. School meetings would include school conferences, behavioral meetings, or academic meetings. As of May 30, 2019 this Bill (HB2830) has passed both Houses and is awaiting action by the Governor.
 
The current law says that an employer must grant an employee leave of up to 8 hours per school year to attend school conferences or classroom activities related to the employee's child (vacation and personal leave must be used unless depleted).
 
 
 
(Posted 05/09/2019)
Engaging in Youth Transitions
 
The Family Guidposts: Engaging in Youth Transitions was developed by the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy and PACER Center in Minnesota. This publication provides information on how families can learn about disability rights and responsibilities, agency and service options, and understand indidvidualized planning tools. The guide establishes that all youth need:
  • Mentoring activities to establish strong relationships with adults
  • Peer-to-peer mentoring opportunities
  • Exposure to role models in a variety of contexts
  • Training in skills such as self-advocacy
  • Exposure to personal leadership and youth development activities, including community service
  • Mentors and role models including people with and without disabilities
  • An understanding of disability history, culture, and disability public policy issues as well as their rights and responsibilities

In each section, parents are given tools, resources, and a list of recommended actions to take as they engage in the transition of their family member from school to life in the community and workforce. There is also a youth edition of the guide.

These guides will become available at the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability site during May 2019.

NCWD

 
(Posted 05/09/2019)
Phonological Awareness in Reading

What is phonological awareness? Why is it important for readers? How should it be taught? How can families support phonological awareness development? Learn the answer to these and other questions in the 2019 Phonological Awareness Module from the National Center on Improving Literacy.

Phonological Awareness Module

 
(Posted 05/09/2019)
Paid Leave for Disability Related Issues

Roughly one in five American currently live with a disability, and roughly one in four household include a child, adult or senior with a disability.

In February 2019, The ARC and the National Center for Children with Poverty released Disability Perspectives on Paid Leave. The report analyses how caregivers of people with disabilities, and persons with disabilities themselves, benefit from paid family and medical leave. "Workers with disabilities often face mutiple barriers to employment, and families that include people with disabilities are significantly more likely to live in poverty and lack savings. All too often, many cannot afford an unpaid absence from work." The study found that participants experienced a need for leave to address both predictable and unpredictable needs, and that parents were taking leave to attend school meetings for their child's Individualized Education Program. The research findings note that inclusive paid leave policies are recommended since they would not only benefit people with disabilities and their families but would also foster programs that are effective for all workers.

 

Disability Perspectives on Paid Leave

 

(Posted 05/09/2019)
Protecting Student Privacy While Ensuring Safety of Others

In February 2019, the U.S. Department of Education's Student Privacy Office released a guidance document in a question and answer format related to disclosing personally identifiable student information to school resource officers, law enforcement units, and others. The document clarifies how the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects student privacy while ensuring safety for others in the school.

 

While FERPA generally requires parents or eligible students to provide a school or district with written consent before the school or district discloses personally identifiable student information from a student's education records, there are a number of exceptions to this prior written consent requirement. Additionally, 'law enforcement unit records' are not 'education records', so they may be disclosed without consent to outside parties. Schools and districts do maintain a record of each disclosure with certain exceptions.

 

A threat assessment team is a group of individuals who convene to identify, evaluate, and address threats of potential threats to school security. These teams review incidents of threatening behavior by students and provide guidance to school officials on how to respond to potential threat. These teams are composed of a wide variety of individuals including medical and mental health professionals as well as law enforcement officers. FERPA allows schools or districts to disclose information to these team members without parental consent.

 

A school or district may disclose appropriate information concerning disciplinary action taken against a student who has been disciplined for conduct that posed a significant risk to the safety and well-being of that student, other students, or other members of the school community. Because FERPA applies to the disclosure of educational records that are MAINTAINED by a school, it does NOT prohibit a school official from releasing information about a student that was obtained through personal knowledge or observation. If a student seeks or intends to enroll in another school, the district can disclose that student's educational records to the new school or district and this would include disciplinary actions taken.

 

In the event of an emergency such as an impending natural disaster, a terrorist attack, a campus threat, or the outbreak of an epidemic disease schools or districts can disclose, without consent, student education records to law enforcement, public health officials, trained medical personnel and parents.

 

School Resource Officers, School Law Enforcement Units, and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

 

(Posted 05/09/2019)
Early Intervention for Dyslexia

The National Center on Improving Literacy shared information from Jack Fletcher, Ph.D. on February 7, 2019 about early screening and interventions for children with dyslexia. Fletcher said children are identified at an average age of 10. He said children should be identified with reading and behavior problems as early as possible to prevent the cumulative problems that emerge such as anxiety. He noted a study done by Maureen Lovett that found that outcomes were almost twice as good if they were delivered in first and second grade and in third grade. She said exposure to print allows the brain to program the systems that are needed for automatic reading.

Early Intervention for Dyslexia

National Center on Improving Literacy

 

(Posted 05/06/2019)
IMPACT: Issue on Inclusive Education

IMPACT is a publication of The Institute on Community Integration and the Research and Training Center on Community Living and Employment, College of Education and Human Development, University of Minnesota. The Winter 2018/2019 issue is devoted to articles about students with cognitive and developmental disabilities being included in educational settings with non-disabled peers.

 

The editors of the issue share:

 

In the past, students with the most significant cognitive disabilities were often taught only functional skills in our K-12 schools - how to do self-care, tell time, use money, carry out routine daily tasks. Today, growing numbers of families, educators, and students are advocating for higher expectations and a more inclusive educational experience.

 

What does it look like when schools transition to more inclusive and rigorous education for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities? In this Impact issue inclusive K-8 education is viewed from a variety of perspectives - researchers, classroom teachers, education administrators, students with and without disabilities, and families. They explore inclusion from the classroom to the school-wide community, and beyond.

 

The learning curve for adults is sometimes steep when more inclusive practices are introduced in schools. However, students - both those with cognitive disabilities and their peers without often make the shift more easily. The key is for the needed and appropriate supports to be in place for students. And for the special and general education teachers, and school administrators who support them, to have the knowledge, skills, and quality curricular resources the need to confidently instruct all students. In these pages we share examples of such knowledge, skills, and resources from across the country with the hope that they can help K-8 schools increasingly support the learning of all students in inclusive settings.

 

IMPACT Winter 2018/19 Volume 31, Number 2

 

Free subscription to IMPACT

 

(Posted 04/29/2019)
Preparing Youth with Disabilities for the Workplace

On April 24, 2019, the Center on Technology and Disability shared this new Job Skills Training Tool called C-CAL, the Career-Centered Active Listening Game. Students with disabilities can strengthen their skills and prepare for the workplace by utilizing this tool. It provides advice through a series of listening exercises. Scenarios presented include the interview process, getting started on the job, on the job experiences, and standing up for yourself on the job.

 

Career-Centered Active Listening Game

 

(Posted 04/15/2019)
Parent and Educator Guide to School Climate Resources

The new Parent and Educator Guide to School Climate Resources was released on April 10, 2019 by the U.S. Department of Education. It provides best practices and resources for school leaders and teachers to utilize as they work to achieve a positive school climate, lower disciplinary issues, and enhance school safety.

 

The Question and Answer document provides parents and educators with useful decision-making frameworks and implementation tools, as well as best practices that school leaders can consider as they work to foster positive and inclusive learning environments. Examples from schools across the country are included to illustrate the various interventions communities are employing to enhance student behavior and achievement.

 

Parent and Educator Guide to School Climate Resources

 

(Posted 02/06/2019)
Serving All Students in Inclusive Classrooms

We just became aware of a study of 10 California public charter schools that was released in November 2016 by The California Charter Schools Association. The study offers insights into the benefits of inclusive education for all students. The report notes that these schools "deliberately worked on creating and maintaining a positive school culture where differences are celebrated and where staff and students support one another."

 

The schools in this study take a restorative approach to behaviors. In the report a general education teacher shared: "We wanted to avoid sending students out of the classroom and putting that responsibility on the teacher to build and repair relationships. For example, the circles provide a safe place for students to talk in the cassroom or outside the classroom. so, I attended a training with the principal and then we came back and trained the whole staff to make sure we're incorporating that piece and giving the students that chance." The school now uses a card of Restorative Justice Questions that allow school staff to build an understanding of circumstances when an incident occurs rather than jumping straight to punitive measures.
Some of the questions include: 

  • What happened?
  • Who was affected and how?
  • What do you need to do to make things right?

Engaging in dialogue with both the student who initiated the conflict and those who were harmed by it facilitates building trust, relationships, and a safer community. And, building special education programs around the tenets of inclusion, individualization, and community formed the foundation of the kind of culture that was necessary to implement research-based practices to meet the needs of all students.

 

The report concludes that schools should:

  1. Embrace inclusive practices. Inclusion has been shown to provide academic and socioemotional benefits to students with an dwithout disabilities.
  2. Tailor programs to student needs. Rather than fitting students into pre-determined settings, create specific and individualized programs that meet student needs and evolve as the students progress. This ensures that students can learn the necessary skills to become more independent and successful in the future.
  3. Build a supportive school community. Work on creating and maintaining a positive school community, thorough the use of community circles and restorative justice practices, where differences are celebrated and where staff and students support one another.
  4. Create Multi-Tiered Support Systems that are clearly-defined, team-based, data-driven, and available to all students regardless of whether or not they have an IEP.
  5. Build family and community partnerships.
  6. Integrate cutting-edge technologies and practices.
  7. Seek autonomous arrangements in special education to make local programmatic decisions. 
  8. Recruit, hire, and develop staff effectively. Ensure that general and special education teachers are prepared to meet the needs of all students.
  9. Constantly evaluate and refine practices. Assess and improve practices and processes to serve the changing needs of students and communities.

Meeting the Needs of Every Student Through Inclusion

 

(Posted 01/29/2019)
Social Emotional Learning

On January 15, 2019, the National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development released a report, From a Nation at Risk to a Nation of Hope, calling for all students to have access to quality social and emotional learning.

 

The report says that "Children require a broad array of skills, attitudes, and values to succeed in school, careers, and in life. They require skills such as paying attention, settinggoals, collaboration, and planning for the future. They require attitudes such as internal motivation, perseverance, and a sense of purpose. They require values such as responsibility, honesty, and integrity. They require the abilities to think critically, consider different views, and problem solve."

 

It goes on to say that "while many elements of a child's life improve along with the cultivation of these skills, one of the main outcomes is better academic performance, An analysis of more than 200 studies of programs that teach studies of programs that teach students social and emotional skills found that these efforts significantly improved student behavior, feelings about school, and most importantly achievement, and made schools safer. It only stands to reason. When children are motivated, responsible, and focused, they are more able to persist in hard tasks and respond to good teaching. These capabilities are a booster rocket for everything we meaure, including test scores." And adds that "Researchers have found that social, emotional, and cognitive development is especially important for children and youth who have experienced trauma or adversity. These external influences can place our bodies and minds in a constant state of stress or high alert that interferes with learning and growth. Teaching students the sills and providing settings that build theif efficacy and self-control, providing them with supportive adult relationships, and directly addressing their physical, emotional, and mental health needs can buffer against the negative effects of stress. It also gives young people a set of tools that provide on-ramps to learning."

 

The report concludes by saying that "Evidence confirms that supporting students' social, emotional, and academic development benefits all children and relates positively to the traditional measures we care about: attendance, grades, test scores, graduation rates, college and career success, engaged citizenship, and overall well-being. Although these skills are important for all students, equity means acknowledging that not all students are the same. Providing equitable opportunities for developing young people's social, emotional, and academic growth requires calibrating to each student's and school's individual strengths and needs - ensuring that those with greater needs have access to greater resources. When all children and youth possess a full array of these skills, attitudes, and values, they are better equipped to prosper in the classroom, perform in the workplace, and thrive inlife, as contributing and productive members of society. By integrating -rather than separating - young people's social, emotional, and academic development, we position each and every student for success."

From a Nation at Risk to a Nation of Hope

 

The Illinois State Board of Education sets Social and Emotional Learning standards for all Illinois students.

Social and Emotional Learning Standards in Illinois Schools

 

(Posted 01/21/2019)
Restraint and Seclusion

On January 17, 2019, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced that the U.S. Department of Education will launch an initiative to address the possible inappropriate use of restraint and seclusion in the nation's schools. Technical assistance will be provided to schools to support them and enforcement activities will be strengthened. The Office for Civil Rights will conduct compliance reviews which will focus on the possible inappropriate use of restraint and seclusion and the effect of such practices on the school's obligation to provide a free appropriate public education for all children with disabilities.

Restraint and Seclusion Press Release

The Illinois School Code outlines rules for the use of restraint and seclusion.
Rules on Restraint and Seclusion

A Dear Colleague letter, released by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights on December 28, 2016, outlines how restraint and seclusion may result in discrimination against students with disabilities.
Dear Colleague Letter on Restraint and Seclusion

 

 

(Posted 06/25/2019)
Documenting Special Education Services on IEP Forms
 
When a student qualifies for special education s