I love IDEA—the law that governs special education.
Sometimes when I talk about it, I even tear up. I really believe in the power of the process where parents, teachers, and school staff get together to develop a solution-oriented plan that helps a student with a disability be successful in general education with non-disabled peers as much as possible.
When the everyone comes to the table in good faith, for the benefit of the student, and willing to listen to each other’s ideas, magic can happen. I know because I’ve experienced it as both a parent and an advocate.
However, I’m an advocate because there are times when one or more of the school representatives do not come to the table in good faith. They try to bully, manipulate, lie to, or otherwise persuade a reluctant parent to accept their standard program. Sometimes out of ignorance. Sometimes out of limited experience. And sometimes out of downright deceit.
That’s why I love IDEA. The law protects students right to a free and appropriate education and protects parent’s rights to advocate for their child.
The purpose is so wonderful: to ensure that students with disabilities get the specialized instruction and services they need so that once they leave school, they will be able to live independently, continue with further education, and/or work.
It is very important to go back occasionally and review portions of the law rather than getting your information from the district. People guiding district policy can often misinterpret what their responsibility is—especially in Texas.
One of the most important sections to review on a regular basis is the section on IEP development.
An IEP, Individualized Education Program, is required to have seven components.
- A statement of present levels or the PLAAFP
- Measurable annual goals
- A description of how the progress will be measured
- A statement of special ed services, supplementary aids and services, program modifications and supports for school personnel
- An explanation of why a child is not being educated more with their non-disabled peers (if the student has been taken out of gen ed classes)
- If the student is taking an alternative assessment, a statement of why and what supports are being used to assist them
- “…the anticipated frequency, location, and duration of those services and modifications.”
The component that seems to that has been drastically impacted by the Co-Vid pandemic precautions, is the last one: the frequency, location, and duration of the services and the modifications.
If you have opted to keep your child in virtual learning for the 20-21 school year, then the frequency and location of services has changed.
It’s very important that your child’s contingency plan clearly states how many sessions of synchronous and asynchronous learning your child will receive every week. The US Department of Education has not let schools off the hook. On March 12, 2020, they wrote:
If an LEA continues to provide educational opportunities to the general student population during a school closure, the school must ensure that students with disabilities also have equal access to the same opportunities, including the provision of FAPE. (34 CFR §§ 104.4, 104.33 (Section 504) and 28 CFR § 35.130 (Title II of the ADA)). SEAs, LEAs, and schools must ensure that, to the greatest extent possible, each student with a disability can be provided the special education and related services identified in the student’s IEP developed under IDEA, or a plan developed under Section 504. (34 CFR §§ 300.101 and 300.201 (IDEA), and 34 CFR § 104.33 (Section 504)).
So, what does that mean?
It means that if gen ed kids are getting their academics daily in virtual learning, then special ed kids should also be getting their academics in virtual learning daily.
Even when kids are on campus, every class is a mixture of direct teacher instruction and students working independently or with supports at their seat to practice the material that was taught. Synchronous learning is teacher instruction while independent seat work would be equivalent to asynchronous learning.
If the schedule of services in your child’s IEP states that they receive 50 minutes daily in a special ed class for each academic subject, the contingency plan should spell out how many of those daily minutes will be synchronous learning, and how many will be asynchronous.
If your child’s plan makes a general statement that the class will be:
A combination of 3 Zoom sessions a week, tutoring sessions, emails, chats on the electronic school platform, or recorded video sessions
Then you have a problem.
This statement lists synchronous and asynchronous learning as if they are equivalent. They are not. Synchronous learning allows the student to ask questions and receive feedback from the teacher in the moment.
You will need to either request an ARD or a Prior Written Notice statement that specifically and clearly states the amount of weekly synchronous and asynchronous learning a child will receive.
an check out my blog for more tips on advocacy and wellness.