The Special Ed Advocate
The Special Ed Advocate:
The Online Newsletter about Special Education and the Law
April 21, 1998 Vol. 1, No. 1
The Special Ed Advocate is
our free online newsletter about special
education legal issues, cases, tactics and strategy, educational methods
that work, and Internet links.
We publish this newsletter occasionally, when time permits. Back issues of
The Special Ed Advocate are archived at our web site -
As a subscriber to The Special Ed Advocate, you will receive announcements
and "alerts" about new cases and other events. Contact, copyright, and
subscription information can be found at the end of this newsletter.
HIGHLIGHTS OF IDEA-97
IDEA-97 is a "wake up call" to public school administratorsimprove special
education outcomes now! Special education will be "a service for children,
not a place where they are sent." Here are some highlights of IDEA 97 -
* Schools Must Use Effective Practices and Research Based Methods
* Schools Must Use Effective Early Intervention Techniques
* To Improve Special Ed Outcomes, IDEA 97 Strengthens the Role of
Parents and Educators
* IEPs Must Have "Measurable Annual Goals" to Monitor the Childs
* Parents Must Be Included in All Decisions About Evaluations,
Eligibility, IEPs, Placement
* Parents Concerns and Information Must be Considered in Developing
* Parents Must Be Advised About Childs Progress or Lack of Progress
Toward IEP Goals
* Regular Education Teachers Are Members of the IEP Team
* Children with Disabilities Will Be Integrated into Regular Education
Classes, Learn General Curriculum
IEPs and the NEW Proposed Appendix
Appendix C is a great tool for parents and educators. The U. S. Department
of Education has published the new proposed Appendix C. The new proposed
Appendix C includes 32 Questions and Answers about IEPs. You can read the
full text of the NEW proposed Appendix C at our site. This is a "must read"
article for all parents and educators who attend IEP meetings. The new
regulations about IEPs become effective July 1, 1998.
In the past, special education efforts and IEPs have often focused on
"school issues" - teaching children to follow school rules and what is
expected of them as students. Is this the purpose of special education? Not
according to IDEA 97.
Special education should teach children to read, write, spell, and do
arithmetic. Children need these skills to succeed later - in work, school,
and independent living. IDEA 97 emphasizes the importance of comprehensive
transition services in IEPs to prepare children for life after school.
To find out what the regulations propose about IEPs, read "IEPs and the NEW
Appendix C." Read these proposed regs, highlighter in hand, and become a
real expert on special education law!
What Are Measurable Annual Goals and Measurable Short-Term Objectives?
IEP Goals must relate to the childs disability - and they must be
MEASURABLE. The new law mandates "measurable annual goals, including
benchmarks or short term objectives." In addition to MEASURABLE goals, the
IEP must include MEASURABLE intermediate steps (short-term objectives) or
major milestones (benchmarks) so that parents and educators can measure the
childs progress during the year. The childs IEP should be reviewed and
revised whenever necessary during the year. (Question 1 in IEPs and Appendix
The new law gives power to parents. What happens if the parents and school
disagree about some portion of the childs IEP? "The IEP meeting serves as a
communication vehicle between parents and school personnel, and enables
them, as equal participants, to make joint, informed decisions" about the
childs needs, appropriate goals and objectives, the extent to which the
child will be mainstreamed, and the services the child will receive.
"Parents are to be equal partners with school personnel" in all decisions
about testing, IEP goals and objectives, placement, assessment, and needed
services. The IEP team must consider the parents concerns and information
about the child in developing and reviewing IEPs (See Question 9 in "IEPs
and Appendix C")
Who should attend IEP meetings?
Feeling overwhelmed or intimidated by the number of school staff at the IEP
meeting? Take heart. The new law says that IEP team should only include
"individuals who have knowledge or special expertise about the child." (This
is a change from prior law.) "Attendance at IEP meetings should be limited
to those who have an intense interest in the child." (See Question 26 in
IEPs and Appendix C)
How often should IEP meetings be held?
Do you have concerns that your child is not making good progress in special
ed? The school should convene a meeting and revise the IEP to address your
concerns about "Any lack of expected progress toward the annual goals and in
the general curriculum." The school should revise the IEP when there is new
information about the child - from new testing or from the childs parents
or teachers. There should be as many IEP meetings as any one child needs.
(See Question 20 in IEPs and Appendix C)
To get a copy of IEPs and the NEW Appendix C, go to -
TWO NEW CASES ABOUT DAMAGES -
Law changes and evolves. Different courts will interpret a statute - or the
same words in a statute - differently. These differing interpretations cause
the body of law to grow from statutes and regulations to case law.
On April 3, a jury awarded $600,000 to the parents of a handicapped child in
Whitehead v. Hillsborough.
On April 13, the Fourth Circuit held that damages were not available in the
case of an 18 year old boy who did not receive special education services
until late high school. See Sellers v. Manassas.
Two damages cases - different outcomes. To learn why, read these new cases
in The Law Library.
LD Online - An Award Winning Site! LD Online is a great source for
information about the needs of children with disabilities.
IDEA 97 focuses on using "what works" - effective educational practices that
are replicable and research based. To provide parents and educators with
up-to-date information about "what works," LD Online is hosting an "Ask the
Expert Panel" from April 11 through April 24, 1998. To read the postings, go
to the bulletin board section.
At the LD Online site, you will find information about
Links: IEPs and IEP Meetings
Check out the excellent article "Writing Individualized Education Programs
for Success" by Dr. Barbara Bateman. Dr. Bateman wrote "Better IEPs." (LD
Online site, "LD In-Depth," Section About IEPs)
We have written two articles about IEPs. Read both. We believe that if
parents want to participate in IEP meetings and assume a rule in the
draftsmanship of the IEP, they must understand educational progress - how to
measure success or failure. Educational benefit is best measured
independently and objectively, by disinterested observers who do not have an
interest in the outcome of the test data. That is the theme of our articles,
"Your Childs IEP: Practical and Legal Guidance for Parents" and
"Understanding Tests and Measurements." Both are available at our website.
Read "Seven Habits of Highly Effective IEP Teams" by Eileen Hammar and Anne
Malatchi. (at LD Online site, LD In-Depth Section on IEPs) With thanks to
Stephen Covey, this article focuses on an active, organized approach to IEP
Rule 1: Be Proactive. "Taking initiative does not mean being pushy,
obnoxious, or aggressive. It does mean recognizing our responsibility to
make things happen."
Rule 2: Begin with the End in Mind. The IEP team must know the child and
envision the future. What are this childs strengths? Weaknesses? Goals?
Needs? The IEP team should focus on the big picture - being successful
in "life after school" - then decide how to get from the present to the
Rule 3: Put First Things FirstPrioritize. Understand what needs to be
accomplished, focus on what, not how; results not methods. Spend time.
Be patient. Visualize the desired result.
Rule 4: Think Win- Win. Effective IEP teams look for real solutions to
problems. When school personnel draw lines in the sand or refuse to
provide necessary services, they damage the relationship between parents
and school. In "Win-Win" solutions, there is awareness of the importance
of mutual benefit.
Rule 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood. Most people
want to be understood - this means we dont listen to understand. We are
either speaking or preparing to speak. Learn how to listen.
Rule 6: Synergy. Good IEPs are developed by effective
parent-child-school teams Effective teams work together, understanding
that parents and educators are necessary to educate children.
Rule 7: Sharpen the Saw. "This is the habit of continuous improvement
that lifts you to new levels of understanding . . ."
IDEA 97 -
For more about the changes in IDEA 97, including the stronger parental role
and the need for accountability, read "Believing in Children - A great IDEA
for the future" by Judy Heumann and Tom Hehir at the Department of Education
our first issue of The Special Ed Advocate with a story.
Many of our readers are long-time advocates for children with special needs.
You may remember that the special ed law was stuck in Congress for more than
two years as competing interest groups (school administrators v. parents and
disabilities advocates) fought about changes to the law.
Suddenly, on May 14, 1997, the logjam broke. The Senate passed the new IDEA
by an astounding vote of 98-1!
Why? What happened? Why do Senators refer to IDEA-97 as "Gregorys Law?"
Read "How One Boy Moved Congress" at the Department of Education web site.
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Copyright 1998 Peter W. D. Wright and Pamela Darr Wright. All rights
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Pete and Pam Wright
P O Box 1008
Deltaville, VA 23043