Topic of the Month

August 2014
Bullying Law Changes in Illinois

On June 26, 2014, Public Act 098-0669 was enacted.  This law amends the School Code related to bullying prevention.  The law continues to read that “The General Assembly finds that a safe and civil school environment is necessary for students to learn and achieve and that bullying causes physical, psychological, and emotional harm to students and interferes with students’ ability to learn and participate in school activities”.  However, the Code now expands the components of the bullying policy required in each school district.  Bullying policies now must include the contact information (email address and phone number) of the staff person responsible for receiving reports of bullying incidents.  The policy must include a procedure for anonymous reporting.  Procedures must be listed for notifying parents or guardians of ALL students involved in alleged incidents of bullying and for discussing the availability of social work services, counseling, school psychological services, other interventions, and restorative measures. 
The policy in each district must include procedures for promptly investigating and addressing reports of bullying.  All reasonable efforts must be made to complete the investigations within 10 school days of the report.  Parents and guardians of the students who are parties to the investigation must be provided information about the investigation and have an opportunity to meet with the principal or school administrator or his or her designee.  The parents or guardians must be provided information about the findings of the investigation and the actions taken to address the reported incident of bullying.  The policy must be posted on the district’s website and contained in the student handbook. 

An evaluation process must be in place to assess the effectiveness of the policy.  This evaluation must occur every two years in each school district and include looking at the frequency of victimization, the areas of the school where bullying occurs, the types of bullying occurring, and the participation or intervention of bystanders.  The results of the evaluation must be made available to parents and guardians. 

To read Public Act 098-0669, go to:


July 2014
RDA Results Driven Accountability

The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) holds States accountable for educating children with disabilities.  The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires each State to submit a six-year State Performance Plan and an Annual Performance Report.  After review of the report, States receive one of the following ratings:
-Meets the requirements and purposes of IDEA;
-Needs assistance in implementing the requirements of IDEA;
-Needs intervention in implementing the requirements of IDEA; or
-Needs substantial intervention in implementing the requirements of IDEA. 

OSEP is revising how it holds States accountable.  This new approach is called Results-Driven Accountability-RDA.  Annual Performance Reports must now include a description of how the State will improve outcomes for children with disabilities.  For the first time in 2014, both compliance AND results data were used in the determination of a rating. 

This map shows how each state was rated: 
Illinois received a ‘Needs Assistance’ rating. 

RDA begins with a premise - that the results we want to achieve need to drive the actions we take, not the other way around.  Each State must now ask itself:
-What improved results for children with disabilities do we want to achieve?
-What actions must we take to achieve those results?

States will develop and implement their individual SSIP (State Systemic Improvement Plan) in three phases. 

Phase 1:  2015
-Describe how the State identified the area or result to be improved.
-Identify root causes contributing to low performance.
-Analyze their infrastructure to determine if improvements are needed.
-Explain how the improvement strategies were selected; whey they are sound, logical, and aligned; and how they will lead to measurable improvement.
-Include a graphic illustration of the State’s ‘theory of actions’ (why doing X will improve Y). 

Phase 2:  2016
-Identify what system improvements are needed.
-Identify how the State will support local education agencies in using the evidence-based practices identified as key to achieving desired results for children with disabilities including activities and timelines. 
-Identify how the State will evaluate the implementation of its SSIP.

Phase 3:  2017
-Evaluate the extent to which strategies were implemented.
-Identify student progress.
-Make revisions to the SSIP based on data from ongoing evaluation.


June 2014
Standards-Based IEPs

Special education law requires that students identified as having a disability receive individualized educational programming.   Annual goals are written for each area of deficit.  Determining which goals to include and how high to ‘set the bar’ is determined on an individual basis.  The goal for all students with specific learning disabilities should be to ‘close the gap’ between their current performance and grade level expectations.

Standards-based IEPs focus on alignment with what all students are expected to do.  Students with specific learning disabilities should be expected to participate in general education curricula and achieve at a proficient level on state assessments when they are provided with specially designed instruction and appropriate accommodations. 

Information on raising the learning expectations for students with disabilities can be found in an Advocacy Brief issued by the National Center for Learning Disabilities entitled Understanding the Standards-based Individualized Education Program.  

Understanding the Standards-based Individualized Education Program

May 2014


Empowerment stems from knowledge.  Parents of children with special education needs can more effectively advocate for individualized, appropriate educational services for their children if they have access to information on special education laws, the development of individualized plans, and evidence-based practices that lead to student achievement.

The Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR) serves as a central resource for all Parent Training and Information Centers, including Family Matters.  Resources on their site are also directly available to parents.  We invite you to visit their website at and choose the ‘RESOURCES’ tab across the top of their home page, or click on the ‘RESOURCES’ block at the bottom of the page. 

The ‘RESOURCES” section features information on an amazing array of topics including:

Dispute Resolution
Mental Health
Parental Rights
Section 504

The K-12 Section includes topics such as:

Student Achievement
Teacher Training
Transition from School to Adult Life
Use of Data

If ‘USE OF DATA’ is chosen, parents can learn about using data in discussions related to grade retention, math progress, reading progress, etc.Topics related to Early Intervention (ages 0-3) and Early Childhood services are also available.  


April 2014

Facilitated IEP Meeting

IEP facilitation is a process that helps foster effective communication between parents and districts as they develop a mutually acceptable individualized education program for a child.  The process promotes productive IEP meetings that are conducted in a respectful and collaborative manner.  The Illinois State Board of Education is in the process of implementing facilitated IEPs to build district level capacity to develop child-centered IEPs and to decrease the number of more formal dispute resolution processes.  Pilot projects will be in place next school year (2014-2015). 

Parents of children with disabilities or school personnel will have the right to request state-sponsored IEP facilitation services from the Illinois State Board of Education.  There will be no cost to the parent or the school district.  The state-sponsored facilitator will be a neutral party and not a member of the IEP team or an advocate for any person on the team.  The facilitator will promote dialog and encourage participation for decision making, but will not impose a decision upon the group.  The facilitator’s role will include:

*focusing on the process of the meeting and supporting all parties full participation

*modeling effective communication

*keeping team members on task

*clarifying points of agreement and disagreement, and

*providing team members opportunities to consider alternative solutions. 


Learn more about Facilitated IEP Meetings from CADRE-the Consortium for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education:

Facilitated IEP Meetings


March 2014

Evidence Based Practices

Is your child making adequate progress?  Would you like to see research about the effectiveness of instructional strategies and interventions used by educators at your child’s school?  Would you like information on the level of effectiveness and the age group for which the intervention was designed? Funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs, the IRIS Center provides educators with information on evidence-based practices.  The Center has summarized research on a variety of interventions and strategies. At their website you will find a list of interventions divided into categories such as Mathematics; Reading, Literacy, Language Arts; Transition; and Behavior and Classroom Management.  Under each category a number of interventions are listed in alphabetical order and it is noted whether the intervention has been ‘proven highly effective’, ‘proven effective’, ‘proven to have mixed effects’, or ‘not yet been proven effective’ for a particular age range of students. For example, under the Mathematics category, Saxon Math has been ‘proven effective’ for students in grades 1 through 5; has been ‘proven to have mixed effects’ for students in grades 6 through 8, and has ‘not yet been proven effective’ for students in grades 8 through 12. 

IRIS Evidence-Based Practices

Evidence-Based Practices for Children, Youth, and Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder is a report that provides evidence about which educational and therapeutic practices are effective with students diagnosed on the autism spectrum.  Tables 7 and 8 in Chapter 3 list the evidence-based practices, define them, and show which age groups reported improvement after using the practice.  This report was produced by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, and the Autism Evidence-Based Practice Review Group and was funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs and the Institute of Education Science. 

Evidence-Based Practices for Children, Youth, and Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder


February 2014


“Our goal of preparing all students for college, careers, and civic life cannot be met without first creating safe schools where effective teaching and learning can take place.”  This is the opening sentence in the ‘Dear Colleague’ letter from Arne Duncan on January 8, 2014 that prefaces the Guiding Principles-A Resource Guide for Improving School Climate and Discipline issued by the U.S. Department of Education.  The letter goes on to say that “unfortunately, a significant number of students are removed from class each year – even for minor infractions of school rules – due to exclusionary discipline practices, which disproportionately impact students of color and students with disabilities”. 

This guidance document discusses approaches to creating safe and supportive conditions for learning.  The guiding principles to improve school climate and discipline include:

1-create positive climates and focus on prevention;

2-develop clear, appropriate, and consistent expectations and consequences to address disruptive student behaviors; and

3-ensure fairness, equity, and continuous improvement. 

Read this resource guide:

Read the ‘Dear Colleague” letter issued by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice with guidance to assist public elementary and secondary schools in meeting their obligations under Federal law to administer student discipline without discriminating:


January 2014 

Path to Transformation 1115 Waiver

The federal government has specific rules about what Medicaid funds can cover. States can apply for WAIVERS to those rules.  States can ask to expand eligibility to additional individuals and to provide services not typically covered by Medicaid.

Illinois currently has nine Waiver programs.  Each of the Illinois Waiver Programs has its own rules and service delivery system.  These programs serve:

-the elderly
-people with brain injuries
-people with physical disabilities (Division of Rehab Services)
-children who are medically fragile/technology dependent
-people with HIV or AIDS
-people with physical disabilities or elderly persons who need supported housing
-adults with developmental/intellectual disabilities (home-based services)
-children with developmental/intellectual disabilities (home-based services)
-children with developmental/intellectual disabilities that need residential placement

 Governor Quinn’s office is proposing to combine all nine Waiver Programs into one program.  The new waiver will be called “Path to Transformation”. 

 Read a summary of what is being proposed here:
Path to Transformation Concept Paper

Many agencies and persons have commented on the new proposal.  Read the comments at this site:
Comments and Questions about the 1115 Waiver Proposal