Thursday, March 02, 2006

IEP – IDEA Emergency — Action Alert — Time Sensitive!

Although there are many things I have on my blogging mind today, I want to pause and post this Action Alert. The deadline for action on this is Monday, March 6th. Please act today.

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Although this alert came from the NDSS and NDSC, these issues affect all children with disabilities. Please read the full text of this Alert then express your thoughts by email as described in the Call to Action at the end of this Alert. Thank you!

Alert! Protect Educational Rights Under IDEA

Multi-Year IEP and Paperwork Waiver Programs Pose Dangers

ACTION ALERT
From the National Down Syndrome Society
February 27, 2006

Your help is urgently needed.

On December 19, the U.S. Department of Education published the proposed requirements and selection criteria for two pilot projects, the Multi-Year IEP and Paperwork Waiver programs.

These are the rules that States must follow in implementing these pilot programs and the criteria that the Department will use to decide which States will participate in each pilot.

The proposed requirements and selection criteria for both pilots expand the scope of the pilots beyond what Congress intended and do not adequately protect the educational rights of children

The public has until March 6th to comment on the proposed requirements and criteria. After that date, the Department will publish the final requirements and criteria.

The National Down Syndrome Congress (NDSC) and the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) submitted joint comments and recommendations on the Multi-Year IEP and Paperwork Waiver programs. They need your help and support now.

What? Please send an email to the U. S. Department of Education and Congress. Urge the Department of Education not to erode IDEA civil rights and the IEP.

How? Visit http://capwiz.com/ndss/issues/alert/?alertid=8519506 and type your zip code in the box at the top of the page to send a prepared email along with your comments to the Department of Education and Congress.

When? The deadline to submit comments is March 6, 2006.

Background

IDEA 2004 permits two demonstration programs, also known as “pilots.”

The Multi-Year IEP pilot allows up to 15 states to seek approval for proposals to offer parents the option of a multi-year IEP. IDEA states that this pilot was developed to offer the opportunity for long-term planning.

The Paperwork Waiver Pilot allows up to 15 states to seek waivers of certain IDEA statutory and regulatory requirements for a period that is not to exceed 4 years.

IDEA states that the purpose of this pilot is to reduce excessive paperwork and non-instructional time burdens that do not assist in improving educational and functional results for students with disabilities. The statute also mandates that procedural safeguards, civil rights requirements, and the right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) may not be waived or affected.

The U. S. Department of Education appears to have exceeded its authority by expanding the scope of these pilots beyond the requirements of the statute.

Concerns

On December 19th, the U.S. Department of Education published notices of proposed requirements and selection criteria for both of these pilots. These are the rules that States must follow in implementing the pilots and the criteria that will be used by the Department to decide which States will be permitted to participate in each pilot.

The public has until March 6th to comment on the proposed requirements and criteria. At some point after that date the Department will publish the final versions.

The problem with the proposed requirements and selection criteria for both pilots is that they expand the statutory scope of the pilots and do not adequately protect the educational rights that IDEA was enacted to uphold.

Proposed Requirements Threaten FAPE, Change IEPs, IEP Process

The proposed requirements for the pilot programs threaten FAPE and could change the IEP and the IEP process forever.

These pilots are of immediate concern for children with disabilities in up to 30 States. 15 States will be awarded the Multi-Year IEP Pilot and 15 States will be awarded the Paperwork Waiver Pilot. Some States may apply for and be awarded both pilots.

One long-term concern is that these pilots may become the basis for changes to IDEA that will affect children with disabilities in all States. For example, during the next reauthorization of IDEA, the multi-year IEP might become a requirement, not just an option for parents to choose. The civil rights protections in IDEA could be permanently eroded.

The proposed requirements for BOTH pilots would allow up to 30 States to create IEPs that differ in their content, development, review and revision from the annual IEPs you have been using.

NDSS believes that this is a violation of FAPE, which requires a free appropriate education with special education and related services that are provided in conformity with the IEP requirements under IDEA.

Proposed Requirements Not Consistent with Congressional Intent

The proposed pilot requirements appear to go beyond what Congress intended when these pilots were added to IDEA. The report from the House of Representatives on IDEA 2004 clearly states that the usual IDEA rules for IEP development are intended to apply to multi-year IEPs.

If Congress did not intend to waive the usual IEP rules for multi-year IEPs, why would it be acceptable to change these statutory requirements for any other purpose?

Proposed Requirements Are Vague About Parental Input

Another problem with the proposed requirements for both pilots is the vague language regarding the opportunity that parents will have to provide input into the their State’s pilot proposal and into the implementation and evaluation of the pilots.

Parental input is critically important to ensure that long-term planning and paperwork reduction are not achieved at the expense of student outcomes and the informed involvement of parents in their child’s education.

In the Paperwork Waiver Pilot, who decides which tasks constitute a “non-instructional time burden that does not assist in improving educational and functional results for students with disabilities”? This phrase needs to be defined with parental input.

Negative Consequences of New Rules Relating to "Paperwork Reduction"


It is important to remember that the requirements for short-term objectives in IEPs for certain students with disabilities was eliminated in IDEA 2004 in the name of paperwork reduction. This decision raises concerns about where paperwork reduction might lead, despite the fact that procedural safeguards, civil rights requirements, and the right to FAPE are supposed to be kept in place.

The proposed requirements for the Paperwork Waiver Pilot raise the same issues as the Multi-Year IEP Pilot, and some additional concerns.

Proposed Requirements Permit IEP Requirements, Parental Consent to be Waived

According to the proposed requirements for the Paperwork Waiver Pilot, IEP requirements AND other statutory, regulatory and State requirements may be waived.

The standards for selecting these waivers are dangerously vague. Parental consent, which is required for a multi-year IEP, is not required for these other waivers.

In addition to these flaws in the proposed requirements, there are also significant problems with the limited scrutiny provided by the selection criteria which the Department proposes to use in deciding which States will participate in each pilot.

The proposed criteria must be amended to include more details and additional criteria must be included to address the many important considerations and protections that have been omitted.

Call to Action
Parents, friends, family members of children with disabilities, and organizations that represent their interests need to send emails to the U.S. Department of Education and Congress. We need to show these decision makers that there is extensive grassroots support for the recommendations to improve the proposed requirements and selection criteria for the Multi-Year IEP and Paperwork Waiver pilots.

NDSS and NCSC prepared an email that will take only a few minutes for you to complete and send.

We ask you to take one more short step. Your email will be far more effective and powerful if you personalize it by including a story about your child and why the annual IEP and the IEP process is important to your child's education and educational outcomes.

Visit http://capwiz.com/ndss/issues/alert/?alertid=8519506 and type your zip code in the box at the top of the page to send the prepared email to the Department of Education and Congress. Don't forget to add a personal comment or story to your email.

The deadline to submit your comments is March 6, 2006.

More Resources

Proposed Requirements for Multi-Year IEP Pilot

The full text of the proposed requirements and selection criteria is online here.

Proposed Requirements for Paperwork Waiver Pilot

The full text of the proposed requirements and selection criteria is online here.

Full Text of NDSS/NDSC Comments on the Pilot Programs

Paperwork Reduction: http://capwiz.com/ndss/issues/alert/?alertid=8519366

Multi-Year IEP: http://capwiz.com/ndss/issues/alert/?alertid=8519391

If you have questions or comments about this alert, contact Ricki Sabia at rsabia@ndss.org.

If you would like to be added to the NDSS mailing list, please send your name and email address to info@ndss.org

National Down Syndrome Society, 666 Broadway, New York, NY 10012
Phone: 800-221-4602; Fax: 212-979-2873
E-mail: info@ndss.org
Web site: http://www.ndss.org/


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As most autism parents know, the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is among the most important tools in securing the free and appropriate public education (FAPE) that each child is entitled to receive.

These proposed new pilot programs that will allow states to shift from annual to every two-year IEPs are a boon to educators who don't want to be bothered with paperwork, and they are a potential disaster for our kids.

Just take the case of Sweet M. Her annual IEP for this year — written last May — called for her to be reading at a K.5 level at the end of this year. But as you know, because of interventions we've made, she is now already reading at an early 1st grade level. She made a full years worth of reading progress in four months. So even an annual IEP doesn't keep up with her development when appropriate adjustments are made to her reading program.

A biennial IEP would be a disaster
.

In the interest of cutting down on their workloads, educators and the Department of Education are risking our kids' programs and progress.

With multi-year IEPs, more children will slip through the cracks, and those who need critical interventions simply won't get the adjustments that they need.

And, as we know, in autism, as in other developmental differences, every day counts.

Don't let the Department of Education leave our kids behind.

Please take a minute out of your busy day to let your congress people know what you think about this move to pilot multi-year IEPS.

Thank you.

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4 comments:

Kristina Chew said...

You won't be surprised to know that they did a "pilot" of the 2-year IEP renewal process in Charlie's state of birth---Missouri. Our district tries to have IEP's done in January---for next year. It's the one size fits no child (and certainly not the ones left behind) model.

MothersVox said...

Wow, Kristina, I'm only surprised that this had already started. I thought this awful direction was relatively new . . . Thanks for that info. . .

Rick said...

Not that I think IEPs should be renewed every two years, but isn't it the case that you, as the parent, can call an IEP review at any point that you feel it is not meeting your child's needs? I assume they can't change that part of IDEA, or am I wrong?

MothersVox said...

I don't know about that specific, Rick. You may well be correct on the parental option to request additionaal review of IEPs. However if the standard is biennial review, many parents will assume that this time frame is adequate.

Having to go through an additional step to exercise your child's right will ensure that many people -- likely those most burdened and with fewest resources -- will not avail themselves of this possibility, if it does, in fact exist.

Many people (though not necessarily those who are blogging on these issues) don't want to make a fuss, cause trouble, etc. Having to get an "extra" IEP review will, to many, feel like it's asking for "more than their fair share," "making a fuss" or causing trouble.

And, perhaps more importantly, quoting the NDSS: "The proposed requirements for BOTH pilots would allow up to 30 states to create IEPs that differ in their content, development, review and revision from the annual IEPs you have been using.

In other words, the kinds of measureable results that have been required may be varied . . . The IEP itself may become a less effective tool for parents . . . and one that would require them to take additional (and potentially costly, if retaining an attorney is needed) steps to ensure their Board of Ed's compliance.

I'm inclined to trust the NDSS and NDSC's concerns regarding this DOE move. But I welcome any and all information that will help parents know more about their rights under IDEA.