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.

    IDEA-97 is a "wake up call" to public school administrators—improve 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 Child’s
        * 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 Child’s 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 C
    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 child’s 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
    child’s progress during the year. The child’s 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 child’s 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
    child’s 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 child’s 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 -

    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—
        Family Issues
        Legal Issues
        Social Skills
        Math Skills
        Processing Deficits
        Teaching Techniques

        More 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 Child’s IEP: Practical and Legal Guidance for Parents" and
    "Understanding Tests and Measurements." Both are available at our website.

        Effective IEP Teams
    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 child’s 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 First—Prioritize. 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 don’t 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 . . ."

        More About 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
    web site.

        We close 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 "Gregory’s 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