Starting the year right–with FAPE & LRE

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Starting the year right–with FAPE & LRE :: SI&A Cabinet Report :: The Essential Resource for Superintendents and the Cabinet
Starting the year right–with FAPE & LRE

Starting the year right–with FAPE & LRE

With a new school year underway, program managers, teachers and parents need to assess institutional norms and daily practices to be sure that students with disabilities are receiving the supports detailed in their individual plans and are participating fully as guaranteed by law.

Like a fine vineyard, the procedural elements associated with the rights of SWD need regular care to ensure that the stock is sturdy and the fruit bountiful. The onset of a new season is a perfect time to tend to the welfare of the entire garden.  

Special education is both complicated, in that there are multiple functional components affecting each other, and complex in that influences are multi-layered and virtually untraceable. To make progress, regardless of your politics, follow the advice of Franklin D. Roosevelt when he extoled the nation to shake loose of the doldrums of the great depression.

The situation “demands bold persistent experimentation,” he said. Then he added, “It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.”

It is in that spirit that we offer a list of possible activities for consideration divided into three general arenas:

  1. Pre-referral procedures
  2. Least restrictive environment policies
  3. General education classroom practices.

Pre-referral Procedures

  • Update Board policy for multi-tiered systems of supports with an emphasis on their place in regular education.
  • Add Administrative Regulations to Board policy that include criteria for increasing and decreasing intervention levels in multi-tiered systems of support with responsibility for implementation resting squarely with the site principal.
  • Develop a districtwide pyramid of interventions with accompanying resources that specify standard instructional and behavioral assessments and concomitant assessments.[ii]
  • Develop or revise the local education agency MTSS procedural manual and be sure it includes the following:
  • Referral procedures;
  • Assessments for modifications and instructional strategies;
  • Systematic fidelity checks; and
  • Accountability for transdisciplinary assessments by administrators.
  • Conduct trainings at each school (or with clusters) on curriculum-based methods for evaluating student performance in order to determine intervention levels.[iii]

Least Restrictive Environment Policies

  • Establish clearly delineated criteria and guidelines for individual education program teams in the following areas:
  • Placement along the LRE continuum (e.g., self-contained vs. resource) based on amount of specialize academic instruction as the primary determiner; and
  • Types of support (e.g., direct vs. consult).
  • Evaluate use of special day class placement criteria to ensure consistency in use of protocol for restrictive settings.
  • Establish LRE targets specific to certain categories of SWD and/or school sites.
  • Openly evaluate progress at special education staff meetings as well as site administrator meetings; and
  • Biannually monitor progress on LRE measures and discuss data with principals and school psychologists.[iv]

 

Classroom Practices

 

  • Make sure all instructional staff is conversant with differentiated instruction, teaching strategies and curricular modifications, including:
  • Adapting curriculum for differing learning modalities;
  • Organizing teaching materials for student accessibility;
  • Varying instruction to match processing characteristics;
  • Responding to cultural differences;
  • Accommodating and encouraging vocabulary development of English learners; and
  • Recognizing and mitigating the relationship between curricular demands and chronic misbehavior.
  • Work with sites to ensure at least one expert in differentiated instruction is a member of every intervention team.
  • Determine a timeline for all elementary principals to collaborate with staff to set up a schedule at each site that will allow for student regrouping in order to maximize targeted instruction.
  • Build professional learning communities into all school schedules, then issue a district advisory on optimal topics for discussion.
  • Establish learning centers for all populations at all middle and high schools.
  • Provide remedial curricula for learning centers that are aligned with core content; and
  • Arrange for meetings at the beginning of each semester between learning center instructors and content teachers to discuss units of study and timelines for instruction.
  • Conduct trainings for all teachers on maximizing use of consultation.
  • Issue an advisory to all principals, general education teachers, and administrators on employment of consultation as preferred delivery model.
  • Arrange for adequate release time of resource teachers for observation and collaboration
  • Require periodic informal reports on utilization of release time.[v]
 

FDR’s Oglethorpe University Commencement Address, 1932, reprinted in the Georgia Historical Quarterly, LXXVII, no. 2, (Summer 1994): http://georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu/topics/history/article/the-leo-frank-case/a-call-for-bold-persistent-experimentation-fdrs-oglethorpe-university-comme.

[ii] Schools may develop overlays that indicate particular augmentations available at a site.

[iii] You may wish to consult “Ideas that Work” maintained by the Office of Special Education Programs on the U.S. Department of Education website: https://ccrs.osepideasthatwork.org/teachers-academic/tiered-support.

[iv] Refer to the following Insider pieces: “The importance of least restrictive environment measures,” October 22, 2014: https://www.cabinetreport.com/esea-insider-news/the-importance-of-least-restrictive-environment-measures; “Emphasize inclusion to maximize least restrictive environment placements,” October 29, 2014: https://www.cabinetreport.com/esea-insider-news/emphasize-inclusion-to-maximize-least-restrictive-environment-placements; & “Prioritize least restrictive environment by setting goals,” November 3, 2014: https://www.cabinetreport.com/idea/prioritize-least-restrictive-environment-by-setting-goals.

[v] Also: “The hexagon of universal Design,” October 14, 2014; “Principles of inclusive instruction,” October 20, 2014: https://www.cabinetreport.com/esea-insider-news/principles-of-inclusive-instruction; “UDL tips for general ed teachers – Part I,” June 28, 2016: https://www.cabinetreport.com/esea-insider-news/udl-tips-for-general-ed-teachers-part-i1;” “UDL tips for general ed teachers – Part II,” February 24, 2016: https://www.cabinetreport.com/idea/udl-tips-for-general-ed-teachers-part-ii;

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