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>> Hello and welcome to "Empowering Families as Partners
in the Least Restrictive Environment," a presentation for parents.
This is one in a series of webcasts for parents.
In these brief sessions, we hope to share with parents of children
with disabilities some information and tips on navigating the world
of special education in Pennsylvania.
The sessions are videotaped so you can view them on your time, in your space.
We hope you enjoy them, share them, and refer to them if the need arises.
My name is Linda Cartwright and I am a parent consultant
with PaTTAN in our King of Prussia office.
Here you see the mission statement of PaTTAN,
the Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistant Network.
Our charge is to support public, charter, cyber-charter, school districts,
intermediate units, or IUs, and IEP teams, including parents,
to build capacity to serve students receiving special education services.
PaTTAN is a division of the Pennsylvania Department of Education, or PDE,
that exists through Federal special education funds.
The PDE has two divisions: general and special education.
Under the Bureau of Special Education, or BSE, the PaTTAN system exists
in three offices across the state.
The purpose of PaTTAN is to support the initiatives of the Department of Education
by working closely with all 29 intermediate units
and the 500 school districts in the Commonwealth.
One of the roles of PaTTAN is to help intermediate units
and local educational agencies, or LEAs, including administrators,
special and general education, and special area educators, related service providers,
and others to understand and implement the special education laws appropriately.
One of these laws concerns educating students who have disabilities
in the least restrictive environment, or LRE.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education is committed to the Federal and State regulations
and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA,
and Chapter 14 of the Pennsylvania School Code regarding educating students with special needs
in the least restrictive environment, or LRE.
PDE's goal is that IEP teams consider placement of every child in the general education setting
with his peers without disabilities before any non-inclusive separate educational setting.
This is the focus of our session today.
In this brief webcast, we will be addressing these topics:
what is the least restrictive environment?
What does the law say about LRE?
What is a parent's role in LRE?
How to find your LEA's results on LRE, supports for your LEA and resources.
You can find more in-depth information on LRE on PaTTAN's website,
as well as in many other resources you will receive at the end of this webcast.
So what is the least restrictive environment, or LRE?
This is the actual wording of IDEA regulations.
All Federally and State funded public education agencies are to follow these regulations.
This is what the IDEA 2004 requires: that to the maximum extent appropriate,
children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions
or other care facilities, are educated with children who are non-disabled.
Second, that special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children
with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only if the nature
or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use
of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.
This requirement has been part of disability education law for nearly 40 years
and is often referred to as the least restrictive environment.
In this webcast, I will use "regular education" and "general education" interchangeably.
The Federal law still uses "regular"; however, as a parent I prefer
to use the term "general education."
That way it doesn't make our children sound like they receive irregular education.
So what does the law say about LRE?
Let's take a look at this law and what it means to your child.
So, all the regulations, laws, and agencies previously named all have one common goal:
to provide FAPE to your child.
FAPE is an acronym for a free, appropriate public education.
Now, the word "appropriate" can be somewhat subjective.
You and I can have very different understandings
of what is an appropriate educational program for a child with a disability.
What you should keep in mind is this: your child should have the same opportunities to learn his
or her age and grade level materials with the necessary supports that he or she needs
to learn those materials in a setting that most closely meets his
or her needs provided by public funds.
According to Wrightslaw, FAPE is an individualized educational program
that is designed to meet the child's unique needs and from
which the child receives educational benefit and prepares him for further education,
employment and independent living.
There is a phrase, "Why pay for the Cadillac when a Chevy will do?"
This could apply to FAPE.
We all want the Cadillac for our children.
All of them, not just the ones with special needs.
But according to the law, sometimes the Chevy is sufficient to provide FAPE to the student.
As you are an important member of your child's IEP team,
try to keep in mind your child's actual need and what programs, devices, options,
et cetera are available to meet that need.
If the Chevy, Ford, or Prius will do the job; try to refrain from asking
for the Cadillac, the Lexus or the Jaguar.
You may need to request the Cadillac in the future, only when one option will do
and you don't want to use it up on something less critical.
This will also help build your relationship with the rest of the team.
IEP teams are required to adhere to the following general principles
when making educational placement decisions.
First, a free and appropriate public education, or FAPE,
must be provided to every student with an IEP.
Moreover, FAPE must be delivered in the LRE as per the IEP team.
Two, students will not be removed from regular education classrooms merely
because of the severity of their disabilities.
I want you to take note of each of these principles, but especially number two.
Notice that even if your child has a severe physical or perhaps cognitive
or intellectual disability, is not verbal, has behavioral outbursts, or other impairments
which may not be common with his typical peers, it is still the team's responsibility
to consider placement in the general education setting first, before automatically removing him
and placing him in a restrictive setting.
Principle number three says when students with disabilities, including students
with significant cognitive disabilities, need specially designed instruction
or other supplementary aids and services to benefit from participating
in regular education classrooms as required in their IEP, local education agencies are obliged
to ensure that those services are provided.
Principle number four: IEP teams must determine whether the goals
in the student's IEP can be implemented in regular education classrooms
with supplementary aids and services before considering removal
from the regular educational classroom.
And school districts will consider the full range of supplementary aids and services
in regular education classrooms based on peer-reviewed research
to the extent practicable, including modification of curriculum content,
before contemplating placement in a more restrictive setting.
It is the "with appropriate supplementary aids and services" piece which may allow your child
to thrive in a general education setting versus a more secluded one.
You can learn more about supplementary aids and services or SaS --
big "S," little "A," big "S" -- on the PaTTAN website,
or ask your special education supervisor to discuss supplementary aids
and services with you and the team.
I say little "A" because there is another abbreviation, SAS with a big "A,"
which stands for Standards Aligned System.
You will also be directed to a publication on SaS,
with a little "A," at the end of this webcast.
Here is the definition in IDEA regulations of supplementary aids and services.
The words bolded are those of particular importance.
Supplementary aids and services are aids, services, and other supports provided
in regular education classes, other education-related settings,
and in extracurricular and non-academic settings that enable children with disabilities
to be educated with non-disabled children to the maximum extent appropriate.
The following few slides list the government entities responsible for regulating LRE.
There will be further explanation, as well, as to who enforces these regulations.
On this slide you see the Office of Special Education Programs, or OSEP;
the Office of Civil Rights, or OCR;
the Pennsylvania Department of Education, or PDE; and the Bureau of Special Education,
or BSE, who oversees Chapter 14 of the Pennsylvania School Code
and Chapter 711 of the Pennsylvania School Code.
Your child's local education agency, or LEA, may have its own polices, in addition to abiding
by all of the above-named regulations,
to provide the least restrictive environment for your child.
LRE is part of providing a free, appropriate public education, or FAPE,
to your child, as is his or her right.
Here you see a chart of who enforces the regulations.
Part B of IDEA provides Federal funds to assist states and school districts in making a free,
appropriate public education available to students with specific disabilities beginning
at a student's third birthday and possibly lasting until the end
of the school year of the student's 21st birthday.
Students with specified physical, mental, emotional, or sensory impairments
who need special education and related services are eligible for services under Part B of IDEA.
Part B of IDEA is administered by OSEP.
Each state must follow IDEA regulations regarding providing FAPE
to students with disabilities.
Additionally, states can add their own regulations regarding special education.
They can always do more than IDEA, but they can't do less.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education is responsible for making sure IDEA,
as well as its own regulations under Chapters 14 and 711, are followed.
It is your child's local educational agency, or LEA, who is ultimately responsible
for making sure the federal IDEA regulations, state regulations, its local IU policies,
as well as its own policies and procedures, are strictly adhered to.
The IUs and PaTTAN are always there to help support your LEA in these efforts.
Let's talk about what a parent's role is in LRE.
As a valued member of your child's IEP team, you should feel empowered to participate
in the LRE portion of his or her IEP.
Know your rights and your child's rights.
Give ideas of how you think your child can participate successfully
in the general education setting based on your experience at home, in the community,
and most of all, follow your gut.
Here you see the key question for IEP teams with regard to the least restrictive environment.
What can be done to allow a child to remain in the general classroom
and receive specially-designed instruction by adapting the content, methodology,
or delivery of instruction to ensure access to the general education curriculum?
Each section of the IEP provides invaluable information that supports opportunities
for conversation around access, participation,
and progress in the general education curriculum and educational environment.
Supplementary aids and services are a compilation of specially designed instruction,
or SDI, and related services to support a student
in the general education environment, and they need to be considered.
You may feel that your child will absolutely benefit from being included
in the general education setting, or you may feel you absolutely do not want her
in the general educational setting with typically developing peers,
or you may be somewhere between these two absolutes.
Regardless of your determination, your fears, your perceptions,
or what other parents have told you, you owe it to your child to fully participate with his
or her team in determining the setting in which he
or she will be the most successful while following the LRE guidelines.
Your child has the same right as every other child to have access
to the general education curriculum.
This is the course of study that each child in the State of Pennsylvania receives,
guided by the standards approved by the Department of Education,
regardless of where this curriculum is delivered.
Because your child has an IEP, he or she receives specially-designed instruction
and possibly accommodations or modifications to this curriculum.
Your son or daughter may be fully included -- we don't use the term "mainstreamed" any longer --
but included in the general education setting, or full-time in a learning support
or other setting, or a combination of settings.
The team, by law and with your help, needs to decide which of the choice
of settings is most appropriate and will give your child the best chance
of academic and social success.
This decision should also be fluid.
It can be changed according to your child's changing needs.
When making decisions about educational placement for your child,
you and your child's IEP team want to make the decision based on accurate data.
The notion of least dangerous assumption in layman's terms means this:
say you have a child with an intellectual disability.
You think she can learn sixth grade science,
but she is taught in a separate special education class where there is little
or a different science curriculum than the rest of her peers.
The notion of least dangerous assumption says, instead, if she were to be placed
in a general education environment and receives an adapted version of the sixth grade science,
but she doesn't quite learn as much as you and the rest of her IEP team had hoped,
there is the least amount of harm done.
At least she was exposed to science, the vocabulary, and had an opportunity
to learn what her typical peers are learning.
Plus you may never know what she has actually absorbed and may recall when she is an adult.
However, had the team not placed her in that science class, and she could have learned some
or all of the curriculum, more harm is done because of the lost opportunity of learning.
So if you had her in general ed and she didn't quite do as well,
it does less harm than had she never tried at all.
Along with the notion of least dangerous assumption is the notion of presumed competence.
If you were arrested by an unfortunate case of mistaken identity and charged
with a horrible crime, you would never want the legal system to assume you were guilty
and put the onus on you to prove your innocence.
So why do we and some of our children's educators presume they can't
until they prove they can?
How many times has your child surprised you, and himself,
by accomplishing even the simplest tasks?
Do you remember the joy on his face when he realized, "Oh yes, I can"?
The notion of presumed competence means just that.
Everyone must presume a child can learn, do, speak -- fill in the blank -- with any task.
First it will boost his self-esteem and perhaps provide the self-fulfilling prophecy,
if you will.
Secondly, if you or a teacher or therapist give the impression, either directly or implied,
that you don't have confidence that he can, your child will pick up on
that and believe he truly cannot.
Why bother even trying?
Yes, he may need some additional time, assistance, adaptation, or encouragement,
but we all need to presume competence that our children can do
and will do things we would expect of any child without a disability.
Schools are rated on how well they follow the regulations on least restrictive environment.
Next we'll talk about how you can find your LEA's results on LRE.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 requires every state
to develop a state performance plan, or SPP.
The SPP describes how the state will improve educational outcomes for students
with disabilities, ages three to 21, and comply with IDEA 2004.
The state performance plan is built upon 20 federally-mandated indicators
of compliance and performance.
Each indicator includes baseline data, annual measurable
and rigorous targets, and improvement activities.
The SPP is data-driven and, therefore, all data reported and used for planning must be valid,
reliable, and verified at both the local and state levels.
Here's a summary of the state performance plan.
It's a framework for improvement in the education of students with disabilities.
It's a six-year plan submitted by each state to the Office
of Special Education Programs, or OSEP.
There are 20 federally-required indicators of compliance and performance.
States set measurable and rigorous targets for each indicator
and they set forth improvement activities to reach the targets.
Lastly, states report annually on how their performance in meeting the SPP targets
on each indicator in an annual performance report, or APR.
Here you will find the link to the PennData website, which houses the results
of the SPP indicators for each LEA in Pennsylvania.
Let's go into the site and see how easy it is to navigate
and find your local educational agency's results.
Okay, so when you type the URL into your computer,
you will be at the Pennsylvania Department of Education,
Bureau of Special Education website, and we're on the PennData page.
To access your LEA's results, what you're going to do is go to the very first link,
the state performance plan, public reporting for special education,
and they ask that you identify yourself -- they want to track who's using the website.
So you're going to hit "parent," and then you're going to see Public Reporting.
And we're going to go into one of the two brown ones at the bottom,
which is the reports alphabetically or by intermediate unit.
I'm going to do it alphabetically.
And then there's a dropdown box that says, "Select a school district," but it's any LEA,
so if you're a charter school, you can also find the results here.
And here's the dropdown box.
So I'm just going to randomly pick.
I'm going to pick Abbington School District, and it brings up a list of district reports,
the most current being the 2010-2011 report, currently.
And you click on that.
And here you will see the report, and it gives you a lot of information.
It tells you the enrollment, so you have some statistics,
some demographics, race and ethnicity.
Coming down on the left is going to give you indicators one and two on graduation
and dropout rates, and you see when I hold the mouse over here it talks
about indicator one and two of the SPP.
Going up on the right it gives you indicator three: participation
and performance and statewide assessments.
So these are your scores for the PSSAs, et cetera.
Participation rate, proficiency rate.
Indicator four, which is discrepancy and suspension and expulsion rates.
So you can get a lot of information right here, and it's very easy to see your LEA's results.
Here is indicator five, which are the educational environments, and this is the one
that we've been addressing, LRE, and this is where you'll see your district's results.
And it is compared to the statewide average, and it's also compared to other schools.
School-facilitated parent involvement, which is indicator eight,
and you can see the other indicators listed here.
So it's that easy.
You can access your LEA's information, and if you have any questions,
you can feel free to contact us at PaTTAN.
So your location education agency, or LEA, has a big job.
Who supports it?
Let's find out.
There are 29 intermediate units, or IUs, in Pennsylvania.
These organizations provide services to public and non-public schools in a region,
sometimes one county, but some IUs span several counties, and others are in larger cities.
Some of these services include providing special education
for the students within the IU's boundaries.
Your local IU is responsible for making sure all federal
and state regulations regarding special education are followed.
Another support for your LEA is our organization, PaTTAN,
which is federally-funded under IDEA.
Both your local IU and PaTTAN offer training and technical assistance with special education.
Likewise, you in the community support your local LEA.
There are many ways in which this support is provided.
Particularly in the difficult times our economy and schools are facing,
it is important that our children receive the best possible education and opportunities
for their future through schools that have full community support.
The following are resources to help you navigate the world of special education and especially
with regard to the least restrictive environment.
The partners listed in this slide are service providers in the field
of special education and advocacy.
They provide services across the Commonwealth to families and individuals
from early intervention through school-age education.
You have the link for the PaTTAN website.
Also PTIs, the parent training and information centers,
which are federally-funded organizations in Pennsylvania.
The CPRCs, or community parent resource centers,
as well as the Pennsylvania Special Education ConsultLine.
Another resource is the Pennsylvania State Task Force on the Right to Education,
as well as your local task force on the right to education.
The primary purpose of the state task force and the 29 local task forces,
one in each intermediate unit, is to insure that the intent and spirit of the Right
to Education Consent Agreement is carried out through the Commonwealth.
When you click on the link, you will find information on the state task force.
If you scroll down to downloads and go to the fifth link,
it will let you find your local task force.
They usually are by county or counties according to your IU.
One of the great resources for parents is the PaTTAN website: www.pattan.net.
There are several publications on the website for parents to view.
You can download and print them, or you can request a paper copy.
I just put two topics here, which you can find on the website, concerning LRE.
One is supplementary aids and services and the other is any publication on inclusive practices.
So let me take you into the PaTTAN website
and we'll see how easy it is to locate these publications.
Here we are on the PaTTAN website, www.pattan.net.
The teal bar across the top are different topics, and they're each dropdown menus.
We're going to go to Resources and down to PaTTAN Publications.
And here's the publications page.
You can see "Search PaTTAN publications," and this is where I would put in one of the topics.
Let's pick "Supplementary aids and services."
[ Typing ]
And here are your results for supplementary aids and services, PaTTAN publications.
We're going to go into the first one, which is a one-page fact sheet.
And you have several options.
You can download this item, you can view it, you can print it, or you can add it to the cart,
and all PaTTAN publications are free.
So you just hit Download, and here you have the fact sheet.
Likewise, you would do the same -- go back out to the publications page,
search PaTTAN publications, and put in "inclusive practices,"
and you will see all the publications that are written on the topic of inclusive practices.
Here's a link to an excellent video explaining LRE in less than four minutes.
It was produced by the Ohio Department of Education.
You may or may not have seen this one in Facebook already,
but we feel that it is a very valuable resource for parents.
This is what the page will look like when you click on the link.
We hope this information has been helpful to you.
If you have any questions on least restrictive environment or any other topic
in special education, please contact myself or any of the parent consultants listed here.
There is a parent consultant in each of the three PaTTAN offices in King of Prussia,
Harrisburg, and Pittsburgh, or feel free to call anyone at PaTTAN with a question.