Author Archives: larry

IEP Services, Evaluations, and COVID 19: THE NEW NORMAL …

As we navigate the “new normal” with COVID 19 and the post-pandemic period ahead, if one is searching for the absolute “best practices” or formula guidelines, my heart goes out to you for many will be frustrated, confused, and stressed-out as a result of these changes taking place.  I believe we are entering a most extraordinary period of time, especially within education, where we are relying on compassion, common sense, and communication in contrast to compliance to “standards”, state & federal requirements, and government minutia; these will all take a back-seat to the new normal.

A new normal; where we will be sensitive to the individual, addressing their needs, focusing on evidence-based “what works?”, and establishing innovation as the foundation of our efforts.  This is a time where General Education and Special Education will need to move forward together through compassion, common sense, and communication rather than separate.  A new normal, where our priorities will feature Maslow’s Hierarchy as the foundation of our efforts moving forward: Where our actions, and efforts, will feature student needs rather than social agendas and political values.

Look what happened the last two weeks [March 12-14, 2020], schools were directed to focus on physiological needs [breakfast and lunch], safety needs [child care], and social-emotional welfare [belonging and love needs].

With this in mind, a number of my colleagues, working as lead Special Education Directors, shared the following interpretations of IDEA:

  1. All students are served as General Education students first and foremost; as long as General Education is “shut down”, Special Education is closed as well.  Exceptions include:
    1. Health and Safety issues: There are a small percentage of students who require a year-long approach to services.  We often see this within the Summer Program as an “extended school year” service.
    2. Compensatory Services: In few cases, the IEP Team will determine that due to extraordinary levels of regression [loss of skills, during an extended break, the student may require additional compensatory supports once the general education program begins again.  These services take on many different forms including after school services.
  2. There will likely be ways in which the timelines within the IEP support system, including IEP Meetings and Evaluations, will be maintained.  But this too, is on a case by case basis considering principles such as “access”, “equity”, and safety.  For example:
    1. EVALUATIONS: School Psychologists may be able to meet their 35 school day deadlines as long as they have safe and equitable access to students.  If not, districts will document these situations through clear communication and utilize the Prior Written Notice as the means to express the reasons why the Evaluation has to be extended.  In most situations, Evaluations require 1:1 contact.  As we continue to experience “Shelter in Place” conditions, and in situations where video technology is not an option, the 35 school day process will likely be extended.
    2. IEP MEETINGS: Case managers are usually very mindful of due dates when it comes to IEP annual meetings.  Once again, if the IEP Meeting can be handled through virtual means, then there is a chance these IEP Meetings can be conducted.  Then again, there are a number of hoops to jump through as we navigate technology and equitable access.   So this too may land in the Prior Written Notice file, and require an extension.
  3. As far as SERVICES, especially within the context of shifting the traditional brick and mortar model to an online or another alternative model for General Education, then the specially designed instructional model, including the service minutes, will also need to adjust and shift.  For example, if students are asked to join online learning models for their primary learning model, then the IEP may need to shift from a “direct service” from the Special Education provider [Teacher or Para Professional[, to a lighter version of “consulting” between the General Education teacher and the Special Education case manager.  This is just one example of many; it depends on the student, the means of communication, and the resources available within school and home.  Due to the nature of COVID19, we may see a significant impact upon staffing, with a percentage of teachers and para professionals directly impacted by the virus.  So the SDI (specially designed instruction] may need to be modified as well.  Again, let’s use the lens of compassion, common sense, and communication, as we move forward together!  Our efforts will be measured and judged by our intent, our efforts, our initiative; not by our ability to meet pre-dated compliance models.

So as we do, there is NO CANNED PROGRAM for us to work with.   As a result, we are called upon to be collaborative, innovative, and creative in our efforts moving forward in support of our students.  As such, this may be exactly what many of us have been calling out for: A new instructional model.  In fact, post-pandemic, and yes, this will unfold, we may be looking at a “new normal” which is so much more inclusive, equitable, and engaging than the traditional approach.  From my lens, I see the unfolding of UDL [universal design], differentiated instruction, and alternative expressions of learning moving forward.  As a person very comfortable with change, I am in my element during the COVID19 period.  But understand, I am the exception, not the rule!  We are encouraged by our state leaders to “take risk” , innovate, and be creative, as long as we embrace compassion, common sense, and communication.  “The Department [of Education at the Federal Level] encourages parents, educators, and administrators to collaborate creatively to continue to meet the needs of students with disabilities.”

Respectfully,

Larry

Good News A Coming: Universal Design and Differentiation Slowly Replacing Standards Based Instruction

We are in the midst of a new shift within our schools … As in all things within education, there tends to be extreme swings between one initiative to another. For example, for the past twenty plus years, the movement toward a standards-based model, often referred as the “Common Core”, has taken us down anContinue Reading

As the Honeymoon Comes to an End: When “Back to School” Leans into Back to Old Habits …

Honeymoon: A period of unusual harmony especially following the establishment of a new relationship … With each new school year, there is an established “honeymoon” period; where the students [as well as teachers] appear to demonstrate their very best due to the notion of a fresh start.  In many cases, this period lasts four to six weeks. Continue Reading

BACK TO SCHOOL: Thoughts Become Things … Create Your Experience!

As we cycle through routines from year to year; for many parents, August is Back to School season with all of it’s rituals including new clothes, new supplies, and other essentials.  This year, I highly recommend experiencing new thoughts, new emotions, and overall, a fresh attitude when considering the upcoming school year.  How about seeing theContinue Reading

THE 21st Century Classroom: THE NEW FOUR Rs (Subtitled: Where Have All The Hippies Gone?)

Within the 21st Century, every institution is experiencing a shift within it’s framework:  Change is EVERYWHERE. Often, it’s messy, not a pretty picture, and it’s not always easy. Though change is natural to the intentional order of life, however, it’s not always welcome within the human condition.  Some of us embrace change for it seemsContinue Reading

MUST READ: Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century (What Every Parent & Teacher Needs to Know)

Kids today are wired differently: Ask any veteran teacher who has been around for over twenty years, they will all say the same.  “Teaching today is much more demanding than ever; kids today present a challenge like we have never seen before”.  This change could present stress within the classroom. In fact, according to theContinue Reading

Einstein Had It Right: It’s ALL About Energy: Thoughts on Teaching & Parenting and What To Do About It

Another new school year, another new slogan: This year we will all be hearing about “Social Emotional Learning [SEL]” and “Trauma Sensitive Schools”.  Which is a huge step in the right direction.  For both address relationships and heart-centered approaches at the core.  This presents a major shift in contrast to the typical mantras we haveContinue Reading

Note to Teachers: Summer Vacation and The Three Legged Stool …

With summer vacation upon us, it’s so important that we all take time to refresh, rejuvenate, and rejoice in preparation for 2018-2019 during the upcoming weeks. By doing so, especially, celebrating success and thoroughly embracing the wonderful moments from this past year, we set ourselves up for a remarkable year ahead. The power of belief,Continue Reading

Taking Care of Oneself is Not Selfish: Building Resilience is a Life Skill Requirement For Us All

Are you ready for the never-ending evolution of life which is quicker, faster, deeper, more complex, engaging, and messy than ever before?   You should be … for we are all living in this remarkable period of time.  And it won’t simply just go away or return to a memory which is long, lost, and gone. Continue Reading

True Education Reform is an Inside Job

One of things I get to do in my work is to support teachers and principaIs directly when behavior issues rise to the surface.  Whether serving as an Education Advocate / Consultant or as a district Behavior Specialist, I am expected to know what I am talking about. And by doing so, I generally tendContinue Reading

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