Acronyms and special terminology abound in special education law, both at the federal and state level. In addition, there are many acronyms specific to LPS’ special education programs. Here are the most commonly used acronyms.
1.1 GENERAL SPECIAL EDUCATION LAW
504 Plan: A law known as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 offers students with disabilities both services and accommodations that are necessary for the student to participate fully in the life of the school. To receive services under Section 504 a student must have a mental or physical impairment, that substantially impairs a major life activity, and requires special accommodations
BSEA: Bureau of Special Education Appeals
CFR: Code of Federal Regulations
CMR: Code of Massachusetts Regulations
DESE: Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
FAPE (Free and Appropriate Public Education): The IDEA mandate that every child whose disability affects their school progress receives an appropriate public education at no expense to the family.
FBA: Functional Behavioral Assessment
IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act): The federal special education law, passed in 1990, that ensures students with a disability are provided with an education that is tailored to their individual needs.
IEE: Independent Educational Evaluation
IEP (Individualized Education Program): An IEP is a document that is developed for each public school child who needs special education and defines the individualized objectives of a child who has been determined to have a disability or requires specialized accommodation, as defined by federal regulations.
LRE (Least Restrictive Environment): The IDEA mandate that students with disabilities must be educated with their non-disabled peers to the maximum extent appropriate based on the student’s needs.
PQA: Program Quality Assurance Services
SEPAC (Special Education Parent Advisory Council): Chapter 71B of Massachusetts special education law requires a school district to establish a PAC (Parent Advisory Council) with both an advisory and a participatory function for the school district and school committee.
1.2 LPS ACRONYMS
Please note that more detailed descriptions of each of the programs mentioned here can be found in a separate Lexington Public Schools Special Education Programs document.
ETS: Evaluation Team Supervisor
ILP: Intensive Learning Program
TLP: Therapeutic Learning Program
LLP: Language Learning Program
DLP: Developmental Learning Program
To determine if your child is eligible for special education services, they will need an evaluation. Here are some key points to remember about evaluations:
• You can refer your child to be evaluated by asking for an evaluation for special education eligibility, or your child may be referred by a teacher or other school professional. You can ask your teacher or principal about the best person to contact at your school.
• The school cannot refuse to evaluate your child.
You can also conduct evaluations by professionals outside of the school system, but be sure to coordinate any outside evaluations with the ETS to prevent duplication of testing.
The Team may consider outside evaluations, but it is within LPS’s rights to dispute or disregard recommendations or diagnoses made by outside evaluators.
Eligibility is determined at a Team Meeting, which is scheduled and chaired by the ETS. IDEA has specific rules about who is invited and should attend the Team Meeting. According to IDEA, the following people should attend:
To be eligible for special education services, the evaluations must answer the following questions:
The answer to all three of these questions must be “YES” for a child to be found eligible for special education services.
If you child is found eligible for an IEP, the team will work to agree on the goals, services, and accommodations to be included in the IEP at the eligibility meeting. Here are some the key elements that will be included in the IEP:
• Student Vision
• Participation in the General Curriculum
• Other Educational Needs
• Annual Goals
• Objectives and Benchmarks
The goals, objectives, and benchmarks should be specific enough that they can be measured, and reasonable enough that they can be achieved in the one-year timeframe between the time the IEP is implemented and the next IEP review. The art and science of drafting effective IEPs is a subject of many books and guidelines. You can get more information in A Parent’s Guide to Special Education at https://fcsn.org/parents-guide.
Yes. You can reject the entire IEP, or you can reject portions of the IEP that you feel need further discussion or changes. If you reject the entire IEP, no services will begin until the team has come to an agreement. If you reject portions of the IEP, you have to clearly list the parts you have rejected, and then services will start on the parts you have accepted. You must reject an IEP (in full or partially) within 30 days of receiving the IEP.
Note that your rejection of an IEP sets into motion a referral to the Bureau of Special Education Appeals (BSEA). You can learn more about this process in the following sections.
Progress Reports should be sent to parents at the same time as students in your school receive report cards. The Progress Reports should let you know if your child has met his/her goals and benchmarks, or if they are on track to meet their goals and benchmarks by the end of the IEP period (time between IEP implementation and the next IEP review). You can request a Team meeting to discuss progress at any time you have a concern.
You can request a Team meeting at any time (you do not need to wait for an annual review). You should contact the ETS in writing to request a team meeting. It is helpful to outline the reasons for the meeting when you request it.
There are no state or federal laws that require the school district to schedule these meetings within a certain timeframe. When you request the meeting, you can request that you meet by a certain date, and provide some timeframes that work best for you. Because the ETS must coordinate the schedules with the rest of the Team members, it may take several weeks before the meeting can be held. If you don’t need the entire team present, you can excuse some Team members if they are not needed for the meeting agenda, and that may make it easier for the ETS to schedule the meeting.
In addition, if you know you typically need a Team meeting at the beginning or end of a school year, and your annual review does not fall during that timeframe, you can plan ahead and request the meetings with the ETS in your annual review.
The district cannot make any change to the current IEP without notifying you and getting your written consent. If changes need to be made to the IEP, you usually need to meet with the Team to get agreement on any changes, after which a revised IEP or IEP amendment will be mailed to you for signature. The changes will not be implemented until you sign and return the IEP or IEP amendment.
If your child is eligible for special education services and has an IEP, the school district will schedule an annual review of that IEP at least one year from the date the IEP is signed (however, team meetings to discuss IEPs, progress, or other concerns can be requested at any time as outlined above).
At the annual review, the Team will review the goals, objectives, and benchmarks outlined in the IEP, determine if they have been met or not met, and then draft new goals, objectives, and benchmarks. Parents will be asked to update the Student Vision portion of the IEP.
The Team will also review the Services, Accommodations, and Placement and make updates as needed.
You do not need to agree to any of the proposed changes during the meeting. If you need more time to get to agreement on a revised IEP, you can ask for an additional meeting. If the Team recommends removing Services, Placement, Accommodations, or believes that the child is no longer eligible for an IEP, and you disagree with this assessment, you can exercise your Stay-Put rights.
If your child is already on an IEP, and you reject the IEP after an annual review, you have “stay-put” rights, meaning the school must follow the last agreed-upon IEP. This agreement includes decisions about placement.
If the Team cannot come to an agreement about eligibility or the services and accommodations outlined in an IEP, there are organizations defined in Massachusetts state law that give parents options for resolving the dispute. The two organizations are the Program Quality Assurance (PQA) at the Massachusetts Department of Education or the Bureau of Special Education Appeals (BSEA), which is an independent body located in the Massachusetts Department of Special Education. You can pursue both of the options at the same time if needed.
16.1 PROGRAM QUALITY ASSURANCE (PQA)
You can contact the PQA to ask a question about laws and regulations, or to file a written complaint if you believe the school district is not following special education laws and regulations. After the complaint is reviewed, parents will be sent a letter outlining the results of the review. If the school district is found to be in violation of any laws or regulations, the PQA will ask the school district to take corrective action.
PQA Contact Information: (781) 338-3700
16.2 BUREAU OF SPECIAL EDUCATION APPEALS (BSEA)
Another dispute resolution option for parents is contacting the BSEA. The BSEA has various options for helping Teams resolve disagreements.
Bureau of Special Education Appeals: (781) 338-6400
If you don’t believe your child is receiving the services or accommodations outlined in the IEP, the first step is usually contacting the child’s teacher and/or special educator to get clarification. You may contact the ETS and principal at your child’s school if you are not getting a prompt response from the teacher or special educator. If you are not able to resolve the issue at the school level, you may escalate your concerns to Director of Special Education. You may also contact the PQA to file a written complaint.
Special Education law says that students on IEPs should make Effective Progress. Massachusetts state law defines Effective Progress as follows: “Progress effectively in the general education program shall mean to make documented growth in the acquisition of knowledge and skills, including social/emotional development, within the general education program, with or without accommodations, according to chronological age and developmental expectations, the individual educational potential of the student, and the learning standards set forth in the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks and the curriculum of the district.”
Here are some additional notes about Effective Progress to keep in mind. For longer descriptions and references to court decisions, please see http://michellemoor.com/top-5-things-to-know-effective-progress/
1. Effective progress does not mean maximum progress. School districts are not legally required to ensure that students with IEPs achieve the maximum amount of progress possible.
2. Effective progress must be “meaningful”. School districts do have to make sure that a student is receiving a “meaningful” benefit from their educational program
3. Effective progress is based upon each child’s individual learning profile. This is one of the reasons why effective progress is so hard to define – the standard will vary for each student based upon an assessment of each student’s unique needs.
4. Effective progress encompasses non-academic needs. School districts have to make sure that special education students are making progress not just academically – but socially, emotionally, behaviorally and physically as well. School districts cannot refuse to address a student’s non-academic needs just because the student is making Effective Progress academically.
NOTE: According to a 2006 amendment to Massachusetts special education law, Teams must consider the following 8 specific non-academic areas of potential need for students with an autism diagnosis:
• the verbal and nonverbal communication needs of the child
• the need to develop social interaction skills and proficiencies
• the skills and proficiencies needed to avoid and respond to bullying, harassment or teasing
• the needs resulting from the child’s unusual responses to sensory experiences
• the needs resulting from resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines
• the needs resulting from engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements
• the need for any positive behavioral interventions, strategies, and supports to address any behavioral difficulties resulting from autism spectrum disorder
• and other needs resulting from the child’s disability that impact progress in the general curriculum, including social and emotional development
5. Effective progress must be documented. Progress should be supported by objective data and assessments that show student’s performance over time.
All schools have written rules of conduct and disciplinary measures for students (usually outlined in the school’s handbook). If your child breaks these rules, they may be disciplined according to the defined rules.
However, the Parent’s Notice of Procedural Safeguards (Basic Rights) outlines specific procedures for disciplining students with disabilities, especially regarding school suspensions. If you are concerned that your child is being disciplined for behavior that results from their disability, you can contact the teacher and/or ETS to get more information.
You may also request a Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA). According to the Procedural Safeguards,
“an FBA is a comprehensive assessment of behavior that provides the IEP Team with information about the student’s behavior and identifies behavioral intervention services and/or program modifications that are designed to address the behavioral violation so it does not recur. If the student has already had a functional behavioral assessment and has a behavioral intervention plan, then the IEP Team should determine if any changes should be made to the behavioral intervention plan. If the behavior was caused by the failure to properly implement the IEP, the school must take immediate steps to remedy the deficiencies.”
Massachusetts special education law defines guidelines about how parents and other professionals may observe students and classroom settings. The full text of this guidelines can be found at http://www.doe.mass.edu/sped/advisories/09_2.html.
The guideline requires that school districts develop processes for observations around the following key areas:
If you believe that your child’s current placement is not working, you should contact the ETS to schedule a Team meeting to discuss your concerns about the placement. When considering placement, remember that by law the school district must place students in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) such that they can make Effective Progress (see Effective Progress section above for how to define Effective Progress). The Team might recommend making changes to the current placement, or in some cases, your child might be referred to a different placement within Lexington Public Schools.
An out-of-district placement is often considered a more restrictive environment, so in order to make a referral for an out-of-district placement, LPS would need to agree that the student is not making Effective Progress in the current placement. If LPS agrees to refer a student for an out-of-district placement (a school outside of Lexington Public Schools), you will be referred to the Out-of-District Coordinator, who will work with you to determine which schools to look at, and will help you determine which options might work best for your child. If you are able to come to an agreement with LPS, you will sign a revised IEP that specifies the change in placement for your child.
As with all Team decisions, if the Team cannot come to an agreement, you can follow the dispute resolutions outlined in the “What if the Team can’t come to an agreement about eligibility or an IEP?” section.