AJE testified before a public hearing hosted by OSSE on IEP Process Policy on September 16th 2010. Below is a copy of the testimony.
Good afternoon, my name is Weadé Wallace, I am a project director with Advocates for Justice and Education, Inc, an organization dedicated to educating parents, youth, and the community about the laws governing public education, specifically for children with special needs.
As the federally mandated Parent Training and Information Center of D.C., we also seek to empower youth and parents to be effective advocates and youth to self advocate by providing direct services and trainings to parents of students, regarding special education and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act.
On behalf of Advocates for Justice and Education, Inc, we commend the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) for the proposed Individualized Education Program (IEP) Process Policy to ensure that students with disabilities are provided a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE). We support this proposed policy and believe that it will strengthen parental engagement and promote school accountability.
In our work relating to the IEP process, we have discovered that the core of the challenges faced by parents lies within the implementation of this policy. Implementation of the IEP Process policy is very important to the progress of students with disabilities. Some of the challenges faced by many of our parents include the unwillingness of the public school agency to identify and evaluate children who are suspected of being disabled and in need of special education, even if they’re passing from grade to grade. Prior to commencing the initial evaluation process of a child suspected of being in need of special education, some schools often implement supports and pre-interventions like the Student Support Team (SST). However, there is a lack of follow-through or systematic evaluation to examine the effectiveness of these pre-interventions, like the SST. Also, all local educational agencies must be made aware that the Student Support Team (SST) process is not a prerequisite to referring a child for initial evaluations. Both of these processes can and should occur concurrently.
The public school agency has 120 days to evaluate a child from the date a parent submits a written request and consent for evaluation. This process does not always occur in a timely manner. Some local educational agencies (LEAs) prolong this process by waiting until a few weeks before the 120 day period to convene the Multidisciplinary team (MDT) to review existing data about the child and to identify what evaluations are needed.
Frequent communication with parents must be a key component to the implementation of the IEP Process policy. The LEAs must adhere to the evaluation procedures and schedules of a child’s IEP. Parents should be informed of their child’s progress in all areas of services on a quarterly basis, or as stated on their child’s IEP.
As part of the recent Easy IEP process, schools are not obligated to take notes during IEP meetings. Note taking must be mandatory to reflect parents’ concerns, issues addressed by the IEP team and all decisions made by the IEP team. Parents are the primary stakeholder in their children education and it’s necessary that they leave their child’s IEP meeting with meeting notes for their personal records. Meeting notes are an important document for parents and should be mandatory at all IEP meetings.
All IEP meetings must include at least one general education teacher. Despite the overall efforts of IDEA to get more students in general education with the appropriate supports, general education teachers are not always invited to IEP meetings. Also, the LEA must increasingly notify parents of their option to invite a representative of Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) to IEP meetings when discussing post-secondary transition. The presence of RSA will provide parent with more knowledge and resources about their child’s transition options.
Local Educational Agency (LEA) representatives at non-public schools should also be fully knowledgeable of the students’ needs and services when attending IEP meetings. These individuals should be present at all IEP meetings and have some authority to make important decisions when necessary.
In closing, we are pleased with the efforts of the OSSE to strengthen the implementation of the IEP process for students with disabilities. We realize that this is a collective effort and that all participants of the IEP Team, including parents, must be fully engaged in this process. It is our hope that the local educational agencies (LEAs) will consistently implement the IEP Process policy to develop successful and valid IEPs for all students with disabilities.