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California Department of Education, Special Education Division’s special project, California Services for Technical Assistance and Training (CalSTAT) is funded through a contract with the Napa County Office of Education. CalSTAT is partially funded from federal funds, State Grants #H027A080116A. Additional federal funds are provided from a federal competitively awarded State Personnel Development Grant to California (#H323A070011) provided from the U.S. Department of Education Part D of the Individuals with Disabilities Education act (IDEA). Opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of the U. S. Department of Education.
California is larger than a number of first-world countries. So the fact that school enrollment in the Golden State tops this country's charts should come as no surprise. California currently educates almost 6.35 million students in 10,181 schools (the U.S. average among the other 49 states is fewer than 2,000 schools). In terms of student enrollment, the next closest state is Texas, with approximately 4.5 million students; the other states range from 2.8 million students in New York to fewer than 87,000 in Wyoming. *
The number of students receiving special education services is commensurately large in California, with 680,164 students identified as having disabilities and thus eligible for special services and supports. Within that number, there are 13 separate disability categories, each with a range of subcategories that represent widely disparate abilities, conditions, and challenges.
To this set of factors—the size of the state, the number of students and schools, and the diversity within student populations—add the complexity of federal and state laws governing services for students with disabilities, and the picture of special education in California becomes very large and complicated. In the face of this complexity, most people with an investment in special education will agree on two things: first, that accurate information and effective communication are integral to the success of this—and any—system that involves human interaction; and second, that everyone involved in the system contributes to whether or not it functions successfully. "We have seen the enemy and it is us" can just as easily become "I have seen the solution and it is me."
This issue of The Special EDge focuses on solutions from two different ends of the special education spectrum: the individual and the systemic. The heart of special education lies in the individualized education program (IEP), which is designed to bring together parents, teachers, service providers, school administrators, and students to determine what "specially designed instruction" for a child should look like and how everyone can work together to make this instruction happen. "When the IEP works, special education works" is not an overstatement. But success for students with disabilities involves a great deal more. Teacher training programs need to be designed to produce quality personnel. Systems of effective oversight, monitoring, and support need to be in place so that when the IEP in particular and special education in general are not working—when laws are not followed, for example, or appropriate procedures are not understood—the larger system takes over to provide information, assistance, and, when necessary, sanctions so that children are served and adults are supported in their efforts.
The articles in this issue offer information about how to improve communication efforts in order to better serve children, and they are about what has been communicated recently to improve the larger system: how parents, teachers, and administrators can make the IEP a more effective process; how the Commission on Teacher Credentialing went about redesigning requirements to better prepare the state's special educators; and how information in school districts statewide is shared with key stakeholders in the field, who in turn advise the state on how to develop programs to improve special education. The four-page insert offers a look at the California Department of Education's Focused Monitoring and Technical Assistance as it is designed to help parents, schools, and school districts appropriately support students with disabilities. While they may differ in structure and approach, all of these efforts have the same goal: to meet the needs of every child with a disability.
* National Center for Education Statistics: http://nces.ed.gov
by Fred Balcom, Director, California Department of Education, Special Education Division
When we sat down to discuss the theme for this issue of The Special EDge—communication—I had no idea just how critical it would quickly become. Recent veto activity as a result of state budget negotiations has been devastating, particularly as it relates to mental health services for students with disabilities, under Assembly Bill 3632. We were given no opportunity to plan, discuss, explain the consequences, or prepare options. The veto action was most devastating because there was no prior communication whatsoever.
Out of every crisis, however, comes new opportunity. In the days following the veto, we have been talking with disability rights advocates, parents, Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA) directors, district and county office of education administrators, and teachers; we are working to find common solutions to the crisis at hand and to set aside differences in ways that are unprecedented. The phone calls, e-mails, and meetings that followed the veto brought out the best of our collective education community. We have been communicating honestly and openly about the importance of ensuring that mental health services to students continue. This crisis is just one example of our larger goal: to ensure that all students who require special education supports and services have their needs met.
A crisis of this magnitude brings us all together. This honest, cooperative communication has focused on the needs of our students, an approach that should be the norm for all of our interactions. As this newsletter goes into production, I have no idea how the crisis will end. While I am hopeful that it will be resolved in a positive way, I do know that if we can work together to maintain the open and candid communication that we have just realized, we should be able to address most future disagreements before they, too, become crises.
In this issue we have listed many resources to help you access information and to communicate with the people you most need. We have described ways to provide input directly to the California Department of Education (CDE) and explained the Focused Monitoring and Technical Assistance (FMTA) structure within the CDE, including a map showing regions, consultant assignments by county, and the direct office phone numbers. There is also an excellent, first-person account of experiences on both sides of the individualized education program (IEP) process, and an article discussing how administrators can help teachers to be more effective in that process. We are providing these resources to encourage and expedite the continuation of the kind of communication between the CDE staff and the special education community that may move us beyond a successful resolution of the current crisis and into an ongoing mode of planning for, and possibly even preventing, situations of this kind in the future.
As I meet and speak with the many groups that are a part of our special education community, our overarching goal is to foster ongoing communication and cooperation. However, the specific content of each message is just a vehicle to help us all focus on the child who needs special education services and to further our dialogue about common interests in support of that child. I am pleased to be able to share this information with you and look forward to our future together.
By Terry Wilhelm, Director II, Educational Leadership Services Division, Riverside County Office of Education
I used to lie awake at night, worrying and wondering: What will his life be like? Will he ever live on his own? Will he learn to speak so that people can understand him? Will he be able to read? My worries about school were the most disturbing, knowing how cruel children can be and knowing, as an educator, that "those kids" were not always welcomed by educators—on a campus or in a classroom.
My son, Toby, has Asperger's Syndrome, an autistic disorder. He was diagnosed in 1988, when Asperger's was virtually unheard of and autistic disorders were relatively rare. Now 28, Toby holds a part-time job, drives, and is able to live on his own. He still needs guidance with predicaments and uncertainties like junk mail masquerading as a tax bill, a discrepancy between his check register and an ATM receipt, a plumbing problem, or a difficult coworker. Many problemsthat are somewhat routine for most of us can be troublesome for him. Yet, as time goes by, he continues to learn and grow more independent and better able to deal with life's challenges. He is a happy and cheerful individual with circles of friends at work and at his condo complex. He still socializes, hikes, and works out with some of his high school friends who have now finished college. He's run the Los Angeles Marathon three times. He volunteers at a public botanical garden several times a month. He is easygoing and delightful to be with. I am as proud of him as any parent could be.
However, the years between today and the day a nurse practitioner pronounced that he appeared to have "developmental delays" have been anything but easy. To be the parent of a child with special needs is to break into an elated celebration dance at his smallest accomplishment and to rejoice at the slightest bureaucratic victory. And any setback can feel like an abyss. For us, the greatest extremes of these feelings arose out of Toby's public schooling.
From age four, when Toby was placed in a preschool "communicatively handicapped" class, until the day he graduated from high school, I sat on both sides of the table, so to speak, in IEP [Individualized Education Program] meetings and other settings relating to students with special needs. Out of these years of experience, I offer the following to educators and to parents:
What I say to teachers: Never tell parents they are expecting too much. I cannot say how many times teachers said this to me. I'm so glad I didn't listen, because I am certain that Toby's story would have had a very different—and less favorable—outcome if I had.
What I say to parents: Never say never. You have no idea what is possible until you push the
envelope. Toby didn't learn to read until fourth grade, after I insisted on a placement change. More than one of his teachers had
told me, "These kids really can't do much." But I say to all parents, "Keep your hopes alive, and make sure your
child has teachers who will push his limits, lovingly and with support." In addition, learn about the work of Reuven Feuerstein to raise your own sights about the potential of the human brain (go to http://icelp.org/asp/ProfessionalTeam.shtm to read more).
To teachers: Make eye contact with parents when you talk to them. Speak directly to them and regard them as equals. At our first IEP meeting for Toby, once introductions were made with ten school/SELPA team members, no one addressed Toby's father or me again. Conversations about Toby's assessments, his private preschool experience, which we had documented, and placement options occurred as if we were not present. No one looked at either of us, sought our input, or acknowledged our presence again during the long meeting until we were asked to sign the IEP. It was a strange experience—setting the unfortunate tone for all the interactions to come.
To parents: Dress up for the IEP as if you were going to a job interview that requires business attire. If you own a suit, wear it. Some of us in education can be guilty of interacting differently with a parent who is very casually dressed versus one dressed professionally, especially in a suit. Also, be on time. Prepare by reviewing the IEP to see what your child was supposed to have accomplished. Bring your copy with you. Re-read what you, the teacher, and the school agreed to do to support his progress. Write down your questions. Then, during the meeting, call people by name when you talk to them. If you can't remember all their names, write them down as they introduce themselves, and refer to that list as you speak to each of them.
To teachers: Don't interrupt parents when they're talking. This conveys a great lack of respect. It can also make parents angry, and you will not enlist the cooperation of any angry parent. Author Stephen Covey (among others) urges us to "seek first to understand, then to be understood."
To parents: Figure out a strategy to use with someone who interrupts you. One psychologist had a terrible habit of doing this. I finally decided to simply hold up my hand when she interrupted, saying, "Let me finish." We practiced this before putting it into action. It obviously startled her, but it worked.
To teachers: Never disparage statements parents make. In your secret heart you may think the parent is untruthful, misinformed, unreasonable, a bit crazy, blind to her child's problems, or perhaps not terribly intelligent. However, any hope of getting parents' cooperation is lost if you insult them.
To parents: Control your temper—hard as it may be. As a preschooler, Toby exhibited an array of bizarre behaviors at home and school, but not all the same ones in both places. It was distressing enough to learn of his new school behaviors—rocking, crowing, biting holes in his clothes—but I really objected to his being put in a refrigerator box for "time out." The teacher explained that this was to reduce the stimulation of the classroom, which she believed made him start laughing and crowing, disrupting the class. When I said in the IEP meeting that he didn't do all these things at home, the highest-ranking official just laughed and shook his head, saying, "All the parents tell us that." The rest of the team nodded with knowing smiles. Already angry over the refrigerator box, it took every ounce of restraint I possessed not to simply walk out of the meeting.
To teachers: Don't drive parents to the point of such frustration that they decide their only avenue is to engage an advocate. Once they bring one into the IEP process, everything will change—and usually not for the better.
To parents: Avoid getting an advocate if you can. They push educators' buttons, and too many of them these days
are extremists (in my opinion) with their own agendas, not necessarily those of your child's. At one point, we felt we had no choice but to get an advocate because the other IEP team members simply didn't listen to us. If I faced that choice today, I'm not sure I would get one. However, in our case, it worked. Our advocate hardly said a word. She simply asked a few
questions, but her very presence made a huge difference. If you decide to get an advocate, do everything you can to check reputations.
To teachers: It is not easy being the parent of a child with special needs. When a child is born with a developmental or physical disability, the joyous expectation of the pregnancy instantly turns to heartbreak. When a child who appears normal in infancy begins displaying troubling signs of delayed development or behavioral dysfunction, and when that child is finally diagnosed and given his particular label, there is a sense of loss. Grieving begins for the hopes and dreams the parents have cherished for him. Layered over all of this is the fear that the child might never be independent. This is a heavy burden to add to the normal stresses we all bear. Remember this when you are dealing with a "difficult" parent.
To parents: It isn't easy being the teacher of students with special needs. There are many, many good teachers who work very hard for their relatively humble salaries and the lack of public regard they get for their years of education and experience. Your child may be a behavior problem. If he isn't, others in the class are. Teaching would be demanding enough if there were no behavior problems. On top of this, expectations for teachers have
never been higher. If the teacher is out of patience with your child, do everything you can to cooperate. Reinforce any reasonable plan that appears to have promise for helping him behave better, so that he—and others—can learn. Remember
that the school is charged with serving other students, too, and that includes ensuring a
safe and orderly environment. And if your child presents a physical threat to others, be prepared for the school to start proceedings to have him placed in a more restrictive environment.
To Parents: Keep everything. Make a folder for IEPs and other documents and for relevant medical records. Keep a journal. Then do your part to support your child. Work out a system with the teacher so you know what the homework is. Don't do the homework for him, but make sure it gets done. Limit TV watching. Have a firm bedtime. If you are unable to help with homework he can't do, talk to the school about ways he can get extra help.
To Educators: Across the United States, the special education "subgroup" is not, as a rule, making Adequate Yearly Progress. Yet there are exceptions so notable they force us to acknowledge that we are not yet doing the right things for "every student by name." Recently, I pulled out the box of Toby's old IEPs and my journals from those years, which I hadn't looked at in more than a decade. I was shocked to find myself choking back tears as I relived those difficult experiences.
I dare to hope this article will cause a few educators to take my suggestions to heart in their own practice. Like those we serve, we teachers are human, and the frustrations of our work can challenge our humanity. In our office, we often refer to the story of the star-thrower, the little boy on the beach
who was making a difference by throwing the starfish back into the ocean one at a time. To make a difference, one at a time, is significant. Whenever you can prevent even one more of these special children from being left behind, you will have made a difference.
Covey, Stephen R. (1989). The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
Educators 2000. Terry Wilhelm founded this company in 1994 and created a Web site in 1999 to keep parents and educators abreast of information about Asperger's Syndrome and related topics. Links to a variety of informational Web sites can be accessed from www.educators2000.com
Feuerstein, Reuven, Yaacov Rand, and John E. Rinders (1988). Don't Accept Me As I Am: Helping "Retarded" People to Excel. New York, NY:
Plenum Press. This amazing book is out of print but still available from a number of
out-of-print book vendors
(Alibris, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon). Feuerstein and co-authors describe Mediated Learning Experience (MLE), a methodology that significantly raised the IQ and functional development of countless "retarded" and cognitively traumatized individuals following World War II.
Feuerstein, Reuven, Yaacov Rand, and Raphael Feuerstein (2006). You Love Me! Don't Accept Me As I Am! Jerusalem, Israel: ICELP Press. This is an updated version of the 1988 book (above) and can be ordered directly from the International Renewal Institute (see below).
Grandin, Temple (2008). The Way I See It: A Personal Look at Autism and Asperger's. Arlington, TX. Future Horizons. This book has information that is helpful for any parent of a child with special needs, not just those on the autism spectrum.
International Renewal Institute. This is the North American branch of the International Center for Enhancement of Learning Potential (ICELP) founded by Reuven Feuerstein. The Web site is www.iriinc.us.
Terry Wilhelm adapted this article from a piece she wrote in 2009 for the Association of California School Administrators. Wilhelm is a former elementary school teacher and principal and currently delivers and facilitates a variety of professional development programs for school and district leaders.
Advice from a Parent to . . .
Teachers: Accentuate the positive.
Often educators begin IEP meetings with a long
list of things the child cannot do or of problems
the child presents. This can't help but put parents
on the defensive. We start meetings with a list of what the child is good at in school and the strategies that are working for him. Everyone on the team contributes to this list, and it creates a positive focus for the entire IEP meeting. We place this list of "positives" at the front of the child's IEP folder so that it is the first thing you see when you open it.
Parents: Do not forget that you are part of a team. Start
IEP meetings off by thanking everyone who is there. This shows that you do not have an "us vs. them" attitude.
Teams work well only if everyone works together.
Do everything you can to keep positive relationships going.
~Tracy Kucer, Parent, Middleton, CA
Advice from a Parent to . . .
Parents: Do your research.
Know that you can ask for your child's reports in advance. Read them, take notes,
and bring those notes to the IEP meeting. Use the research you do to create your own agenda for what you want to accomplish at the meeting. Know your child's benchmarks and goals and help your child meet them; use what you know about your child to give teachers examples of effective strategies or ways to solve problems.
Teachers: Ask each parent to tell you what their child's day looks like. Ask the parent about the child's strengths and weaknesses, the child's challenges, and ways the parents have found to address those challenges. Take an interest in each child as an individual and use what you learn from the parents to teach the child.
~ Sherilyn Rosette, Parent, Los Angeles, CA
Advice from a Parent to . . .
Teachers: Begin the meeting by sharing with parents a positive quality that you enjoy or admire about the child. Then bring samples of the child's work that show the child's effort. Often parents only see report cards and final grades. Showing samples of what the child is doing in class can help a parent see both where the challenges lie and how they might support their student. Then tell parents how they can help the child and offer to send home practice sheets. Be as specific as possible about helpful strategies.
Parents: Bring treats to IEP meetings. Teachers often have to get to school early, give up their lunch hours, or stay late
in order to be part of these meetings. Bringing some kind of refreshment sets the right tone. It shows that you
see the educators as human beings who are valued members of your child's IEP team and not as adversaries.
~Peggy Dearden, Parent, Pasadena, CA
By Staff from the Commission on Teacher Credentialing
In 2006, the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (Commission) initiated a review of the Educational Specialist and Other Related Services credentials, which qualify individuals to teach students with disabilities. The review, supported by the California Legislature as part of Senate Bill 1209 and funded through the 2006–2007 budget, set out to accomplish the following:
The Commission took a number of immediate steps to begin this important work. Its first action was to require that all Education Specialist programs—those courses of study (usually at colleges or universities) that prepare individuals to become special education teachers—amend their existing programs to include instruction in the areas of literacy and strategies to teach English learners. By January of 2007, all programs had submitted the necessary amendments.
The second step was to convene meetings around the state to explore the concerns of stakeholders (special educators, parents, teachers, community members) about the structure
of special education credentials, with
a particular focus on subject matter
requirements for the credential, the clear (professional-level) credential requirements, and redundancy issues in the credentialing process. This important step provided a public forum for the field to express any concerns about the current system and have those concerns better inform the process as the Commission moved forward.
The third step involved convening a work group to study special education credentials and to make recommendations to the Commission for changes in both structure and process.
The Commission sponsored 14 field meetings throughout the state to listen to stakeholders' issues. Approximately 220 stakeholders attended these sessions, with each focusing on issues related to subject-matter competence and professional preparation for teachers. In addition, Commission staff held similar conversations with key members of the California Council on Teacher Education and the Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children, as well as with participants at the statewide meeting of the Special Education Local Planning Area (SELPA) directors during the fall of 2006. Staff met with approximately 200 persons from these three organizations.
In December 2006, the Commission announced a nomination process for the work group. In early January, 24 at-large members were selected for the group from more than 100 applicants. Nine additional members—representatives of the Association of California School Administrators, California Teachers Association, California Federation of Teachers, California School Boards Association, and California State University-Chancellor's Office, along with liaisons from the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, the California Department of Education's Special Education Division, and the Advisory Commission on Special Education—were appointed as well.
Meeting monthly, March through November 2007, the work group drew on the expertise of state and national organizations to provide background for its deliberations. The California Comprehensive Center and the National Center for Special Education Personnel and Related Service Providers made presentations. CDE staff provided insights into federal expectations for teacher preparation, as set forth in the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA), as well as CDE and State Board of Education implementation of federal requirements.
In all, the work group and affiliated subgroups recommended 25 changes to the structure of, and subject matter competence for, special education teacher credentials. Based on these recommendations, the Commission, at its December 2007 meeting, adopted the following changes that expand special education services, offer employment options, and provide more credentialing flexibility:
Add-on teaching authorizations:
The Commission approved six new teaching authorizations that can be added to an existing special education teaching credential to expand the scope of instruction for current teachers: Autism Spectrum Disorders, Deaf-Blind, Emotional Disturbance, Traumatic Brain Injury, Orthopedically Impaired, Other Health Impaired.
Preparation to teach students with autism spectrum disorders: The Commission approved new teacher program standards in special education that include preparation to teach students with autism spectrum disorders; these standards apply across all Education Specialist credential types.
New Communication Development authorization: The Commission approved a proposal for a new Communication Development authorization for teachers serving students with special needs who struggle with communication and literacy. Special educators who earn this authorization can provide focused instruction to help students with communication problems that interfere with academic achievement and social interaction. Regulations are forthcoming.
Comparable experiences and coursework: The Commission approved a report that provides guidance to special education teacher preparation programs that are considering comparable experiences and coursework as alternatives to their regular course offerings. The goal of the report is to promote flexibility and extend opportunities for credential candidates to demonstrate competencies gained through previous experiences.
Update teaching authorizations: The appropriate setting, age, and grade level for each authorized specialty area and the titles of the federal disability categories were updated to align with current modes of service delivery to students with special needs. This created a match between the authorized services and the skills, knowledge, and abilities taught in the teacher preparation program, as well as with the field experiences that candidates completed as part of that preparation.
Strengthen program standards and reduce redundancy: The Commission combined the strengths of the Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA) Program and the Level II Special Education Preparation Program to require all teachers to complete a Commission-approved special education induction program. The Commission also aligned certification with the requirements of NCLB and the CDE (including subject-matter requirements). Finally, the Commission reduced redundancy and overlap between and among programs.
In June 2010, the Office of Administrative Law approved regulations pertaining to the implementation of the following: Special Education Authorizations and Assignment Options, Special Education Services Credential, Special Education Credential Requirements, and Added Authorizations to Special Education. The Commission presented a three-hour Webcast on August 10, 2010, on the implementation of the regulations. For the Webcast, go to www.ctc.ca.gov/live.html; for the
presentation's PowerPoint, go to www.ctc.ca.gov/credentials/webcasts-CAW.html. Other Webcasts will be presented as needed. Commission staff are also making presentations to various professional organizations. As mentioned, regulations to implement teaching authorizations in Communication Development and requirements and authorization for the Speech-Language Pathology Services Credential are forthcoming.
Program sponsors have been submitting proposed program changes to the Commission for approval in order to transition their current special education programs to the new program standards, or they are submitting proposals for new special education programs.
For more information on special education certification, visit the Commission's Special Education Web site: www.ctc.ca.gov/educator-prep/special-education.html.
SB 1209 (Scott, 2006) Teacher Credentialing, Training and Recruitment. Requires the Commission on Teacher Credentialing to report to the California Legislature and the Governor on the current process and requirements for obtaining a specialist credential in special education and recommend modifications to enhance and expedite these procedures, by December 1, 2007. The 2006–2007 state budget included $200,000 in federal Title II funds for the study.
AB 131 (Beall, 2008) Autism Spectrum Disorder. Provides a temporary assignment option for local education agencies (LEA) and schools (including nonpublic schools) to help meet the needs of three and four-year-olds with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) until August 1, 2011.
AB 2302 (Bass, 2008) Autism Spectrum Disorder. Provides a temporary assignment option for local education agencies and schools to help meet the needs of students with autism spectrum disorder until such time as the Commission adopts regulations to implement the recommendations of the Special Education Work group or on August 1, 2011, whichever occurs first.
AB 2226 (Ruskin, 2008) Coursework Comparability. Requires the Commission to convene a work group of interested parties for the purpose of providing guidance to programs in determining the comparability of coursework or field experience completed in other Commission-accredited special education credential programs and report the work group's findings to the Legislature, the Governor, and the Secretary for Education on or before December 1, 2009.
AB 239 (Brownley, 2009) District Intern Special Education Program. Allows District Intern Programs to offer Education Specialist Credentials in all areas of special education, among other provisions.
AB 2160 (Bass, 2010) Autism Spectrum Disorder. Extends to October 1, 2013, a temporary assignment option for local education agencies and schools to help meet the needs of students with autism spectrum disorder.
At every tier of the state's education system, administrators share both a responsibility and a desire to ensure the best possible outcomes for students with an individualized education program (IEP). They also know that, ultimately, the successful implementation of IEP goals depends largely on what happens in the classroom: Has the student with a disability been placed in the least restrictive environment? Are the proper accommodations and modifications provided? Is the student learning the basic curriculum at the appropriate level? Is he or she demonstrating measurable progress?
That is why, even in an era of fiscal constraints, administrators—school principals, district officials, SELPA directors, and others—are providing as much support as possible to special education and general education classroom teachers involved in IEPs. These administrators are creating opportunities for training, establishing procedures for monitoring IEP goals, providing direct supervision and feedback, carving out time for collaboration, even taking on some non-classroom IEP tasks themselves in order to free up teachers to spend more time with their students. "We are saying to teachers, 'We care about you; we're here to support you,'" says Diana Blackmon, Director of Special Services for the Washington Unified School District in West Sacramento.
"The nuts and bolts of writing an IEP are very complicated," says Kevin Ogden, superintendent and principal at the Julian Union Elementary School District. That is why he offered a two-hour workshop for teachers "on how to write a compliant IEP that serves the needs of students."
Ogden's words are echoed by administrators across the state, who offer a variety of training options. At the Solano County SELPA, for example, Assistant Superintendent Sam Neufeldt used federal stimulus funds to provide training on legal issues.
While IEP forms are now available online, the state does not have a single form that all school districts use; each district is allowed to develop its own, with the approval of its SELPA. There are advantages to having Web-based IEPs, as Karen Knight, principal at Folsom Middle School, notes. "It's centrally accessible to all staff, and we can project it on the wall at meetings so parents can see it, too." Adds Jason Stricker, school psychologist at David Reese Elementary School in Elk Grove, "As new IEPs are developed, multiple people can log in and work in the same document."
But Blackmon worries that "with a Web-based IEP, teachers are too concerned about the form itself." She does not introduce the form at the start of training. "We want teachers to understand what an IEP is, no matter what the form." Blackmon's training follows a four-step process: a student assessment that "shows where the child is now," a determination of the child's needs, the setting of annual goals to meet those needs, and, finally, what services, supports, and placements should be employed to meet the goals.
Making sure that classroom teachers know the strengths and limitations of their students with IEPs at the start of the school year can help to avoid problems later on. At David Reese Elementary, Principal Jenifer Avey says, "all teachers are provided with binders that contain student IEPs and descriptions of generic and specific accommodations the teachers can use."
At Folsom High, where a high percentage of students with IEPs are mainstreamed for the entire school day (with special education teachers and aides in the classroom), "every year case managers review each student's schedule, and the general education teacher is given a folder for every student with an IEP," says Principal Kathryn Allaman.
One way that school principals support their teachers—and monitor implementation of IEPs—is by visiting classrooms, observing special education students in the appropriate setting, and then providing feedback, critiques, and coaching. "At the beginning of the year I ask the special education teachers to give me a copy of their goals for each student," says JoDee Marcellin, principal of Lincoln Elementary School in the Sanger Unified School District. "That way I can see how the teacher is supporting the students to meet their goals."
Adds Principal Avey: "I am in classrooms every day, looking for engagement, checking that instruction is appropriate for each student so when we are sitting in IEP meetings, we know from observation what is working." She might observe, for example, a sixth grade math class where the teacher is leading a grade-level lesson while a student with a disability is accessing his own math level—which may be at second grade—on a computer, as instructed by a teacher.
And Allaman says that either she or one of her two vice principals visit every high school classroom once a week. "We're out there."
All administrators recognize the value of time, and while all say they wish for more, they agree on the importance of setting aside specific periods when teachers can meet away from the classroom for conversations about special education issues in general and to discuss the progress of students with IEPs in particular.
One of the first items on Avey's agenda when she arrived at David Reese this year was to establish bi-weekly team meetings during which special education teachers could discuss specific students, goals, and placements. "That keeps everyone on the same page" she says. Additionally, general education teachers can invite special education teachers to their monthly grade-level meetings if there is a need to discuss a student with an IEP. For Avey, "creating opportunities for open discussion" is paramount. The speech therapist, school psychologist, special education teachers, and administrators hold case management meetings three times a year. "The [general education] teachers come in, and we review all students. If a student with an IEP is not doing well in class, we can work as a team to collaborate with the teacher." The team may come up with creative approaches to classroom instruction or behavioral issues; it may decide to schedule an IEP meeting.
Ogden also holds student achievement meetings three times a year "to assess progress and evaluate interventions for students with IEPs and English-language learners." Like other administrators, he says that "collaboration time is really critical." As in many schools and districts throughout the state, students at Julian are sent home early one day each week so that teachers have dedicated time to meet. "Grade-level teams meet, and special ed talks to general ed. We're a pretty small district, so teachers know all the kids." If he could somehow buy more time, Ogden says, it would be "to hold IEP meetings without having to pull teachers out of the classroom."
There are other ways to encourage collaboration among teachers outside of formal meetings. At Folsom High, math and special education teachers team up for an "Algebra Ready" class for ninth graders. "The general education teacher brings expertise, and the special education teacher brings strategies," says Allaman. "It's good for both."
And now teachers in the Folsom Cordova Unified School District are collaborating on transition IEPs as students
move from elementary to middle school and from middle school to high school. "We're starting to insist on transition IEPs," says Folsom Middle School Principal Knight. And if there are issues or concerns about a student, staff from her school will go to the feeder school and work with teachers there. At the high school, Allaman sends "two special education teachers to the feeder middle schools, [to meet with the middle school team and work on the transition plans] and both teams work on the IEP."
Because they understand the value of time, administrators guard the time teachers devote to students. Working directly with parents is one way they can keep teachers in the classroom. "I see myself as a bridge between school and home," says Knight. "If parents need information, I probably can find that for them faster than the teacher can. I return every parent phone call, building trust with the family. It takes time off teachers."
"We don't want to get into an adversarial relationship with parents," says Blackmon. "If, in spite of our best efforts, the child is not making progress, the parent is not satisfied, I try to buffer the teachers, handle that for them. I listen to families. We all have the same interest: to support the student."
In addition to buying time for teachers, Knight says, "I can find things that help." She cites the example of the Pre-referral Intervention Manual by Stephen McCarney, which includes discussions of behaviors that students might exhibit and possible accommodations that teachers can adopt to address those behaviors. There were two manuals on campus when Knight employed her "drip system" theory of change: "You talk to a few people in the hall; they talk to a few more, and so forth. Well, word got around that this was a valuable resource, and now there are 16."
Whatever systems, schedules, and supports administrators ultimately employ to assist the classroom teacher, Jenifer Avey sums up their ultimate goal: "To make sure we are appropriately bringing every student forward."
— Janet Mandelstam
Money and prestige await middle school and high school educators. CalSTAT, a special project of the California Department of Education, Special Education Division, is pleased to announce the 2011–2012 Leadership Site Award program. The award's purpose is to identify California public schools that have created innovative and successful programs focusing on one of the five following areas: general and special education collaboration, transition to adult life, reading, positive behavior supports, or family involvement. Winners of this award will share their work with other educators and be provided with resources that will support continued success in their efforts.
To learn more about the award's benefits—both financial and programmatic—and to find out if your programs qualify, visit the CalSTAT Web site at www.calstat.org. Please contact Marin Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions. Applications will be available on the CalSTAT Web site in December 2010.
Some people call them acronyms, others insist they're initialisms, and still others simply refer to these clusters of letters as the inevitable "alphabet soup" of education. Whatever the label, abbreviations of all kinds seem to crop up regularly, particularly in special education: IDEA, PCSE, KPI, SPP, ISES—the list goes on, and the danger is not just in the chance that so many letters may cause confusion, but in the possibility of an incomplete understanding of the important work that is behind them.
Take ISES. This Improving Special Education Services Stakeholders Group was formed to help improve special education in California. What specifically does this mean, and why should anyone care? According to Valerie Johnson, a member of ISES representing the state's three Diagnostic Centers, people should care because "it's all about improving performance for students with disabilities. The special education process is complicated and can be overwhelming. However, it is important to gather data and examine it so that we can tell whether or not students with disabilities are being well served in schools. This is the kind of work we do in ISES—figuring out activities to implement in order to improve special education in the state and looking at the data to see how we are doing, and then making additional improvements."
Behind the ISES story there are more initials. While ISES was formed in 2008, the organization had its genesis almost a decade earlier with IDEA '97, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997. This radical piece of legislation re-envisioned the delivery of special education. Prior to the law, schools were considered to be doing their job if they simply provided access to education for their students with disabilities. But according to IDEA '97, access was not enough. Schools needed to demonstrate that the education was actually benefiting students—in short, that students with disabilities were learning and progressing along a defined educational path.
In addition to this shift in focus from access to benefit, the law insisted that special education was not a place—a special day class, or a resource specialist class—where students with disabilities were taught apart from their general education peers. In fact, in the language of the law, "The term 'Special Education' means specially designed instruction" [Section 1401 (a)(16)], not a place, a program, or even a system of service delivery."1 This was not so much a shift as a sea change in how special education was to be "done."
Enter another acronym: the SIG, or State Improvement Grant from the federal government. California was awarded this grant on the basis of a very ambitious proposal that refocused special education on that mandate of educational benefit. But how exactly was this benefit to be realized? How do you break down traditional ways of doing things and help school districts focus less on place, program, or system of service delivery—which had been the approach for longer than two decades—and more on "specially designed instruction." And what does this effort look like in the initial stages?
This is where the Partnership Committee on Special Education was born. Essentially one of the two "parents" of ISES, the PCSE was a group of individuals who were deeply invested in improving the state's system of special education. They were parents of children with disabilities, special education teachers, school administrators, therapists, and university professors who were teaching the next generation of special education teachers; they were individuals who were experienced in and knowledgeable about special education law and the California Education Code. These people were charged with recommending how the SIG money should be spent and how to start developing a movement toward general education-special education collaboration that would lead to optimal educational benefit for children with disabilities.
Ultimately, there were two SIG grants amounting to millions of dollars that supported changes in special education services in California by improving the quality and increasing the number of teachers and other personnel who work with students with disabilities, coordinating services and providing positive behavioral supports for students with disabilities, improving academic outcomes (especially in the area of literacy), supporting the participation of parents and family members, and collecting and disseminating data. Teachers were trained, and parents were offered the resources they needed to get involved in special education decision-making groups. Successful collaborative programs were discovered in the state, and these programs were given support to improve and share their ideas. While complete systems change is glacial at best in a state the size of California, to date the SIG-funded CalSTAT project, for example, has delivered hundreds of days of technical assistance training to 1,600 school sites in 56 of California's 58 counties and to approximately 45,000 parents and educators.
However good these ideas looked on paper though, only data can show that any effort is truly making a difference. So while the PCSE was advising on the use of SIG money, the Key Performance Indicator (KPI) Stakeholders Group—the second "parent" of ISES—was working to advise the California Department of Education (CDE) on monitoring and reporting the varying successes and challenges that school districts were realizing as they educated children with disabilities.
Both the PCSE and the KPI Stake-holders Group were comprised of the same kinds of people; and both groups brought together individuals with strong commitments to improving the system of special education. Some participants, because of their expertise, experience, and willingness to support a collaborative effort, served on both groups.
Fast forward to 2004 and the reauthorization of IDEA, which put even more teeth into the call for general education-special education collaboration, particularly in the law's requirement that states align their special education efforts with the mandates of the general education law, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB, the amended Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or ESEA). The law also continued the focus on educational benefit, specifically emphasizing increased achievement, preventing instances of inappropriate identification for disability, and promoting communication to resolve unnecessary disputes.
To further support its push for educational benefit, IDEA '04 introduced changes to its requirements for how states measure and report to the U.S. Department of Education on educational outcomes for students with disabilities. The new law "requires each state to develop a State Performance Plan (SPP) that evaluates the state's efforts to implement the requirements and purposes of the IDEA, and describes how the state will improve its implementation . . . The IDEA also requires each state to report annually to the secretary on its performance under the SPP. . . . The determinations are part of the ongoing efforts to improve education for America's 7 million children with disabilities." The SPP is fundamentally "a six-year plan for special education . . . approved by the State Board of Education and . . . updated annually through the Annual Performance Report (APR)."2
The core of the SPP is its 20 indicators, which itemize the areas of special education that are identified as needing focused improvement and around which data must be gathered and reported. Of those 20 indicators, 15 directly relate to the special education services that children receive in school; the remaining five address the effectiveness of the state's record on due process and complaints management. The data gathered around each indicator reflect whether or not the state is making progress in that area.
In addition, the law requires that each state now needs to use the funds it receives in grants from the federal government to address the areas for improvement identified in its SPP and then recount its progress in the APR. While the CDE had relied on the KPI Stakeholders Group to guide its previous accountability and monitoring efforts, and on the PCSE to help shape its efforts to improve special education systems and services, it soon became apparent that these two groups should become part of a unified planning process. In a move toward maximum efficiency, the PCSE and the KPI Stakeholders Group joined forces two years ago and now work as one: the ISES.
According to CDE consultant Janet Canning Digmon, "ISES is fundamentally a feedback source for state- and federally funded activities that are designed to address selected SPP indicators. The purpose of the ISES is to have seasoned stakeholder representatives meet with us two times a year to discuss improvement strategies on selected indicators. This gives us meaningful, informed feedback on activities that are now essentially under the same umbrella."
ISES member Dona Meinders works at WestEd, an organization that is a contractor with the state for some of these activities. She served on both the PCSE and the KPI Stakeholders Group before they merged and so brings a great deal of historical and institutional memory to ISES. In her experience, when the law focused strictly on compliance, evaluating special education was easier than it is now, "much more black and white. The recent changes in the law have moved us out of our realm of comfort. It is not an easy thing to figure out how to help students make progress, how to effectively focus on outcomes. It's messier and harder to evaluate." But Meinders believes "the law is definitely moving us in the right direction." She sees ISES as playing an important role in shaping activities that can help establish a course for that direction, which involves school improvement and student achievement.
Meinders describes ISES as consisting of three groups of critical players: first the parents, teachers, school administrators, and service providers who have a direct investment in what happens to children with disabilities in the schools; then the individuals at the CDE who are part of the Quality Assurance Process (see insert) and other aspects of the state's monitoring efforts; and finally representatives of the contractors—organizations such as WestED, CalSTAT, and WRRC—that are awarded grant monies to fund training and technical assistance to help the state make the kinds of improvements it defines in the SPP.
Typically, each ISES meeting opens with a presentation on the SPP and the state's progress as detailed in the APR. The members then form work groups, each focusing on the particular SPP indicators selected for that meeting.
To comply with IDEA's requirements for alignment, the State Personnel Development Grant (SPDG), which replaced the SIG in 2007, must be aligned to the SPP, as well as to the State Plan for No Child Left Behind. So, for example, current SPDG-funded (and earlier SIG-funded) efforts support the dissemination of effective transition programs for students who are leaving school and entering the world of postsecondary education, employment, and/or independent living; Indicator 13 of the SPP addresses "Secondary Transition Goals and Services" and the degree to which individualized education program (IEP) goals and transition services "reasonably enable the student to meet the postsecondary goals." While the activities funded by the state grant are designed to create a system that supports successful transition, the SPP is reporting on how well transitions are happening, and the ISES is watching both sides of the equation.
Another example of coordinated effort within the ISES involves SPP Indicator 5, which focuses on the IDEA mandate of LRE, or least restrictive environment.3 Indicator 5 charts the percentage of children with IEPs ages 6–21 and the amount of time they are educated in classrooms with their general education peers, as opposed to the amount of time they are educated in separate settings. During an ISES meeting, the group might hear a presentation on this particular indicator and the relevant state data in the morning; then, in the afternoon, group members might sit in a work group that discusses the efforts of the LRE Resources Project at WestEd, which is developing resources for school districts and individual schools to support and promote LRE (go to http://lre2010.weebly.com).
A third example of alignment centers on SPP Indicators 9 and 10, the disproportionate representation of students of certain ethnicities in special education in general and in certain disability categories specifically. While learning about state-level data on these two indicators, ISES members are currently advising on the creation of a statewide technical assistance system that addresses disproportionality in particular but that is ultimately being designed to provide assistance on all SPP indicators to educational entities that need help in better serving students with disabilities. And because the creation of this TA system is receiving direction from people who know how education works in the state, the system will not be just "one more new thing" but rather a source of support that is seamlessly integrated into the way schools and districts currently work.
While the SPP focuses on student outcomes and does not directly address teacher preparation and retention, it takes no great leap of logic to see the connection between realizing SPP goals and the quality of the teachers working with students, the number of teachers available, and the satisfaction that teachers derive from their work. As a result, "a leadership team was created for implementing the California Strategic Action Plan for the Recruitment, Preparation, and Retention of Special Education Personnel," says Lisa Churchill, professor emeritus at California State University at Chico. Originally, the leadership team was a working subgroup of the PCSE, and while the scope and scale of its work has lent it a great deal of autonomy, "this team has always sought advisement and direction from the PCSE and in recent years from the ISES," says Churchill. As she recounts, the original focus of this group was "on recruitment activities; 4 then the focus shifted to teacher preparation activities [see article on page 9], which involved restructuring the Education Specialist credential. Members of the leadership team provided input into that process. Currently our focus is on teacher retention. We're working with the federally funded California Comprehensive Center at WestEd to promote participation in the California School Climate Survey and the Special Education Supports Module. The module consists of 20 additional survey questions and is based on recent research about special education teacher retention in California. The purpose of the module is to tap into responses from special educators and all individuals serving students with IEPs in an effort to capture a sense of school climate 5 from varying perspectives." At the same time "we're working on a pilot site study to see what can be done with the information we gather. The goal is to move data from paper to action to see how our understanding of the data can change a school's climate." Because the effectiveness of teachers is central to the success of special education, "what we are doing is that immediate objective on the path to getting to positive outcomes for students," says Churchill.
Linda Nimer, a member of ISES representing special educators in the state and CARS+, values her advisory role in the organization. "We can disagree, and we feel listened to," says Nimer. She acknowledges that not all suggestions that emerge from these work groups—no matter how beneficial they might be—can be adapted. The simple fact of "financial limitations can get in the way." Canning Digmon agrees that much "depends on money or staffing." Even the SPDG's millions go only so far in a state the size of California.
Much, however, has been accomplished. Bill Tollestrup, Director of Special Education for the Elk Grove School District, gives credit to the SIG- and SPDG-funded activities of the CalSTAT Project for helping his district and others in the state "understand that, in order to see improved outcomes for students with disabilities or students who are in danger of failing, we have to become full partners with general education. Special Education cannot operate in a silo." Tollestrup sees the federal requirement for all teachers to be highly qualified as adding validity to this direction. "We [special education teachers] are not experts in algebra," he says. "But we are the people who are supposed to help make the content accessible to all students. This requires a community of both general education and special education teachers who share a sense of responsibility and ownership for all students." A great deal of the work of the two grants has focused on creating and sustaining these kinds of collaborative efforts within schools and school districts.
Kathleen Lowrance, a member of the original PCSE, now serves on ISES with several other parent-professionals to "make sure that the parent voice is woven throughout." Lowrance, Executive Director of the Rowell Family Empowerment of Northern California (RFENC),6 is particularly pleased with the benefits of the Family Participating Fund (FPF), another activity that was started with SIG money and that continues with financial support from the SPDG and direction from ISES. Lowrance calls the fund a "wonderful tool that has encouraged parent leadership throughout our region." Before Lowrance became director of RFENC, she "was a parent first," and she recounts how her original effort to get involved in the larger system of special education was "overwhelming. It is a large and confusing system, especially for parents. But it all finally came together," and she is delighted that the FPF is helping other parents find their voice and make a difference within the larger system that has such influence on the lives and futures of their children.
Jane Floethe-Ford, Director of Education for Parents Helping Parents and also a parent-professional serving on ISES, echoes Lowrance's praise for the FPF and the CDE. The SPDG "is a personnel development grant; it's not about involving parents," says Floethe-Ford. "But the CDE saw parent involvement as an important piece that we all wanted to continue. CDE didn't have to do this, but they knew it was best practice and wanted to do the right thing. I love it. The more parents are able to attend meetings at any level, the more they understand this very complex system. It helps us all, parents and professional, get outside of our little worlds to better understand other perspectives and, we hope, increase our collaboration."
Jumbled sets of letters rarely illuminate; but when thoughtfully arranged, they turn into words and meaning, which are vital to creating new understanding and change for the better. This, finally, is what is behind ISES in particular and special education's alphabet soup in general. Not a mess of letters, but a concerted effort to work together to support student progress and improve schools.
Mandated by federal and state statutes, the California Advisory Commission on Special Education (ACSE) provides recommendations and advice to the State Board of Education, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the California Legislature, and the Governor on new and continuing areas of research, program development, and evaluation in California special education. The commission is made up of individuals with disabilities, parents of individuals with disabilities, individuals knowledgeable about the administration of special education, teachers, and legislative representation from the State Assembly and Senate. While the ACSE is interested in all topics related to improving special education for children with disabilities, the organization's specific areas of interest and concern include the State Performance Plan, response to intervention (RtI), family involvement, teacher credentialing, the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE), charter schools, full funding for special education, and special education-related legislation.
Each year the commission also determines the winners of the Grazer Outstanding Achievement in Learning (GOAL) Award, which recognizes excellence in special education programs in the state. Specific information about the GOAL Award, along with a directory of ACSE commissioners, agendas, and minutes of ACSE meetings can be found at www.cde.ca.gov/sp/se/as/acse.asp. Go to the ACSE Web page at www.cde.ca.gov/sp/se/as/acsemtg.asp for meeting dates and times. ACSE commissioners welcome public involvement, and at each meeting they provide an opportunity for input from individuals whose lives are affected by disability. To further the organization's public reach, ACSE meetings are now available live at www.cde.ca.gov/sp/se/as/acsemtgwebcast.asp. Additional information about the work of the commission is provided at length in the organization's annual reports, which can be downloaded from www.calstat.org/specialEdge.html.
The RiSE (Resources in Special Education) Library freely lends materials to California residents; the borrower pays only for return postage. The list below features only a few of the resources the library has to offer. Go to www.php.com/services/libraries to view the library's complete holdings. To order materials, phone or e-mail RiSE librarian Judy Bower: 408-727-5775; email@example.com.
Culture in Special Education: Building Reciprocal Family-Professional Relationships, by Maya Kalyanpur and Beth Harry, uses personal anecdotes, case examples, and theoretical discussions to demonstrate the potential impact of cultural assumptions on parent-professional interactions in special education. This book can help teachers become conscious of, and work to set aside, the stereotypes they hold about other cultures, as well as their own, all in the interest of communicating effectively with students and their families. This book also helps teachers understand the importance of developing education plans that will enhance children's learning in light of their culture and beliefs. Call #24186.
Getting Together: Building Relationships as We Negotiate, by Roger Fisher and Scott Brown, is a step-by-step guide to initiating, negotiating, and sustaining relationships that involve conflict and difficulty. Call #24183.
Guia de la Ley de Educacion Especial, by Randy Chapman, is the Spanish translation of The Everyday Guide to Special Education Law. Both the Spanish and English texts are included on every page. This book helps parents get the best education possible for their child with disabilities by providing parents with the information they need to advocate effectively for their child's right to an inclusive education. The book addresses IDEA's Part B, Part C, and Section 504. It is also a valuable resource for teachers and school administrators. Call #24187.
A Guide to Collaboration for IEP Teams, by Nicholas Martin, is a practical handbook for managing the complexities, challenges, and emotions that can be involved in IEP meetings. The book is designed to help administrators, teachers, resource professionals, and parents work together as a cohesive team to design, review, and modify IEPs for children with special education needs. The book addresses such topics as effective meeting management, principled negotiations, the role of emotions, and conflict prevention. Call #24181.
Guide to Writing Quality Individualized Education Programs, by Gordon Gibb and Tina Taylor Dyches, helps to reduce the complexity of developing IEPs by dividing the process into seven basic steps. The books use explanations, modeling, practice, and formative feedback so that teachers can improve their IEP efforts on their own or as part of a group effort in professional development. This second edition also provides an overview of special education and the requirements of IDEA 2004 and includes new case studies with complete IEPs for four elementary and secondary students with mild/moderate and severe disabilities, including transition planning. Call #24182.
Leading Successful IEP Teams: A Guide to Managing the People and the Process, by Gerry Klor, provides helpful tools for facilitating effective IEP meetings. It offers strategies for handling the challenging legal and procedural issues encountered during the IEP meeting, and it describes the skills needed to work effectively with both staff and parents. The book discusses how to prepare for IEP meetings, manage conflict, review assessment reports, deal with issues raised by parents, and accommodate the interests of both parents and school districts. Call #24180.
Listening: A Framework for Teaching Across Differences, by Katherine Schultz, focuses on helping teachers learn how to develop the skill of listening and use that skill as central to their teaching. "Rather than teaching prospective and experienced teachers how to follow prescriptions," says Schultz, "I suggest that teachers learn how to attend to and respond with deep understanding to the students they teach." Schultz defines listening as "more than just hearing . . . [it is] how a teacher attends to individuals, the classroom as a group, the broader social context, and, cutting across all of these, to silence and acts of silencing." The book guides both new and experienced teachers in developing the ability to use creative, responsive listening to improve their pedagogical effectiveness. The book offers case studies of teachers who use this approach to benefit their students and themselves. Call #24184.
Rethinking Classroom Participation: Listening to Silent Voices, by Katherine Schultz, examines the complex role that the silence of students can play in teaching and learning. The author offers real-life examples and proven strategies for "rethinking classroom participation" to include all students. This book redefines participation to include all types of communication styles, explores how teachers can restructure classroom conversations and examines the multiple meanings of student silence. Call #24185.
This Web page, Teacher-Parent Collaboration, offers dozens of resources for parents and teachers in support of effective communication that serves the student. The site offers articles and printable handouts on a range of topics: how parents and teachers can prepare for successful parent-teacher conferences, how teachers can host a successful open house, how parents can support their child's development at school, and more.
"Student-directed IEPs" is full of practical advice for student involvement in their own individualized education programs (IEPs). The article also provides a list of online resources for parents and teachers who would like to include students with disabilities in developing their own IEPs, as well as resources for students themselves on how to become involved in IEPs and self-directed.
"Communicating with Parents: Strategies for Teachers" discusses how communication occurs and offers a variety of effective strategies that teachers can use to make communication with parents as effective and successful as possible. The article stresses the importance of a thoughtful, planned approach that promotes parent partnerships and, ultimately, the academic
success of the student.
IEP Online Training is a free, online, self-paced training designed to help teachers write measurable, annual IEP goals and objectives that promote student success and that are tied to the California content standards.
This California Department of Education Web page, Resources on IEPs for Children with Disabilities, features a list of resources designed to improve instruction, assessment, and accountability for students with disabilities.
Training on Writing Standards-based IEPs, a California Department of Education Web page, features links to self-paced training materials that are updated to current IDEA regulations and that focus on how to write IEPs with goals that are measurable, student focused, and tied to standards.
Effective Parent-Teacher Communication, written by the Center for Effective Parenting, describes some of the common problems in parent-teacher communication and offers six suggestions to communicate effectively.
Written by the Child Development Institute, "Establishing a Parent-Teacher Relationship," offers suggestions to parents on how to develop positive relationships with their children's teachers and how to successfully navigate those relationships when problems develop.
My Child's Special Needs: A Guide to the Individualized Education Program, written by the U.S. Department of Education, is available in its entirety at the above URL. The purpose of this document is to help educators, parents, and state and local education agencies in implementing individualized education programs (IEPs) for children with disabilities, including preschool-aged children, according to the requirements of Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
This invaluable publication, A Parent's Guide: Communicating with Your Child's School Through Letter Writing, provides parents with advice and strategies for writing effective letters to their child's teachers and principals. The sample letters include giving positive feedback, discussing a problem, requesting a change of placement, and much more. All of the information in this document can be applied to e-mails. This publication is from the National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities.
Special Education Rights and Responsibilities, by Protection and Advocacy, Inc., (PAI) and the Community Alliance for Special Education (CASE), is available at the above Web site in English, Spanish, Korean, Chinese, and Vietnamese. This indispensable guide for parents of children with disabilities addresses numerous questions about how to navigate the system of special education, including early intervention, transition, due process, and more.
December 8–9, 2010
Closing the Gap: Using Parent Involvement to Increase Student Achievement
Sponsored by the California Parent
Center and the Los Angeles County Office of Education, this training is designed especially for educators from Title I schools and districts and schools in Program Improvement. The event will focus on developing achievement-focused partnerships at all levels to support improved academic outcomes. Costa Mesa, CA. For more information, contact Melissa Popovich at firstname.lastname@example.org or 619-594-4756; or go to http://parent.sdsu.edu/services/conferences/default.htm.
December 8–9, 2010
Adolescent Literacy: Equity and Opportunity for All
This Secondary Literacy Summit X, sponsored by the California Department of Education, will highlight best practices for improving adolescent literacy achievement. Keynote speakers, workshop sessions, and school panels will focus on reading, academic vocabulary, comprehension, writing, and content literacy, along with Common Core Standards and response to intervention (RtI). Multiple sessions will address instructional strategies for closing achievement gaps for English learners and students with special needs. Presentations will feature secondary school teams that are improving literacy achievement for all students. Costa Mesa, CA. For more information, contact Sharon Johnson at email@example.com or 916-323-6269; or go to www.cacompcenter.org/cs/cacc/print/htdocs/cacc/secondaryliteracy.htm.
February 23–25, 2011
Lessons for Leadership
SEECAP, the Special Education Early Childhood Administrators Project, hosts its annual symposium designed to examine state and federal legislation that impacts service delivery; current, controversial, and critical reoccurring issues in the field; and research-based practices and staff training options that support quality service provisions. Newport Beach, CA. For more information, contact Kathleen Finn at 760-761-5526 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit www.sdcoe.net/seecap.
March 14–19, 2011
International Technologies and Persons with Disabilities Conference
This 25th annual conference sponsored by the California State University at Northridge Center on Disabilities showcases cutting-edge technology and practical solutions that can be utilized to remove the barriers that prevent full participation of persons with disabilities in educational, workplace, and social settings. The event—the largest of its kind in the world—provides an inclusive setting for researchers, practitioners, exhibitors, end-users, speakers and other participants who want to share knowledge and best practices in the field of assistive technology. Northridge, CA.
For more information, go to www.csunconference.org.
April 4–8, 2011
Annual Head Start Conference
Designed for parents and early childhood administrators, teachers, and caregivers, this 38th annual Head Start conference offers training and educational opportunities to support the delivery of high-quality services and optimize early childhood development by bridging the gap between theory and practice. Conference seminars and workshops highlight evidence-based methods and evolving knowledge in the early childhood field and provide a forum for discussions on a broad range of topics. Kansas City, MO. For more information, contact Angela Smith at email@example.com or 703-739-7563; or go to www.nhsa.org/?e=events.detail&event_id=78.
Resources are available for you to deliver high-quality professional development and training in your area. Visit http://www.calstat.org/rimaterials.html in December to learn more about eligibility requirements and available financial supports.
California Services for Technical
Assistance and Training (CalSTAT)
A Special Project of the Napa County Office of Education| 5789 State Farm Drive, Rohnert Park, CA 94928
Fax: 707-586-2735 | email:firstname.lastname@example.org