TEA Corrective Action Plan Online Survey & Parent Focus Group Meetings

Parents please be sure you have completed the TEA Corrective Action Plan Survey by February 20th and registered for a Focus Group Meeting.  Click the links below to access the survey and for information on the Focus Group Meetings in the Dallas and Fort Worth areas. Link to TEA survey-https://tea.texas.gov/TexasSPED/ (Dallas) Region 10-https://drive.google.com/file/d/1pd8GnatkxFOKw4cQpC0pHgs1kS5ioAeQ/view (Fort Worth) Region 11-http://www.esc11.net/Page/7438

Texas Education Agency (TEA) Releases Corrective Action Plan For Special Education

Texas Education Agency (TEA) has released it’s corrective action plan for Special Education in response to the 2016-2017 U.S. Department of Education investigation. https://tea.texas.gov/About_TEA/News_and_Multimedia/Press_Releases/2018/ TEA_drafts_corrective_action_plan_for_special_education/ Commissioner of Education Mike Morath explained this initial plan is simply a first draft still requiring additional public comment and suggestions. A final plan will be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education after educators, students, families, school districts, and advocacy groups have a chance to provide input. https://tea.texas.gov/TexasSPED/ Click the above link to read the entire action plan ad to provide feedback.

A Couple of Inspirational Stories-Individuals with Autism Hired by Quest Diagnostics & A Generous Donation

Below are links to two inspirational stories concerning the special needs or as I say special opportunities  community. The first link is to an article about Quest Diagnostics starting a jobs program for adults with disabilities. The second link is to an article about Cole Hamels and his wife who donated their mansion near Branson, Missouri to the area non-profit organization called Camp Barnabas. Camp Barnabas offers day camp programs for kids with chronic illnesses and special needs. To read more about both inspirational stories click the links below: https://www.autismspeaks.org/blog/2018/01/11/quest-diagnostics-starts-jobs-program-adults-autism https://sports.yahoo.com/cole-hamels-donates-9-75-million-mansion-special-needs-camp-195304752.html  

Texas Failed to Educate Students with Disabilities-U.S. Department of Education Report Released

The U.S. Department of Education has released it’s report detailing its finding into Texas’ noncompliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and failing to educate students with disabilities. The federal investigation was sparked by an article series titled “Denied” in the Houston Chronicle. This series of articles took an in depth look at the state of special education in Texas and investigated the use of the 8.5 percent cap.  In response to the “Denied” series federal officials visited five Texas cities in December 2016 and held listening sessions gathering input from numerous parents telling stories of how their child was denied special education services. Federal officials returned to Texas in February 2017 to tour selected school districts and review special education paperwork. For more information on this developing story click the links below. The second link includes the full report from the Department of Education. The last link is to the “Denied” series that sparked the investigation. https://www.texastribune.org/2018/01/11/federal-special-education-monitoring-report https://copaa.site-ym.com/news/381872/U.S.-DOE-Finds-Texas-Education-Association-Not-Compliant-with-Special-Education-Requirements.htm http://abcnews.go.com/US/texas-schools-failed-identify-special-education-students-department/story?id=52285774 http://www.houstonchronicle.com/denied/

American with Disabilities Act (ADA) Guidance Documents Rescinded

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has revoked 25 guidance documents including some that clarify items concerning the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The revoked guidance documents addressed such issues as service animals, accessible building practices, and 2016 letter on employment of people with disabilities.  Disability advocates worry that taking away guidance documents will create uncertainty about the interpretation of the law. Justice Department Scraps ADA Guidance

The IEP Analysis Project Saga Continues

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) now faces tons of questions over it’s failed IEP Analysis Project with the Georgia company, SPEDx. An internal TEA investigation dated November 17, 2017 found no misconduct with the SPEDx contract, however, questions still linger over the failed contract & project.  Special Education advocates are still suspicious about TEA’s motives & purpose of the project. For more information on the aftermath after the IEP Analysis Project was cancelled and the next steps for Special Education in Texas please click the links to the articles below. https://www.texastribune.org/2017/12/20/texas-education-agency-faces-mounting-questions-over-cancelled-special/ http://www.mystatesman.com/news/texas-special-education-overhaul-stalls-tea-answers-don-add/PsFT3gwkr4RBozNxcBu5yN/?ref=cbTopWidget

TEA Cancels IEP Analysis Project

The voices of parents, advocates, and different disabilities organizations in Texas were heard!! Texas Education Agency (TEA) has canceled the IEP Analysis Project with Georgia based company, SPEDx. TEA Commissioner Mike Morath released a statement last Friday announcing the cancellation of the project. “Significant concerns have been raised regarding our agency’s processes and the scope of the project,” TEA Commissioner Mike Morath said in a statement issued Friday evening. “The efficacy of the project would be undermined without real support from parents and educators alike. As a result, this project cannot proceed effectively. TEA will continue to work with parents and educators to identify methods to improve outcomes for our special education students.” The cancellation takes place in 15 days & SPEDx must destroy all IEPS & data received from TEA. To read more about the cancellation of the projects click the two links below. http://www.mystatesman.com/news/local-education/tea-cancels-controversial-project/jo3asrgxx0ZGyfDl3sm0uN/ https://www.texastribune.org/2017/12/15/texas-education-agency-no-bid-contract/

Important Topics Affecting Students & Individuals With Disabilities in Texas

Below are links about two important topics currently affecting students and individuals with disabilities in Texas. The first link is to the Texans for Special Education Reform (TxSER) website that shares information about the IEP Analysis Project. The IEP Analysis Project basically is a project that involves students’ & parents’ confidential information being sold to a company who does not have an educational need to know. In September, Texans for Special Education Reform learned that Texas school districts were contacted during the Summer of 2017 by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and encouraged to share at least three years of student Individual Education Plans (IEPs) with TEA vendor SPEDx of Georgia in exchange for payment. It was explained the purpose of the project was data mining to identify ways to improve special education. https://www.texans4spedreform.org/txser-at-work The second link is to an article in the Houston Chronicle about the potential loss of healthcare for millions of children because of Congress’ failure to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program, a federal-state program known as CHIP. http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Texas-children-deserve-better-than-this-from-12401098.php

Department of Education To Limit Scope Of Civil Rights Investigations

The Department off Education is considering changing its policy and procedures on how investigations of civil rights will be conducted at schools. Currently, investigations into discrimination complaints in schools look at the specific incident of discrimination and as well as any possible “systemic” or institutional problems that could of caused the civil rights issues in the first place. The Department of Education could change its policy and procedures so that future probes focus instead on the main complaint at hand.  This change could lead to a continuation of the same widespread behaviors that lead to investigations in the first place. A second proposed change would allow the department to solely negotiate agreements with schools or school districts and not be obligated to release the findings of an investigation to the students and parents involved in discrimination complaints. To read more about the possible changes please click the link below: http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/361639-education-dept-to-limit-scope-of-civil-rights-investigations-at#

Special Education Enrollment In Texas Increases

Enrollment in Special Education has increased in Texas since the 2016 article by the Houston Chronicle. TEA (Texas Education Agency) eliminated the so-called benchmark/cap in November 2016, just two months after the Houston Chronicle revealed the existence of what officials described as the 8.5 percent “benchmark.”  TEA has denied that it kept disabled students out of special education programs, saying the benchmark was not a cap or a target but an “indicator” of performance by school districts. To read the complete article please click the link below. http://m.chron.com/news/politics/texas/article/Enrollment-of-students-in-special-ed-programs-12346161.php?utm_campaign=fb-mobile&utm_source=CMS+Sharing+Button&utm_medium=social

Successful Inclusion Translates to Higher Graduation Rates for Students with Disabilities

A recent article in the Reno-Gazette Journal investigated how successful inclusion of students with disabilities translated in a higher graduation rate for students with disabilities.  In the article several experts are interviewed who believe there is a positive link between inclusion and graduation rates. Below is an excerpt from the article by Siobhan McAndrew titled “Districts that prioritize inclusion cited for high graduation rates for children with disabilities” Deborah Telfer, director of education at the University of Dayton in Ohio, said the conversations about special education need to change. Telfer was the principal investigator for the National Center on Educational Outcomes, a federally funded research group that studies school outcomes for children with disabilities. She also worked on the national report, Moving Your Numbers, a research project that profiled districts that have improved graduation rates for students with disabilities. “We spend all this time on where kids are going to sit and what program,” she said of discussions about special education. “If we change the mentality in special education and know that children are going to be side-by-side in the classroom, there’s less angst and time wasted on finding the golden ticket,” she said of segregated programs that often group children with disabilities together. “Instead, the conversation should be, they are going to be in that class, in that seat. What do we have to do to make it work?” Click the link below to read the entire article. http://www.rgj.com/story/news/education/2016/07/25/districts-prioritize-inclusion-cited-high-graduation-rates-children-disabilities/87414016/

Students Temporarily or Permanently Displaced by Hurricane Harvey are Protected Under the McKinney-Vento Act

Students who are temporarily or will be permanently displaced by Hurricane Harvey are entitled to full protections under the federal McKinney-Vento Act that covers homeless students. “The law, which was renewed in 2015 along with the Every Student Succeeds Act, categorizes as homeless any student who “lives in temporary shelters and those who use places not designed for sleeping as their regular nighttime residence, such as a car, park, abandoned building, bus, train station, airport or camping ground.” It also qualifies as homeless students who “double up” during financial hardships or natural disasters, meaning those living with relatives or family friends. Homeless students under the act, no matter what their economic background, have a number of rights, including to free lunch and transportation to either their new school or to their school of origin. It falls on the homeless coordinator in each district to ensure students get what’s required under the law. ” To read more about the McKinney-Vento Act & school district responsibilities click the link below to read the article by Daarel Burnette II for Education Week. The article also includes some resources for parents & school districts to further aid in understanding the law. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/District_Dossier/2017/08/why_the_mckinney-vento_act_is_.html?cmp=eml-enl-eu-news2-rm&M=58171036&U=1811391

Fewer States Meeting Special Education Obligations including Texas

As of the 2015-2016 school year school districts are still failing to meet the needs of students with disabilities.  The U.S. Department of Education found that only 22 states could receive the “meets requirements” designation for the 2015-2016 school year. The remaining states were all placed into the “needs assistance” category. School districts are failing to meet the standards set forth in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). States which meet requirements and obligations under IDEA include Alabama, Delaware, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. As you can see Texas is not included in this list. For more information click the link below. Feds Find Fewer States Meeting Special Ed Obligations

Upcoming Events for Personalized Learning Solutions & Dominique CARES

Personalized Learning Solutions & Dominique CARES have some awesome upcoming community events to help support parents of individuals with disabilities. July 22-Dominique CARES​ Annual Who Cares? Resource Fair is this Saturday. There are great vendors lined up to be there including Personalized Learning Solutions, LLC​ & tons of valuable information for parents/guardians of individuals with disabilities!! August 5 & August 19-Personalized Learning Solutions & Dominique CARES​ are offering FREE Parent Workshops to help parents prepare for the upcoming school year. The workshops will cover a variety of Special Education topics. Learn Special Education basics including a brief overview of the laws & Special Education process, how present levels of academic achievement/functional performance  & goals should be written, difference between an accommodation & modification, student & parent rights, school district responsibilities, basic terms, and acronyms. Please join Personalized Learning Solutions & Dominique CARES for these upcoming community events. We look forward to seeing everyone there!!!                               

Important Topic In the Texas Legislature Special Session Next Week-School Vouchers For Children With Disabilities

Parents please click the link and read the article below to see how Gov. Abbott wants lawmakers to vote on the issue concerning school vouchers for children with disabilities.  Gov. Abbott has made it clear he wants lawmakers to pass school vouchers for children with disabilities. If passed will children with disabilities really have school choice? Parents please be informed how accepting a school voucher could impact your child’s education. http://www.houstonchronicle.com/local/gray-matters/article/How-Gov-Abbott-s-voucher-plan-hurts-11293560.php

Learn IEP Myths At Upcoming Parent Workshops-August 5th & August 19th

Do you know any myths about IEPs? If not below is an article with ten IEP myths. http://www.specialeducationadvisor.com/ten-myths-about-individualized-education-programs-ieps/ IEP myths & the twelve components of an IEP will be discussed at the FREE upcoming parent workshops. Personalized Learning Solutions, LLC & Dominique CARES are offering free Parent Workshops on August 5th & August 19th to help parents prepare for the upcoming school year. The workshops will cover a variety of Special Education topics. To register for a workshop please visit http://personalizedlearningforall.com/services/ & click the Book Appointment button at the bottom of the page. Then choose Classes & complete your registration. You can also click on the picture below for more info. Workshops will be held at Old Settlers Recreation Center (1200 E. Louisiana Street McKinney, Texas 75069) from 1:30 pm-4:30 pm. We look forward to seeing everyone!!!  

FREE Parent Workshop-July 15th!!!!

FREE parent workshop being offered by Personalized Learning Solutions, LLC & Hatching Hope Foundation!!!!  In an effort to help our families prepare for next school year, we have a great summer special education workshop planned. Hatching Hope Foundation and Personalized Learning Solutions, LLC have partnered to offer a free parent workshop to continue supporting the special needs community in the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex. The workshop will cover Special Education: The Basics. Learn Special Education basics including a brief overview of the laws & Special Education process, student & parent rights, school district responsibilities, basic terms, and acronyms. Parent Workshop Registration Directions 1. Go to http://personalizedlearningforall.com/services/ 2. Scroll to bottom of page & click Book Appointment Button. A scheduling window will pop up or open up in another screen. 3. At the top of the window select Classes then Parent Workshops & complete your registration. Personalized Learning Solutions, LLC & Hatching Hope Foundation look forward to seeing everyone on July 15th at El Centro College Downtown Room A346. Any questions about registration please contact us at personalizedlearningsolutions@gmail.com. 

Great Article About How Inclusion & Career and Technical Education Helps Students With Disabilities

Click the link below to read an excellent article about how students with disabilities benefit from Inclusion & Career and Technical Education. http://mobile.edweek.org/c.jsp?cid=25920011&item=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.edweek.org%2Fv1%2Fblog%2F58%2F%3Fuuid%3D72527 Within the article is a link to a report from the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research. In this report students were followed from preschool to college and beyond. The link to the report is below: The report is titled Career and Technical Education, Inclusion, and Postsecondary Outcomes for Students with Disabilities    

Parent Workshops-August 5th & August 19th

Personalized Learning Solutions, LLC & Dominique CARES are offering free Parent Workshops on August 5th & August 19th to help parents prepare for the upcoming school year. The workshops will cover a variety of Special Education topics. To register for a workshop please visit http://personalizedlearningforall.com/services/ & click the Book Appointment button at the bottom of the page. Then choose Classes & complete your registration. You can also click on the picture below for more info. Workshops will be held at Old Settlers Recreation Center (1200 E. Louisiana Street McKinney, Texas 75069) from 1:30 pm-4:30 pm. We look forward to seeing everyone!!!

Dominique Cares & Personalized Learning Solutions Team Up!!!

Dominique Cares & Personalized Learning Solutions have teamed up to help more parents of students with disabilities. This year Personalized Learning Solutions is a recipient of a contribution from Dominique Cares. This contribution will be used to fund services for parents & guardians in Personalized Learning Solution’s Fee Assistance Program. The Fee Assistance Program will assist parents in paying for services, parent training, events, etc. Personalized Learning Solutions is excited about the partnership with Dominique Cares and we look forward to working with them in the future.                                                                                                                                      Dominique Cares is a nonprofit that provides support, resources, services and hope to individuals with special needs along with their families. It is their belief that healthy families are productive families. Dominique Cares also provides support to the entire family by providing funding for such things as respite, vacations, events for caregivers, and other services. They sponsor several events in the Dallas-Forth Worth Metroplex. Their upcoming events include a Community Wide Garage Sale on April 22 and Launch Party on April 29th. More info about the organization and upcoming events can be found at https://www.dominiquecares.com/.

How Does Your State Discipline Students?

How does you state discipline students?  Check out this article and video discussing utilizing handcuffs in schools and if security in schools is going to far. The article highlights a young boy who was only in the second grade when he was handcuffed at school. In the incident report the officer said he cuffed the eight year old boy because he appeared to be out of control and to keep the student from hurting himself. The student was upset because bullies were taunting and picking on him so he began to cry and yell. When the school security officer found the student screaming and crying in a classroom the officer asked the student to come with him but the student refused to the follow the officer. As a result of his noncompliance the student was handcuffed and remained handcuffed until his father arrived. The student’s family is currently suing the school district for violating his constitutional rights. The video in the article also discusses the school to prison pipeline, racial bias when it comes to discipline, and how students with disabilities are three times more likely to be reported to law enforcement than students without disabilities.  Below is a link where you can check out the statistics for your district. Select your state and district then the data for your district will appear. In the charts and graphs you will be able to see the discipline statistics by category and the discipline data for students with disabilities versus students without disabilities. http://data.nbcstations.com/national/2017/policing-schools/reportcard.html The link to the entire article and video is below. http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/kids-cuffs-why-handcuff-8-year-old-student-disability-n722451    

Do You Know the Difference Between IEPS and 504 Plans?

Individualized Education Programs (IEPS) and 504 Plans both offer assistance to students in grades K-12 who have learning, behavior, and attention issues and deficits. Below is a link from Understood.org that contains an informative chart that highlights some key differences between IEPs and 504 Plans including key differences in what each does, who is eligible, what law applies, parental involvement, etc. For more information on the key differences between IEPs and 504 Plans click the link below: https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/special-services/504-plan/the-difference-between-ieps-and-504-plans?utm_source=fbshare&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=share

U.S. Department of Education to Return to Texas

The U.S. Department of Education plans to return to Texas the week of February 27 to conduct site visits in selected districts in continuation of their investigation of  the Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) established 8.5 percent “benchmark” for special education enrollments. The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) will also examine documents from a sample district to familiarize themselves with specific State, district, and school procedures and practices. Then OSERS will request documents from all districts selected for the site visits. Finally, OSERS will conduct interviews with TEA staff to review TEA’S oversight of special education programs, particularly issues regarding referrals, child find, and evaluations of students suspected of having a disability. To read the complete article about the U.S. Department of Education’s upcoming visit please click the following link:  http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/article/Feds-plan-to-devote-more-resources-to-10869700.php?t=649c078a89438d9cbb&cmpid=twitter-premium#photo-10907181

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Website Goes Dark

A day after controversial new secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, was sworn in the federal website focused on Special Education went down. However, officials said the issue should be no cause for alarm. The U.S. Department of Education’s website about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) returned an error late Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.  Agency officials said the issue is nothing more than a technical glitch that is being addressed. See article below for complete story on the IDEA website going dark. https://www.disabilityscoop.com/2017/02/08/federal-special-ed-website-dark/23295/ The IDEA website, http://idea.ed.gov/, is now being redirected to https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osers/osep/osep-idea.html

How the Betsy DeVos Nomination Could Effect Students with Disabilities

Scott Sargrad’s article in the U.S. News explains how Betsy DeVos is a danger to students with disabilities. Scott Sargrad is the managing director for K-12 education policy at the Center for American Progress. Prior to joining the Center for American Progress, Sargrad served as the deputy assistant secretary for policy and strategic initiatives in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education. Please see link below for entire article. http://www.usnews.com/opinion/knowledge-bank/articles/2017-01-19/students-with-disabilities-deserve-better-than-donald-trumps-betsy-devos

Texas Schools and Districts Received Their Letter Grades

Texas schools and districts received their letter grades from the state for the 2015-2016 accountability ratings last week. The letter grades received are what schools and districts would of received if the new rating system had of been in place. The letter grades do not take the place of the accountability rating received in August for 2016.  The new rating system goes into effect August 2018. The new report rates schools and districts in four domains: D1: Student Achievement D2: Student Progress D3: Closing Performance Gaps D4: Postsecondary Readiness You can search for your particular school and district to learn of their assigned letter grade at the link below. http://www.statesman.com/news/local-education/texas-schools-and-districts-got-their-letter-grades-from-state/06y5h5VGHqhfgcAozpXh7I/

Examples of Procedural & Substantive Violations Committed By School Districts

Two major types of IEP errors are most common, procedural and substantive. Procedural obligations compel school personnel to follow the specific requirements of the law when developing an IEP.  The substantive obligations of IDEA require IEP teams to develop and implement a plan that is designed to provide educational benefit for the student. Below are examples of procedural violations: Failure to give notice of rights, planned meetings through prior written notice. Failure to adhere to state-mandated timelines. Failure to allow the parents to meaningfully participate in the IEP development process & educational decision making. Failure to conduct & complete individualized evaluations. Failure to ensure that all the necessary team members attend IEP meetings. Failure to devise an appropriate IEP based on the child’s individual needs. Failure to implement the IEP as written. Failure to provide education and services in the least restrictive environment, based on that child’s individual needs. Failure to maintain proper records. Failure to train staff and aides in the child’s areas of disability. Failure to train parents in the child’s areas of disability. Predetermining placement and services before the case conference committee meeting. Failure to provide records within 45 days when requested by parents. Failure to offer extended school year services to the child, resulting in regression of skills during the summer vacation that cannot be recouped quickly. Failure to allow the special needs child to participate in extracurricular activities to the same extent as his non-disabled peers when the child could participate with accommodations provided by the school. Failure of the school to prevent punishment of the child for actions or inactions that are manifestations of the child’s disability (caused by the child’s disability). Failure by the school to notice that the child was one in need of special education or services, despite evidence that the child was struggling academically or behaviorally. Below are examples of substantive violations: Failure to assess the student’s academic and functional needs. Failure to develop annual goals based on student needs. Failure to write goals that are complete, appropriate, and measurable. Failure to provide special education and related services that are effective and based on peer-reviewed research. Failure monitor the student’s progress toward his or her goals and make instructional changes when necessary.

Part Seven of the Houston Chronicle article “Denied” has been Published: Texas’ Special Education Cap Drives Families Out of Public Schools

There is a new installment of the Houston Chronicle article “Denied”. Part seven explains how some families have been driven out of Texas public schools. Below are links to all seven parts of the Chronicle investigation. A Chronicle Investigation About this series Part 1: How Texas keeps tens of thousands of children out of special education Part 2: Schools push students out of special education to meet state limit Part 3: Mentally ill lose out as special ed declines Part 4: Facing pressure to cut special education, Texas schools shut out English Language Learners Part 5: Unable to get special education in Texas, one family called it quits and moved to Pennsylvania Part 6: Houston schools block disabled kids from special education Part 7: Special ed cap drives families out of public schools Severely disabled: In Texas, even blind and deaf children can’t always get special education Explainer: How we know the reason for the drop in Texas special ed students

U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights Sees a Rise in Disability Complaints

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has released its annual report for the fiscal year ending in September. Overall, there were 16, 720 complaints submitted to the office which is a dramatic increase from the 10, 392 submitted the previous year.  According to the report, 36 percent of the complaints received were disability related. The Office of Civil Rights received nearly 6,000 disability related complaints during fiscal year 2016 which is up from the 4,800 complaints received the previous year. The office did have success in resolving 5,232 of the 6,000 disability related complaints. https://www.disabilityscoop.com/2016/12/08/education-rise-disability/23103/  

U.S Department of Education Officials will be in Texas December 12-15

The U.S. Department of Education is sending officials to Texas to ask residents and educators whether the state is illegally denying special education services to students with disabilities. Department officials said they will hold public “listening sessions” as part of a probe into a large decline in services in the state and in response to the 8.5% cap exposed by articles in the Houston Chronicle. The meetings will take place in Houston and the Dallas area on Dec. 12, in Edinburg and El Paso on Dec. 13, and in Austin on Dec. 15. http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/education/article/Feds-coming-to-Texas-for-listening-sessions-on-10645931.php  

TEA Warns Districts Not to Use RTI to Delay Special Education Referrals

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) recently sent a letter on November 17, 2016 to school districts urging them to not delay or deny special education referrals in order to complete Response to Intervention strategies (RTI). In its November 2016 letter, TEA stated: “There have been reports that some school districts may be delaying or denying special education referrals in order to complete RTI strategies. As stated in the Parent’s Guide to the Admission, Review, and Dismissal Process, a child does not need to advance through each tier of the RTI system before a referral for special education is made. Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) has advised that it would be inconsistent with the evaluation provisions of  the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for a school district to reject a referral and delay an initial evaluation on the basis that a student has not participated in an RTI framework. Once it is apparent that general education interventions are not sufficient, school personnel should suspect that the child has a disability and should initiate a referral.” Link below from the Texas Classroom Teachers Association summarizing the letter from the Texas Education Agency. https://tcta.org/node/14373-tea_warns_districts_not_to_use_rti_to_delay_special_education_referrals Link  below to the November 17 letter-The information about Special Education Referrals and Response to Intervention is at the bottom of the letter. http://tea.texas.gov/interiorpage_wide.aspx?id=51539612249

New article in the Houston Chronicle about the declining Special Ed Numbers in Texas

There is a new article in the Houston Chronicle about the declining Special Education numbers in the state of Texas focusing on mentally ill students. The article addresses how mentally ill students have disproportionately been affected by the 8.5 percent target for Special Education enrollment imposed by the Texas Education Agency (TEA). According to the Health and Human Services Commission there is an estimated 500,000 school-age children in Texas who have a serious mental illness but only 30,034 receive special education services. Below is the link to the entire article: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/article/Mentally-ill-lose-out-as-special-ed-declines-10623706.php?t=b0dad284f4  

Part Two of the Houston Chronicle article “Denied” has been Published

This part of the story details how some Texas schools dramatically decreased their special education rolls by taking away needed services from children with autism, dyslexia, speech impairments, mental illnesses and other disabilities in response to the state’s 8.5 percent cap on the number of students with disabilities. The article focuses on the Laredo Independent School District and how the school district was punished by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) for “over-identification” of students with disabilities. The district responded to TEA by taking away services and kicking our nearly one-third of its special education students in a single school year. http://www.houstonchronicle.com/denied/ There’s also an addition article on a school district administrator who is fighting his own employer to get his son back the special education services he desperately needs. http://www.houstonchronicle.com/denied/extra/        

U.S. Department of Education Releases Guidance to Schools on Ensuring Equity and Providing Behavioral Supports to Students with Disabilities

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) issued guidance in the form of a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) that emphasizes the requirement that schools must provide positive behavioral supports to students with disabilities who need them. To read more click the link below or the Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) link above. https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/us-department-education-releases-guidance-schools-ensuring-equity-and-providing-behavioral-supports-students-disabilities

Feds Target Texas’ Special Education Enrollment Problem

The U.S. Department of Education has written a three-page letter to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) commissioner Mike Morath about the findings in the Chronicle’s recent article concerning Texas’ declining Special Education population. The Chronicle exposed the state’s arbitrary 8.5 percent benchmark back in September, reporting that the policy has likely denied “tens of thousands” of students Special Education services just to cut costs. Special Education enrollment has decreased from 13 percent to 8.5 percent since 2004. To read the three page letter sent by the U.S. Department of Education to commissioner Mike Morath and the full article in Texas Monthly click the link below. http://www.texasmonthly.com/the-daily-post/state-texas-feds-target-texas-special-education-enrollment-problem/

Texas Special Education Camera Law Just Got a Lot Broader

There has been an update to the interpretation of the Special Education Camera Law. An article in Education Week tries to explain what law makers meant when the law was passed and then in a letter they wrote last year after the camera law was passed. There is definitely a difference in the interpretation of the law between law makers and Attorney General Ken Paxton. Law makers interpretation-School districts in Texas have been interpreting the law to mean that if parents or teachers make a request, a camera would be installed in their children’s classrooms or in the classrooms in which they teach. The legislators who drafted the bill said that was what they meant, as well, according to a letter they wrote last year after the camera bill passed. Attorney General’s interpretation-But the Texas attorney general has said that his interpretation is that a single request means that cameras have to be installed in special education classrooms districtwide. Complying with such a request might cost school districts millions—and Texas education officials have already said that this is a cost that must be borne by districts alone. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/speced/2016/09/texas_special_ed_camera_law_ge.html

How Texas Keeps Tens of Thousands of Children Out of Special Education

This is a very interesting and informative article on how thousands of students are being denied Special Education services in Texas. You can see how the percentage of Special Education students has changed in your district since 2004.  Simply choose or search for your district from the drop down menu under the section titled Search Your School District. Once the bar graph appears hoover your mouse over each bar (each bar represents a year from 2004-2015) in the bar graph to see the percentage of Special Education students in the district for that particular year. Nearly all school districts have decreased the percentage of Special Education students receiving services therefore dramatically increases the number of students who are denied and not receiving services needed for them to have access to a free and appropriate education under IDEA. http://www.houstonchronicle.com/denied/

New online STAAR Guidelines

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has shared information on the new online version of STAAR that will be available beginning in March 2017.  STAAR A (STAAR Accommodated) and STAAR L (linguistically accommodated English version of the STAAR) will no longer be used as the online version will take their place.  What we know is limited to the communication from State Assessment  Divison: The new version will have embedded accommodations, accessibility feature, and non-embedded accommodations (not in the platform) There will be embedded accommodations for text to speech, language and vocabulary supports, and content supports Accessibility features will be included (TBD) Accommodations students use during STAAR administration will be selected on the basis of documentation in the IEP of current instructional accommodations, routinely and effectively used in the classroom; students will receive only the specific accommodations he or she uses If students’ ARDs or Section 504 committees had selected STAAR A assessments for Spring 2017, IEP/504 plan will need to be updated to reflect each assessment the student will take and the specific embedded accommodations and non-embedded accommodations (i.e., supports that are not part of the technology platform) that the student requires during testing.  It will be a case by case decision as to update through an ARD or through an IEP amendment. The accessibility features that are available to all students in the online version of STAAR do not need to be listed in a student’s IEP or Section 504 plan, unless the student’s ARD or Section 504 committee wants to ensure that the student uses a certain feature.

Items That Should be Included in Every IEP

1. A statement of the child’s Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance (PLAAFP). Present Levels of Academic and Functional Performance includes academic achievement and functional performance including how the child’s disability affects the child’s involvement and progress in the general curriculum. Academic achievement refers to a child’s performance in academic areas such as language arts/reading, math, science, and history.  Functional Performance refers to skills or activities of everyday living that are not considered academic or related to a child’s academic achievement. This information usually comes from the evaluation results such as classroom tests and assignments, individual tests given to decide eligibility for services or during reevaluation, and observations made by teachers, related service providers, and other school staff. This section also include input from the child’s parents or guardians regarding their concerns, child’s needs, and child’s strengths. 2. A statement of the child’s Eligibility Category. Under IDEA The thirteen eligibility categories include, autism, deaf-blindness, deafness, emotional disturbance, hearing impairment (including deafness), intellectual Disability, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, other health impairment, specific learning disabilities, speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injury, and visual impairment (including blindness). 3. A statement of Annual, Measurable Goals.  These are goals that the child can reasonably accomplish in a year. The goals are broken down into short-term objectives or benchmarks. Goals may be academic, functional, address social or behavioral needs, relate to physical needs, or address other educational needs. The goals must be measurable which means that it must be possible to measure progress and whether the student has achieved the goals. 4. A statement of how Progress will be Measured. The IEP must state how the child’s progress will be measured and how parents will be informed of that progress. 5. A statement of the Special Education, Related Services, and Supplementary Aids/ Services provided to the child. The IEP must list the special education, related services, and supplementary aids/services to be provided to the child or on behalf of the child. This includes supplementary aids and services that the child needs. It also includes modifications or changes to the program or supports for school personnel. Examples of these supports includes training or professional development that will be provided to assist the child. 6. A statement of the child’s Program Modifications, Accommodations, and Supports for School Personnel. Accommodations do not reduce grade level standards but rather help provide access to the general curriculum.  Accommodations can include visual presentation, auditory presentation, multi-sensory presentation, response, setting, organization, timing and scheduling.  Modifications actually lower learning expectations and should only be used if this is the only way for the child to be successful.  Parents must understand if modifications to grade level standards are being made then the child may be at risk for not meeting graduation requirements. 7. A statement of Participation with Non-disabled Children. The IEP must explain the extent (if any) to which the child will not participate with nondisabled children in the regular class and other school activities. 8. A statement of any Accommodations that the child is receiving on State or District Wide Assessments. State assessment tests are given to students in certain grades and classes. The IEP must state what accommodations in the administration of these tests the child will need and receive. If a test is not appropriate for the child, the IEP must state why the test is not appropriate and how the child will be tested instead. If the IEP Team determines that the child shall take an alternate assessment, a statement of why should be included. This statement should describe why the child cannot participate in the regular assessment and which particular alternate assessment is appropriate for the child. 9. The Projected Date for the Beginning of Services, Frequency, Location, and Duration. The IEP must state when services will begin, how often they will be provided, when services will end, where they will be provided, and how long they will last. 10. A statement of Transition Service Needs/Needed Transition Services. Beginning when the child is age 14 (or younger, if appropriate), the IEP must address (within the applicable parts of the IEP) the child needs to take to reach his or her post-secondary goals. A statement of transition services needs must also be included in each of the child’s subsequent IEPs. No later than the child’s 16th birthday a transition plan must be included in the IEP outlining post- secondary goals, independent living skills goals, and transition services needed in order for the goals to be accomplished. The transition services are services needed to help the child prepare for leaving school. Transition services outlined in IDEA state that the IEP must include appropriate measurable, post-secondary goals based upon age-appropriate transition assessments related to training, education, employment and, where appropriate, independent living skills.  Also, it must include the transition services including courses of study needed to assist the child in reaching those goals. The child must be an active participant in the transition process in order for his or her likes, dislikes, strengths, and needs to be considered when developing this plan. 11. A statement that the child has been informed of his or her rights when they Reach the Age of Majority.  Beginning at least one year before the child reaches the age of majority, the IEP must include a statement that the student has been told of any rights that will transfer to him or her at the age of majority. (This statement would be needed only in states that transfer rights at the age of majority.) Once the child turns 18 they have the right to sign their IEP and parent’s rights transfer to the child. At this time, the child is responsible for his or her education and can make decisions on their own unless the parent/guardian has a document signed by a judge giving you full guardianship/conservatorship. 12. A statement describing the child’s appropriate placement in the Least Restrictive Environment. Least Restrictive Environment is defined as “to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are not disabled, and special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability of a child is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily” (Sec. 612 (a)[5]).  

Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) Update

Sunset legislation passed during the 84th Texas Legislative Session (January 13, 2015-June 1, 2015) requires the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) to transfer its programs and functions to either the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) or Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) on September 1, 2016. Sunset is the regular assessment of the continuing need for a state agency or program to exist. While standard legislative oversight is concerned with agency compliance with legislative policies, Sunset starts with a more basic question: Do the agency’s functions continue to be needed? The Sunset process works by setting an automatic termination (Sunset) date on which an agency will be abolished unless a bill is passed to continue it. Beyond this fundamental question, Sunset has always been about more than just limiting the size of government. The process creates a unique opportunity and powerful incentive for the Legislature and stakeholders to look closely at each agency and make key improvements to how state government works. House Bill 2463 and Senate Bill 200 abolished DARS and transferred all programs and services either to the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) or Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) on September 1, 2016. Senate Bill 208 transferred the following DARS programs/services to the TWC. The Vocational Rehabilitation program for individuals with visual impairments, including the Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center The Vocational Rehabilitation program for individuals with other disabilities The Business Enterprises of Texas program The Independent Living Services program for older individuals who are blind (Although TWC will receive grant funding and be responsible for program oversight, the agency will enter into an Interagency Contract with the Texas Department of Health and Human Services (HHSC) who will administer these services.) Summary of House Bill 2463 https://www.hhsc.state.tx.us/hhs-transformation/summaries/HB/2463.pdf Department of Assistive & Rehabilitative Services Program Transition http://www.twc.state.tx.us/news/department-assistive-rehabilitative-services-program-transition

Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA)

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law ensuring services to children with disabilities throughout the nation. IDEA governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education and related services to more than 6.5 million eligible infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities. Infants and toddlers with disabilities (birth-2) and their families receive early intervention services under IDEA Part C. Children and youth (ages 3-21) receive special education and related services under IDEA Part B. The purpose of IDEA is: To ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education employment and independent living. 34 CFR §300.1(a) The State of Texas implements IDEA Part B and Part C and ensures that special education services shall be provided to eligible students in accordance with all applicable federal law and regulations, state statutes, rules of the State Board of Education (SBOE) and commissioner of education, and the State Plan Under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). 19 TAC §89.1001(a) To qualify for special education, students must have been evaluated in accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) of 2004, and meet disability condition criteria in at least one of the following areas: Autism  Deaf-Blindness Deafness  Emotional Disturbance Hearing Impairment (including deafness) Intellectual Disability  Multiple Disabilities Orthopedic Impairment  Other Health Impairment  Specific Learning Disability  Speech Impairment  Traumatic Brain Injury Visual Impairment (including blindness) 34 CFR §300.8–Child with a disability, Section of CFR that explains each of the 13 disabilities.

Special Education Acronyms

  ADA Americans with Disabilities Act ADD Attention Deficit Disorder ADHD Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder AEP Alternative Education Program AI Auditory Impairment APE Adapted Physical Education ARD Admission, Review & Dismissal AU Autism BIP Behavior Intervention Plan CBI Community Based Instruction DARS Department of Assistive & Rehabilitative Services DB Deaf Blind DNQ Does Not Qualify ECI Early Childhood Intervention ED Emotional Disturbance EOC End of Course (Exam) ESY Extended School Year FAPE Free & Appropriate Public Education FBA Functional Behavior Assessment FERPA Family Education Rights and Privacy Act FIE Full Individual Evaluation ID Intellectual Disability IDEA Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act IEE Independent Educational Evaluation IEP Individualized Education Plan LD Learning Disability LRE Least Restrictive Environment MD Multiple Disabilities OCD Obsessive Compulsive Disorder ODD Oppositional Defiant Disorder OHI Other Health Impairment OI Orthopedic Impairment O & M Orientation & Mobility OT Occupational Therapy PPCD Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities PT Physical Therapy RDSPD Regional Day School Program for the Deaf RTI Response to Intervention SI Speech Impairment SLP Speech Language Pathologist STAAR State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness STAAR A State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness – Accommodated STAAR Alt State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness – Alternate TBI Traumatic Brain Injury TEA Texas Education Agency TEKS Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills VI Visual Impairment  

2015 Changes to State Regulations for Special Education in Texas

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) modified its rule on Admission, Review, and Dismissal (ARD) meetings to revise the current committee meeting procedures–19 Tex. Admin. Code § 89.1050. The rule no longer requires several aspects of the ARD committee report that you may be accustomed to. Below is a list of critical changes highlighted in red. Allowing committee members to indicate agreement or disagreement is no longer required. A signatures page is no longer required. A summary of the meeting deliberations and decisions is no longer required. If the committee takes a recess because there is not mutual agreement on all required Individual Education Plan (IEP) elements then the recess may now be longer than 10 school days by mutual agreement of the committee. If there is no resolution of an ARD disagreement, now only the parents have the right to submit a statement of disagreement (under the prior rule any committee member in disagreement could have submitted a statement of disagreement). TEA deleted the rule specific to parental requests for an ARD committee meeting–19 Tex. Admin. Code § 89.1045. The rule changed how school districts must respond to the parent’s request. Under prior rule, the district either had to grant the request or ask TEA for a mediator to address the parent’s concerns. With the current change the school district either grants the request or issues a notice of refusal to convene an ARD committee meeting. The district is no longer required to seek the assistance of a TEA-appointed mediator. The TEA modified its rule on Full Individual Evaluations (FIEs) in response to S.B. 816 which was enacted by the 83rd Legislature–19 Tex. Admin. Code §89.1011. When the referral for the FIE occurs during the latter part of the spring semester and the FIE report is due by June 30th then the  ARD committee no longer has until the 15th school day of the fall semester to hold a meeting to discuss the FIE. Now the rule requires a school district to schedule and hold the ARD committee meeting “as expeditiously as possible” during the summer if the FIE report says that the student is in need of Extended School Year (ESY) services. The TEA modified its rule on high school graduation for students with Individual Education Plan (IEP)–19 Tex. Admin. Code § 89.1070. When the student takes a course with modified curriculum, the student is not eligible to be awarded an endorsement under the new Foundation Diploma system. The State Board of Education (SBOE) reviewed and modified its rule on special education instructional arrangements and settings to revise the definitions of three placement options-19 Tex. Admin. Code §§ 89.63(c)(1), (c)(7), (c)(9): Mainstream placement-allows positive behavioral interventions and supports in mainstream setting to permit a student to remain in the general education setting. Off-home campus placement-allows transition services in community-based environments. Vocational Adjustment Class (VAC) placement-allows the provision for an unpaid job and work   experience as long as not inconsistent with wage and labor laws.

School Year is Approaching!!!

From the Special Education Reports compiled by the Texas Education Agency there are over 450,000 students in the state of Texas who receive Special Education services. If you know a parent of a child with a disability who will be attending school next month please refer them to Personalized Learning Solutions so we can help them prepare for their upcoming Admission, Review, and Dismissal (ARD) meeting.