On August 24 and 25, 2017, the Department of Public Instruction (department) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the XXXXX School District. This is the department’s decision regarding the complaint. The issues are whether the district, since May, 2017:
- Properly afforded the parent of a student with a disability opportunity to participate in the review of existing data as part of a reevaluation;
- Properly documented decisions regarding services made by the student’s IEP team at an IEP team meeting in the resulting IEP;
- Properly provided the student’s parents a copy of the IEP;
- Properly responded to a request from a parent of a student with a disability for the student to participate in a general education class;
- Properly changed the student’s placement;
- Properly provided the parent with prior written notice before removing the student from the general education environment;
- Properly developed the student’s IEP to address disability-related needs affecting reading; and
- Properly addressed any lack of expected progress toward meeting the annual goals during an annual review of the individualized education program (IEP) of the student.
During a March 2, 2017, IEP team meeting, the parent requested a reevaluation of the student to determine the student’s educational needs and whether any additions or modifications to the student’s special education were needed to enable the student to meet the annual goals in the IEP and participate in the general education curriculum. On April 5, 2017, a notice of reevaluation was sent to the parent. A review of existing data occurred on April 20, and included the director of special education serving as the local educational agency representative, the student’s special education teacher, general education teachers of the student, a related service provider and the school principal. A notice of the need to conduct additional assessments was sent to the parent on April 20 and again on May 1. The areas to be assessed included math, reading and writing achievement. A description of the assessments and other evaluation materials was included in the notice. The notice indicates during the March 2 IEP team meeting, the parent participated in the review of existing data and determination to conduct additional assessments.
As part of a reevaluation, the IEP team must review existing evaluation data available on the student. The review of existing data occurs after the parent is notified in writing of the start of the reevaluation. Because the review of existing data with the parent occurred before the notice of reevaluation was provided, the district did not properly provide the student’s parent an opportunity to participate in a review of existing data.
During the March 2, 2017, IEP team meeting, the parent shared concerns for enhancing the education of the student. The parent requested the district use an organized homework program to explain what skills teachers are working on with the student and what the parent can do at home to reinforce and support the learning. The parent provided an example of an organized homework program. The district currently uses multiple strategies with the parent to communicate what the student is being taught in the classroom, what homework is assigned, and any assignments the student is missing. These strategies include an online system that all parents can access to track missing assignments; a monitoring assignment notebook to indicate homework that is done and homework the student needs to do, and to communicate daily with the parents; and an online curriculum used at home to reinforce learning. The district also provides the student an extra copy of content area textbooks for study and reinforcement in the home. The parent expressed that these strategies do not provide the level of detail needed for the parent to support the student at home.
In developing each child’s IEP, the IEP team must consider the concerns of the parents for enhancing the education of their child. The district, however, is not required to adopt the parent’s recommendations, but rather to consider the concerns of the parent. The IEP team shared the strategies the district was currently using to address the parent’s concern. The strategies are documented in the IEP under supplementary aids and services. The district considered the parent’s concerns and recommendations and properly documented decisions regarding services made by the student’s IEP team at an IEP team meeting in the resulting IEP.
Prior to implementing the IEP, a local educational agency must give a copy of the student’s IEP to the parents with the notice of placement. Before the March 2, 2017, IEP team meeting, the district provided the parent with a draft copy of the student’s proposed IEP. During the IEP team meeting, changes were made to the draft copy based on the discussion by IEP team participants. The district did not provide a final version of the IEP to the parent at the end of the meeting. The IEP was implemented on March 3, 2017. Although it is documented in the IEP that the parent was provided written notice of placement on March 2, 2017, the copy of the IEP provided was in draft form. The final version of the IEP was provided to the parent at a later date. The district did not properly provide the student’s parents a copy of the IEP prior to implementation.
During the March 2, 2017, IEP team meeting, the parent requested the student be placed in the general education English class with supports. The district explained that the student was currently receiving one class period of English in a special education classroom so that instruction could focus on the student’s IEP goals which included building reading vocabulary, increasing reading comprehension and developing writing skills. The parent did not believe the current placement was resulting in the student making sufficient progress toward the annual goals and that the student would receive more benefit from being in the general education English class and requested the student be reevaluated to help determine how the student learns best and the most appropriate placement.
To the maximum extent appropriate, students with disabilities must be educated with nondisabled peers. Special classes or other removal of a student with a disability from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the student's disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily. The IEP team determines the special education placement for the student during an IEP team meeting. The school district must provide the student’s parents prior written notice whenever the local educational agency proposes to initiate or change, or refuses to initiate or change, the educational placement of the child. During the March IEP team meeting, the parent requested the student be placed in the general education English classroom. The district believed the most appropriate placement for the student was in the special education English class, but agreed to determine the student’s placement following the reevaluation. When the reevaluation did not occur, the district determined the student would remain in the current placement. This decision was not determined during an IEP team meeting. In addition, although the district’s prior written notice provided on the notice of placement listed other options considered and the reasons why placement in the general education English class was rejected, this notice was not provided to the parent until after the IEP was implemented. The district did not properly determine placement and properly provide notice of their refusal to place the student in the general education English classroom.
During the March 2, 2017, IEP team meeting, the parent expressed concerns about the student’s lack of progress in reading. The IEP team reviewed the student’s current academic achievement and functional performance in reading. Data shared demonstrated the student scored at a 4.8 grade equivalency in reading in May 2016 and at a 3.4 grade equivalency in January 2017. Other data demonstrated the student is able to read high interest material at a 5.5 grade equivalency; the student is passing all classes; and classroom teachers reported that the student is “doing wonderfully in class, does a great job participating, tries hard and is a self-advocate.” The IEP team found that the student’s disability adversely affects the student’s progress toward meeting grade-level reading standards. The student is performing below grade-level in reading compared to nondisabled peers due to limited reading vocabulary and comprehension skills. During the IEP team meeting, the IEP team reviewed the student’s 2016-17 IEP goals and progress and revised the 2017-18 IEP to address the student’s lack of progress in reading by including an additional 30 minutes of specially designed instruction in reading two times per week and an additional goal to identify and use word meanings when reading. To further address the student’s disability-related needs affecting reading, the IEP team maintained the goal to increase the student’s level of reading comprehension by one year and continued to provide 43 minutes daily of specially designed instruction in English and 30 minutes of speech and language services each week. The IEP also included supplementary aids and services to support access to the general education curriculum. However, the parent expressed additional concerns that the strategies being used to increase the student’s reading achievement were not effective as evidenced by the decline in reading score. The parent requested the district use strategies designed for students with dyslexia or conduct further evaluation to determine why the student is not improving in reading and how the student would best learn. The district agreed to conduct a reevaluation.
During the March 2 IEP team meeting, the IEP team, as required, identified how the child's disability affects the child's involvement and progress in the general curriculum; developed measurable annual goals designed to meet the child's disability-related needs; and aligned special education services to enable the child to advance appropriately toward attaining the annual goals, make progress in the general curriculum and be educated with nondisabled children. In developing the IEP, the IEP team considered the concerns of the parents for enhancing the education of their child, current evaluation data, and the academic and functional needs of the child. The IEP team reviewed the child's IEP to determine whether the annual goals for the child were being achieved and revised the IEP to address any lack of expected progress toward the annual goals and in the general curriculum. Although the student did not meet the IEP goals, the IEP team reviewed and revised the IEP to address the lack of progress. The IEP team properly developed the student’s IEP to address disability-related needs affecting reading and addressed any lack of expected progress toward meeting the annual goals during an annual review of the IEP of the student.
This concludes our review of this complaint.