Let’s imagine you have a child who has that oh-so-unique wiring that is Dyslexia
And let’s imagine that the school division denied that child an evaluation three times between first and sixth grades.
And let’s imagine, too, that the child finally received an IEP and that you went to mediation and that the school division enrolled your child in a year-long reading elective during 7th grade and provided tutoring twice a week, one hour each time, after school, for a chunk of the school year.
And, last—but not least—let’s imagine that you uncovered problems with the implementation of that program, that the school withheld negative reading data during the school year, and that within a few months of the school year ending, the publisher of the reading program stated:
After we got some initial feedback and data from past implementations, it became clear that if students needed Level 2, they needed all of it. Those students who would have placed in the second part of the level really didn’t need an intervention like LL and could perform pretty well in their core. Thus, we now only have 3 entry points for new students: L1U1, L1U5 and L2U1.
And imagine that your child was given the very implementation the publisher stopped recommending just months after your child spent a year going through it.
After all this, let’s imagine one more thing:
Let’s imagine the school division has yet another reading program it wants your child to take.
What would you do?
Let’s Look at Federal Regulations
Sec. §300.320(a)(4) of IDEA 2004 states:
Definition of individualized education program
(a) General. As used in this part, the term individualized education program or IEP means a written statement for each child with a disability that is developed, reviewed, and revised in a meeting in accordance with §§300.320 through 300.324, and that must include—(4) A statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services, based on peer-reviewed research to the extent practicable, to be provided to the child, or on behalf of the child, and a statement of the program modifications or supports for school personnel that will be provided to enable the child—(i) To advance appropriately toward attaining the annual goals;(ii) To be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum in accordance with paragraph (a)(1) of this section, and to participate in extracurricular and other nonacademic activities; and(iii) To be educated and participate with other children with disabilities and nondisabled children in the activities described in this section. . .
Okay. Good to know.
The above is pulled from §300.320, so what is §300.324?
Let’s look at the beginning, at §300.324 (a):
(1) General. In developing each child’s IEP, the IEP Team must consider—
(i) The strengths of the child;
(ii) The concerns of the parents for enhancing the education of their child;
(iii) The results of the initial or most recent evaluation of the child; and
(iv) The academic, developmental, and functional needs of the child.
Also good to know. The child’s strengths MUST be considered, the concerns of parents MUST be considered, and results of evaluations and the academic, developmental, and functional needs of the child MUST be considered.
But, who does the considering? Who gets to make decisions? Who determines if this new program is the one that will help my child “advance appropriately”, that the “peer-reviewed research” applies to my child’s unique circumstances? Who gets to decide if this new program will meet my child’s unique needs?
§300.321of IDEA 2004 states:
(a) General. The public agency must ensure that the IEP Team for each child with a disability includes—(1) The parents of the child;(2) Not less than one regular education teacher of the child (if the child is, or may be, participating in the regular education environment);(3) Not less than one special education teacher of the child, or where appropriate, not less than one special education provider of the child;(4) A representative of the public agency who—(i) Is qualified to provide, or supervise the provision of, specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of children with disabilities;(ii) Is knowledgeable about the general education curriculum; and(iii) Is knowledgeable about the availability of resources of the public agency.(5) An individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results, who may be a member of the team described in paragraphs (a)(2) through (a)(6) of this section;
Okay. That makes a lot of sense. The parent gets to take part in the decision. Good.
Now you know the definition of an IEP and you know what MUST be considered and who the school division must ensure is a part of the IEP team.
Let’s now imagine—now that you have all this information—that you attend an IEP meeting.
Let’s Imagine the IEP Meeting Goes Like This:
This is the proposal from from Fairfax County. And we know that parents make these decisions all the time, in terms of weighing the needs of their of their child.
It’s also- Just- I mean, if you guys could reach . . . Just so you have it, just take one of these and pass it around. I just want you to have the information.
Just one minute [Parent]. So I just want to make sure I’m clear on FCPS his proposal so we’re continuing to propose a total of X hours for [Student] with X hours being in the special education setting only. Those X hours previously had been proposed for services via a systematic reading program. Is that continuing to be the proposal from FCPS?
Everybody I need to hear.
And just again, from when you look at this, this is just a special education Performance Report –
But this is not on the agenda.
I- It’s a data point. So just let me say-
This is not related-
I need to let you- Yeah, it is because it’s related to my decision. It’s related to my decision, Jean.
So it’ll take me a minute. All right. I just want you guys all to know that Fairfax County that has, what is it 59% Division performance, the state is 66%. And that’s to get students with disabilities to proficient rate for English reading. So, they’re not hitting the state target. That’s for the entire county. The entire county is not hitting the state target for helping Students with a disability get to a proficiency rate in English and reading. In addition to all of that, you have all my problems that were never answered for seventh and eighth grade. And now you want to take away his two classes. I’m not going to say anything else on this. I think you guys all know where I stand on it. I think it’s absolutely ridiculous. . . .
All right, and then so duly noted.
And and so the other thing I’m going to need to understand is also why Fairfax County thinks that that’s appropriate. I just need- Because my understand is that we go around the table usually and people say why they think this is the right thing to do. So I just want to know, I want everybody to tell me why they think it’s appropriate to-
I was just about-
-take [Student’s] classes and-
Well, that’s not what I’m going to ask [Parent], but I was about to continue speaking.
My question is then so if that is our proposal, certainly, we would need to give a rationale for that proposal to [Parent], so I would ask that the team share that so that there’s clarity.
I think that with [Student’s] learning profile, which is one of strong cognition, but certainly the challenges in . . . Dyslexia and to really work on those fluency goals that we have identified on the IEP.
Jean. Hold on. My question isn’t about whether he needs a reading program. I agree he needs a reading program. Everybody knows he–I believe knows here–that I’ve asked for the school to help with him having a reading program after school. What I need to know from you is not that I think we all agree he needs a reading program. The question I have is why is Fairfax County believes that implementing a program in school, which means taking away a class that he loves, and giving him another source of unhappiness during the school way, is more appropriate . . .
So that’s the second question. We need to answer the first question, is why are we making this proposal? So if, if the IEP team would all answer that,
I would say from, uh, my my experience is that we propose this, and we propose classes like this because it supports what we are doing throughout the curriculum, right? So as an example, let’s say that he’s given another reading program and he’s with that teacher, and if he’s struggling in that reading program, he has access to me, his case manager, he has access to- I have access actually to the reading teacher so that I can go to her and say, Okay, so what are you currently working on? Awesome, I can communicate that to his other teachers, so then it’s something that I now can use that information because it’s something I have access to. So for me, that’s helpful.
So I can provide you that with- I can give you that-
But we need to finish this first.
Okay. I just have one question-
We need to answer this-
I have a question about what he said. Sean, I mean, I just want to say- How do you- Have they articulated what the program is? How do you know also- You’re saying he needs a reading program? How do you know that the one that they’re proposing is the best one for him?
Because the person who’s working with it is a colleague-
Parent:[Insert shock and disbelief variety of laugher.]
-and I know that they’re good at their job. It’s the same reason why I never got my [Inaudible]. That I mean, that’s that’s honestly what it is. Like, if you’re asking me about that. That’s not funny. To me. That’s real. Like if you’re telling me that my coworker is not going to do their job well, that’s I don’t I don’t believe that. I believe that if you’re the one teaching the reading program, I believe that Mr. Murphy’s gonna be the best one to do it if I was trained to do it, I-
So I just want to make sure that we answer the question about why that’s been school team supports that proposal because I’m looking at the time.
This is a heart-breaking decision because I am a real proponent for kids having things that they enjoy in high school, but we have to do it all the time. And we have to make we as adults have to make decisions about what’s best for the child. And he does need a reading program he is in the past that he needs to program. He is Dyslexic, and there are things in reading that would be helpful to him. It’s just one of those things that we have to as adults make the decision what’s best for him.
But is the program that they’ve, that they’re suggesting the best program? Because, this isn’t even a question of the people, because the people who provided him programs in the past were very nice. They were very nice people. I like them very much. But I have a lot of problems with the programs themselves, and with the way those people- those individuals are trained. It’s- I’m not taking a stab at any of those people. I’m taking a stab at all the data that I have and all the FOIA and FERPA documentation I have that shows that there’s problems with these programs that Fairfax County is spending money on and giving our kids, and so I- Do you, when you’re making this decision, I just want to make sure when every one of you is going around this table and saying this is the best decision, that you’re basing it not on just the need for [Student] to take a reading program. We all agree that, but I want to understand that you believe that this is the right program, because of what? It is- It is- has been- You have the data. And Sean, I’m sorry, I don’t mean to laugh, but when you tell me just because it’s my colleague who said it . . . You know what? Colleagues are really nice. [Student’s] worked with some really wonderful people. It doesn’t mean that they did a bad job. But it sometimes means that they- A program was provided to them to implement that wasn’t the best program or that the training, the implementation chosen wasn’t the best program. That’s not a stab at them. That’s a stab at the county that’s spending all this money on these programs.
That was an interesting IEP meeting—quite a bit of monologuing you did there at the end, parent.
Let’s stop imaging now.
Would you okay a program for your child after 1) the school division denied him an evaluation so many times; 2) your many questions and concerns related to the program that was finally provided to your child remain unaddressed; and 3) a teacher answered with a) convenience of having access to a teacher in the school and b) trusting his colleague, as reasons he agrees with the school division’s proposal for that specific program for your child.
Would you agree to the program?
Or, would you state that convenience and trust in colleagues are not how programs are approved, agreed upon, chosen, and so on, to address the unique needs of a child–and perhaps continue to ask for data on which the school division should be basing such decisions?
And would you ask, too, for data about the program, if it would be implemented with fidelity according to the research on which it is based, or would the school be choosing its own implementation, kind of like using Jell-O to help make a Mohawk stand up instead of going with the intended implementation, which is to eat it?