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IDEA Complaint Decision 16-025

On April 6, 2016, the Department of Public Instruction (department) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Milwaukee Public Schools. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issue is whether the district, during the 2015-16 school year, properly conducted a special education reevaluation.

As part of any special education reevaluation, the individualized education program (IEP) team, including the student’s parents, must conduct a review of existing data. If the IEP team determines additional data are needed, the district must, within 15 business days of receiving the referral, request in writing parental consent for additional testing. The notice must describe the types of assessments that will be used and the areas that will be assessed. The IEP team may not use any single measure or assessment as the sole criterion for determining whether a student is, or continues to be, a student with a disability. Within 60 days after the district receives parental consent for administering tests or other assessments, the IEP team must meet to determine whether the student has an impairment and needs special education. When a student is being initially evaluated for a specific learning disability (SLD), with mutual agreement with the parent, the 60-day timeline may be extended to complete necessary data collection and evaluation.

Required IEP team members include the parent; not less than one regular education teacher of the student (if the student is or may be participating in the regular education environment); at least one special education teacher who has recent training or experience related to the student’s known or suspected area of special education needs, or where appropriate, not less than one special education provider of the student; and a representative of the local educational agency (LEA). At the discretion of the parent or the district, other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the student, including related services personnel as appropriate, may be included to participate in the IEP team meeting. In addition, when a student is being evaluated in the area of SLD, the IEP team must include at least one licensed person who is qualified to assess data on individual rate of student progress; at least one licensed person who has implemented scientific, research-based or evidence-based, intensive interventions with the student; and at least one licensed person who is qualified to conduct individual diagnostic evaluations of students.

At a September 25, 2015, IEP team meeting, the parent advocate suggested the student be reevaluated. On September 28, 2015, the district received a request for a reevaluation. On October 13, 2015, the IEP team, including the student’s parent, reviewed the existing data and determined additional data were needed. On October 13, 2015, within 15 business days of receiving the referral, the district sent to the parent a notice of reevaluation and consent to conduct additional testing. This request did not include assessment in the area of SLD. On October 27, 2015, the district received the parent’s written consent to administer assessments. An IEP team meeting to determine continuing eligibility, review and revise the student’s IEP, and determine continuing placement was scheduled for December 16, 2015, within 60 days after the district received parental consent.

On December 10, 2015, the parent contacted the district to reschedule the IEP team meeting. During this conversation, district staff asked the parent to extend the time limit to April 1, 2016, in order to complete SLD data collection and evaluation. Although this was a reevaluation, the student had not been identified under SLD and the district was applying initial eligibility criteria. On December 11, 2015, the district received the parent’s consent for the timeline extension. On January 11, 2016, the IEP team, including the student’s parent, reviewed the existing data and determined additional data was needed and the district sent to the parent a notice of reevaluation and consent to conduct additional testing. On January 19, 2016, the district received the parent’s written consent to administer the additional assessments. On January 19, 2016, the district notified the parent that an IEP team meeting to determine continuing eligibility, review and revise the student’s IEP, and determine continuing placement would be conducted on March 10, 2016, within the agreed upon timeline.

However, before requesting the timeline extension, the district needed to review the existing data to determine what additional data they needed to conduct the SLD evaluation and then request the timeline extension. The district did not complete the evaluation following the proper order of activities to request a timeline extension.

On March 10, 2016, the district conducted an IEP team meeting to determine eligibility, review and revise the student’s IEP, and determine placement. The IEP team membership included the student’s parents, a parent advocate, one regular education teacher of the student, and a representative of the LEA. The IEP team included from the district-wide evaluation team for deaf and hard of hearing (DHH); the supervisor, a speech and language pathologist, a school psychologist, a sign language interpreter, and a DHH special education teacher. In addition, the IEP team included a school psychologist from the district-wide evaluation SLD team qualified to assess data on the rate of student progress; a special education teacher licensed in the area of SLD; a regular education classroom teacher who implemented scientific, research-based or evidence-based intensive interventions with the student; at least one licensed person who is qualified to conduct individual diagnostic evaluations of students; and a licensed general education teacher of the student. Although the March 10, 2016, IEP team included special education teachers from both the district-wide DHH and SLD evaluation teams, the team did not include a special education teacher of the student. Using multiple data measures and assessments, the IEP team determined the student did not meet the initial criteria for SLD and did not have a continuing need for special education.

The district did not properly conduct the special education evaluation. District staff should have requested written parental consent to complete SLD data collection and evaluation prior to requesting the parent agree to an extension of the 60-day evaluation time limit. In addition, the March 10, 2016, evaluation team did not include a special education teacher of the student. No student specific corrective action is necessary. Within 30 days from the date of this decision, the district must submit a corrective action plan to ensure all exceptions to 60-day timelines for initial SLD evaluations are requested appropriately and all evaluations are conducted with all required IEP team members.

All noncompliance identified above must be corrected as soon as possible, but in no case more than one year from the date of this decision. This concludes our review of this complaint.

//signed CST 6/2/2016
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support

Dec/jfd