Education Process Under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act)
Adapted from: Guide to the Individualized Education Program, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, US Department of Education, July 2000.
Each public school child who receives special education and related services must have an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Each IEP must be designed for one student and must be a truly individualized document. The IEP creates an opportunity for teachers, parents, school administrators, related services personnel, and students (when appropriate) to work together to improve educational results for children with disabilities. The IEP is the cornerstone of a quality education for each child with a disability.
To create an effective IEP, parents, teachers, other school staff--and often the student--must come together to look closely at the student's unique needs. These individuals pool knowledge, experience, and commitment to design an educational program that will help the student be involved in, and progress in, the general curriculum. The IEP guides the delivery of special education support and services for the student with a disability. Without a doubt, writing--and implementing--an effective IEP requires teamwork.
The writing of each student's IEP takes place within the larger picture of the special education process under IDEA. Before taking a detailed look at the IEP, it may be helpful to briefly look at how a student is identified as having a disability and needing special education and/or related services and, thus, an IEP.
Step 1: Child is identified as possibly needing special education and related services
"Child Find" is the process used to identify, locate, and evaluate all children with disabilities who may need special education and related services. A child may be identified by "Child Find," and parents may be asked if the "Child Find" system can evaluate their child. Parents may also call the "Child Find" program and ask that their child be evaluated. For a child enrolled in a Caroline County Public School, contact the school principal. For a child not enrolled in a Caroline County Public School, contact the Child Find Coordinator, Caroline County Public Schools Department of Special Education, 410-479-3246.
Step 2: Child is evaluated.
An IEP team recommendation and parental consent is needed before the child may be evaluated. The evaluation must assess the child in all areas related to the child's suspected disability. The evaluation results will be used to decide the child's eligibility for special education and related services and to make decisions about an appropriate educational program for the child.
Step 3: Eligibility is decided.
A group of qualified professionals along with the parent(s) review the child's evaluation results. Together they decide if the child is a "child with a disability," as defined by IDEA.
Step 4: Child is found eligible for services.
If the child is found to be a "child with a disability," as defined by IDEA, he or she is eligible for special education and related services. Within 30 calendar days after a child is determined eligible, the IEP team must meet to write an IEP for the child.
Step 5: IEP meeting is scheduled.
The school system schedules and conducts the IEP meeting. School staff must:
- Contact the participants, including the parents;
- Notify parents early enough to make sure they have an opportunity to attend;
- Schedule the meeting at a time and place agreeable to the parent(s) and the school;
- Tell the parents the purpose, time, and location of the meeting;
- Tell the parents who will be attending; and
- Tell the parents they may invite people to the meeting who have knowledge or special expertise about the child.
Step 6: IEP meeting is held and the IEP is written.
The IEP team gathers to talk about the child's needs and write the student's IEP. The parent(s) and the student (when appropriate) are part of the team.
Before the school system may provide special education and related services to the child for the first time, the parent(s) must give consent. The child begins to receive services as soon as possible after the meeting.
If the parent(s) does not agree with the IEP and placement, they may discuss their concerns with other members of the IEP team and try to come to an agreement. If they still disagree, the parent(s) and/or school are encouraged to contact the Supervisor of Special Education, Caroline County Public Schools at 410-479-3246.
Step 7: Services are provided.
The school makes sure that the child's IEP is being carried out as it was written. The parent(s) is given a copy of the IEP. Each of the child's teachers and service providers has access to the IEP and knows his or her specific responsibilities for carrying out the IEP. This includes any accommodations, modifications, and supports to be provided to the child, in keeping with the IEP.
Step 8: Progress is measured and reported to parents.
The child's progress toward meeting the annual goals is measured, as stated in the IEP. His or her parent(s) are regularly informed of their child's progress. Progress reports must be given to parents as often as parents are informed of their non-disabled children's progress.
Step 9: IEP is reviewed.
The child's IEP is reviewed by the IEP team once a year, or more often if requested by the parent(s) or school. If necessary, the IEP is revised. Parents, as team members, are invited to attend and may make suggestions for changes.
If parents do not agree with the IEP and placement, they may discuss their concerns with other members of the IEP team and try to come to an agreement. Should an agreement not be reached, parents are encouraged to contact the Supervisor of Special Education, Caroline County Public Schools at 410-479-3246.
Step 10: Child is reevaluated.
At least every three years the child must be reevaluated. This evaluation is sometimes called a "triennial." Its purpose is to find out if the child continues to be a "child with a disability," as defined by IDEA, and what the child's educational needs are. However, the child must be reevaluated more often if conditions warrant or if the child's parent or teacher asks for a new evaluation.
Step 11: Information for Parents: Resolving Concerns and Conflicts
Where to Start
Your child's education is a priority for you as it is for the staff at your child's school. Conflict, misunderstandings, and poor communications do some times occur. In your child's best interest it is very important that these situations be resolved in a positive and productive manner. The first step in resolving concerns and conflicts is to address them with the staff member who is most directly involved. In most cases this will be your child's general education or special education teacher. A parent may want to request a conference and follow up with a note identifying specific concerns. Of course, the school principal may be contacted at any time regarding concerns.
When disputes arise that cannot be resolved between parents and school-based personnel, the parents and school staff members are encouraged to contact the Supervisor of Special Education, Caroline County Public Schools at 410-479-3246.
If unresolved issues remain after attempts to resolve them informally, parents and educators can use mediation to resolve disagreements about a child's special education needs (birth through age 21). Parents or school staff may request mediation whenever communication has broken down or there is a dispute that can't be resolved. The focus of mediation is to find a solution that is in the best interests of the child.
Involving attorneys, requesting a hearing, or filing a complaint with the Maryland State Department of Education, very often results in damaging relationships and communications. Mediation on the other hand, brings parties together to work with each other to resolve a disagreement. Mediation assists everyone to better understand differing points of view. An impartial mediator helps the participants communicate their concerns to each other. All parties are involved in the decision-making and everyone has an opportunity to express concerns and offer solutions. Mediation is voluntary. All parties must agree to participate and are in control of the outcome.
Caroline County Public Schools uses trained mediators from the Maryland Office of Administrative Hearings. To request mediation, please contact the Supervisor of Special Education for the Caroline County Public Schools at 410-479-3246.
Family Support Services, Preschool Partners, and Family Support Network
The purpose of the center is to provide the skills and knowledge that will enable families of children and youth with disabilities, and professionals to function as equal partners in the educational decision making process and to assist families in accessing services for their children. Family Support Services helps families and educators by assisting families to resolve concerns and make informed decisions regarding their child's education. The Center strives to foster understanding and communication between parents, educators, and the community on disability issues and issues related to special education. Preschool Partners focuses on children 3-5 years of age, and Family Support Network serves children and families birth to three.
Services may include:
- Special education information and resources
- Lending library of parenting resources, videos, and educational games
- Books and brochures on parenting children and young adults with special needs
- Referral to appropriate school, community, or government agencies
- Discussion groups providing support and linking
- Workshops to understand children and young adults with special needs
- Sibling workshops and activities
- Seminars on the Special Education Process
- Next Steps: The Transition Series-a workshop about the process of transitioning from school to adult life.
The Center is located at the Denton Elementary School, Denton, MD. For more information or a brochure about the center, call the Parent Coordinator, Dolly McMahon at 410-479-3609.