Topic of the Month

January 2018

Residential Placement by School Districts

On rare occasions, a school district may determine that a public or private residential program is necessary to provide special education and related services to a child with a disability. When this occurs, the cost of all non-medical care, and room and board, must be at no cost to the parents. (Federal regulations Section 300.104)

Section 226.330 of the Illinois regulations also clarifies that when an IEP Team determines that no less restrictive setting on the continuum of alternative placements will meet a child's needs, the child may be placed in a State-operated or nonpublic special education facility. In such a case, use of a State-operated program is to be given first consideration. However, the district has to refer the child to the agency or facility which is most appropriate to the individual situation. This determination is to be based upon recent diagnostic to the individual situation. This determination is to be based upon recent diagnostic assessments and other pertinent evidence and made in light of such other factors as proximity to the child's home. Evidence of a condition that presents a danger to the physical well-being of the student or to other students may be taken into consideration in identifying the appropriate placement for a particular child.


December 2017

Your Child's Educational Records


Your local education agency (LEA), the home district in which you reside, is responsible for maintaining your child’s educational records.  Your child’s permanent record includes your child’s name, date of birth, address, attendance record, grades, etc.  Your child’s temporary record includes all other records such as psychological test results, IEPs (Individual Educational Programs), behavior reports, etc.  You have the right to inspect and review these records. 

HOW DO I GET THEM?                   WHAT DO I ASK FOR?

If you do not currently have a copy of all of your child’s records, and wish to receive a copy, send your request in writing to your local school district and include your child’s name, date of birth, and current attendance center.

If you want a complete set of records, be sure to indicate that you are requesting both “permanent” and “temporary” records.  

If you do not need your child’s complete record, identify which documents you are requesting.

You may be charged a copying fee by the district.


You have several options for organizing your child’s school records.  Use the method that works best for you.   Keep the records in a binder, expandable file, or storage box.  You may want to highlight the date on each document to make it easier to organize the records.

In chronological order

Place your child’s school records in order of date (oldest to newest or newest to oldest).

Look for “exam date” on testing results and “conference date” on documents developed during school meetings.

By school year

Have a separate file for all documents generated during each school year. 

By type of document

Sort all records by categories such as IEPs, psychological tests, independent evaluations, therapy reports, behavior assessments and plans, grades, correspondence with school staff, etc.  Then organize items in each of these categories by date. 

Bring your copy of your child’s current IEP to the annual review meeting.  Progress toward goals will be reviewed and you will be able to follow along as team members discuss your child’s accomplishments. 


Psychological testing, educational evaluations, and therapy reports all provide the information needed to document your child’s strengths and areas of difficulty.  This information is used to determine your child’s present level of performance.  For each area of deficit noted in the IEP, one or more goals should be written to clarify what your child is expected to achieve in one year’s time.  Accommodations, modifications, and supports are then listed that will be needed in order for your child to meet the goals.  Once goals and support needs are established, your child’s educational placement will be determined.


By reviewing test scores and evaluation data, past IEPs, and progress reports, you will be better prepared to participate in planning for your child’s educational programming.  By reviewing progress toward past goals as documented in your child’s educational records, you will be able to see which supports or settings have produced the most educational benefit. 


Examples of how to use your child’s school records in planning for your child’s educational programming:

1-Read your child’s psychological reports or therapy evaluations and list strengths that were noted and list deficits that were discovered.  Then examine the IEPs to see if there are goals for each area of deficit and if your child’s strengths were considered in the development of the program.  (Ex:  Your child was noted to have difficulty with written expression but great verbal skills and auditory processing strengths.  Check the IEP to see if there are any goals for increasing writing skills. Also look to see if your child was allowed to demonstrate knowledge of subject areas orally rather than by tests or assignments requiring written work.)  Make sure your child’s IEP is individualized to meet his/her specific needs.


2-Write down the date of each IEP that has been written for your child and next to each date list the goals that were written in that IEP.  Then think about the following:  If a goal was not met one year, was the goal repeated on the next IEP or was a change made in the expectation?  Have the majority of goals been accomplished each year?  Have the goals been measurable?  (Ex:  If one goal was “Mary will increase positive social interactions with peers” and in one year’s time Mary learned to sit next to peers in the cafeteria but did not initiate any conversations, did she meet the goal?)  Ask that each goal be specific and measurable.  Know exactly what your child will need to do in order to meet the goal.


3-Chart your child’s district-wide and statewide assessment scores from different years.  Note whether your child’s scores are improving at an expected rate, or whether the gap between your child’s score and the scores of most students of the same age is widening.  (Ex:  Your child was one year behind same age peers in reading based on assessment scores.  Three years later your child’s scores indicate he/she is two years behind peers in reading even though he/she had made a small improvement in reading each year.)  Request research-based curriculums to increase your child’s rate of progress.


4-During periods when your child made progress or improvements, locate what supports were in place.  Did your child have more small group instruction that year?  Did your child receive more therapy that year?  Was there a behavior management plan in place at that time that included social skills training?  (Ex:  Your child’s verbal communication skills greatly improved the year he received individual speech therapy and group speech therapy each week.)  Make a list of what supports and related services have been most successful for your child and discuss these at your child’s IEP meeting. 

Contact our office if you would like assistance in reviewing your child’s school records: 866-436-7842


November 2017

Starting the Puberty Conversation

"If you find it uncomfortable to talk with your youth about sexuality and puberty, you're not alone. Most parents do. Those conversations are critical to your child's health and safety, however. They help your child develop self-care skills, cultivate social skills, gain an understanding of appropriate behaviors, increase personal safety, and be on the road to becoming a more independent adult." This introduction is part of Tools Parents Can Use: A Handbook for Parents of Teens with Disabilities. This handbook offers 10 tools and strategies you can use to help your child with disabilities safely navigate puberty and adolescence.

"All youth deserve information and support to get the knowledge, attitudes, behaviors and skills they need to stay healthy in relationships and protected from abuse." This statement from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services is part of the introduction to their Healthy Relationships, Sexuality and Disability Resource Guide. This guide offers resources and describes talking tips for parents of youth who have disabilities, including:

  • Starting early and talk often
  • Keeping it simple
  • Being 'askable'
  • Using correct terms
  • Trying multiple teaching techniques
  • Using 'teachable moments'
  • Not feeling like you have to have all the answers
  • Discussing your values and expectations and considering theirs
  • Modeling and teaching helpful social skills, including self-esteem
  • Seeing your son/daughter as a whole person capable of experiencing romantic love and affection
  • Encouraging independent thinking and action, decision-making skills and boundary setting
  • Exposing them to a variety of social situations and experiences
  • Teaching them about consent
  • Guiding them to access ongoing sources of information and support


October 2017

Bullying at School

Bullying involves:

  • Behavior that hurts or harms another person physically or emotionally, and 
  • An inability for the target to stop the behavior and defend themselves, and
  • An imbalance of power that occurs when the student doing the bullying has more physical, emotional, or social power than the target, and
  • Repetitive behavior; however, bullying can occur in a single incident if that incident is either very severe or arises from a pattern of behavior

PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center offers information for parents on helping their child deal with bullying, working with the school on this issue, and mobile and online safety.

In October 2014, as part of National Bullying Prevention Month, the U.S. Education Department's Officer for Civil Rights (OCR) issued guidance to schools reminding them that bullying is wrong and must not be tolerated - including bullying against America's 6.5 million students with disabilities.

Illinois law related to protecting students from bullying include:

Bullying Prevention




September 2017

Facilitated IEP Meetings - A Free Service to Facilitate Effective Communication between Parents and District Personnel

Starting with the 2017-2018 school year, all Illinois parents of children who have an individualized education program (IEP) or school personnel have the right to request state-sponsored IEP facilitation services from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) if there is a need for more effective communication during IEP meetings. This was previously only available in pilot sites. There is no cost to the parent or the school for this service. The IEP facilitator keeps the focus of the meeting on a productive child-centered IEP process conducted in a respectful and collaborative manner.

State-sponsored facilitation is a voluntary process; both the parent and the district have to agree to participate. Once a parent or a district representative requests a facilitated IEP meeting, ISBE will contact the other party to inquire if they agree to participate in the process. 

The IEP facilitator is someone specially trained in IEP facilitation who is not an employee of the district nor has an interest in advocating for either side. The facilitators are impartial, trained, and knowledgeable; but they have no authority to enforce or override any action by either party.

Sherry Colgrove is the IEP Facilitation State Coordinator. She may be reached at or 866-262-6663.

IEP Facilitation System, including Request Form


August 2017

Alternate Assessment of Academic Achievement

Federal law requires that States implement a set of high-quality academic assessments that assess math, reading or language arts, and science. The reading/language arts and math assessments are required to be administered in each of grades 3 through 8 and once more in high school. Science assessments are required to be administered at least once during grades 3 through 5, once during grades 6 through 9, and once during high school. In Illinois, grade school students take the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) assessment with science assessments being administered in grades 5, 8, and 11. The College Board's SAT test is administered in the 11th grade.

For students with disabilities, the individualized education program (IEP) must indicate whether the student will:

  • Participate in PARCC with no accessibility features turned on in advance and no accommodations or the SAT with no accommodations;
  • Participate in PARCC with accessbility features turned on in advance and/or accommodations or the SAT with accommodations - (the accommodations must be outlined on a form attached to the IEP); or
  • Take the alternate assessment. (The alternate assessment given to students in Illinois is the Dynamic Learning Maps Alternate Assessment - DLM-AA).


Only students with the most significant cognitive disabilities are permitted to take the alternate assessment. The student must meet all 3 or these criteria in order to take the alternate assessment:

  • The student has a significant cognitive disability;
  • The student's instruction is linked to grade level content and reflective of the Common Core Essential Elements; and
  • The student requires extensive direct individualized instruction and substantial supports to achieve measurable gains in the grade-and-age-appropriate curriculum.


More details about these requirements are provided at:


July 2017

Related Services in the IEP

An individualized education program (IEP) is developed for each student who has been determined eligible for special education services. The IEP is a detailed description of what will be done to meet that student's needs. The document contains a description of the "related services" to be provided, including:

  • How often they will be provided
  • How long they will be provided
  • Where they will be provided, and
  • Who will provide the service


A related service means transportation and such developmental, corrective, and other supportive services as are required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education, and includes:

  • Speech-language pathology and audiology services
  • Interpreting services
  • Psychological services
  • Physical and occupational therapy
  • Recreation, including therapeutic recreation
  • Early identification and assessment of disabilities in children
  • Counseling services, including rehabilitation counseling
  • Orientation and mobility services, and
  • Medical services for diagnostic or evaluation purposes


Related services also include:

  • School health services and school nurse services
  • Social work services in schools, and
  • Parent counseling and training


For a definition of each of these services, review the Code of Federal Regulations Part 300 Subpart A Section 300.34 at:


June 2017

Multi-Tiered System of Supports

A Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) is a framework for continuous improvement that is systemic, prevention focused, and data-informed, providing a coherent continuum of supports responsive to meet the needs of all learners.

With an MTSS framework, ALL students receive "core instruction" and support to prevent academic, behavior and social emotional issues. Schools administer universal screening to determine who is at risk of falling behind the other students. The school district collects and analyzes this and other data to make decisions about creating positive outcomes for every student. Students whose results fall below a particular level receive additional help or intervention. If, based on data, a student needs additional time and support, then targeted or intensive intervention is provided. The school frequently checks to see whether the extra help is closing the gap between that student and peers in the area or areas of concern. The intensity of intervention will then depend on how the student responds to the interventions.

Parents have a right to information about the tiered supports their child is receiving and how their progress is being monitored. Parents can ask questions, such as:

  • What is the intervention?
  • What level of support is my child receiving?
  • What is the goal for my child with this intervention?
  • How do we measure this?
  • Who will measure it?
  • How often will they measure it?
  • When will we meet to review results?
  • How long will this intervention be used before deciding if another strategy or level of support is needed?


Contact Family Matters at to receive a packet of information on MTSS and Response to Interventions.


May 2017

Conflict Resolution - Procedural Safeguards

When parents of children receiving special education services disagree with the school district there are options available for resolving the conflict.  Parents often find it is more effective to state their “interest” rather than their “position”.  For example, they may describe the safety or academic needs that are not currently being met and work with school staff to increase supports rather than to begin by asking for a particular solution such as a one-on-one aide.  Parents need a clear understanding of the supports and services that are currently being offered to their child.  Reviewing student records can be the first step in coming to an agreeable solution.  Parents may then be more clearly able to describe the additional supports they feel their children need.  Charting testing results and student progress can supply data to back up requests for changes to services.  Family Matters offers student record reviews.  Parents may call 866-436-7842 for assistance. 

Sometimes it is necessary to bring in an outside party when disputes occur.  A state appointed facilitator is available in some areas of Illinois at this time.  The facilitator makes sure that each viewpoint is shared and all parties respectfully listen during an IEP meeting.  Mediation is another option for working out differences.  Mediation is a voluntary process designed to work out agreements with both parties that will work to benefit the child.  The mediator is specifically trained on special education matters and meets with each side separately and then jointly in order to come to a mutually agreeable solution.  This process can lead to a legally binding document of agreement between the parties.  Requests for an IEP facilitator or mediator may be made to the Illinois State Board of Education at 217-782-5589.

When a more formal means of conflict resolution is necessary, parents may file a State Complaint.  The complaint will be assigned to an investigator hired by the Illinois State Board of Education.  The complaint investigator will gather information from both parties by telephone, email, and mail and, within a 60 calendar day time frame, reach a conclusion and issue a “letter of finding”.  The investigator will be looking to see if laws and regulations have been followed.  To file a state complaint, go to

The most formal way to resolve a dispute related to special education services is to file for a Due Process Hearing.  This process is similar to court proceedings and parents usually secure the representation of an attorney.  The hearings involve formal arguments, witness testimony, and the use of documentary evidence.  They can involve a lot of time and money and should be used only when other options have failed to resolve disputes.  To learn more about filing for a due process hearing, go to


April 2017

The Members of the IEP Team

The team that will meet to make educational decisions for a student who is eligible for special education services includes:


  • The student (whenever appropriate)
    The school MUST invite the student once the child reaches the age of transition (the year in which the child will turn 14 ½ years old).  If the student does not attend, the school must take other steps to ensure that the child’s preferences and interests are considered in the development of postsecondary goals.  
  • The student’s parents
  • Not less than one regular education teacher of the student (if the student is, OR MAY BE, participating in the regular education environment)
    The regular education teacher is to participate in the development of the IEP, including the determination of appropriate positive behavioral interventions and supports, and other strategies, and the determination of supplementary aids and services, program modifications, and support for school personnel.
  • Not less than one special education teacher
  • A representative of the school who is qualified to provide, or supervise the provision of, specially designed instruction and who can commit to services and resources of the district
  • An individual who can interpret evaluation results
  • For students who are 14 ½ or older, to the extent appropriate, and with the consent of the parent or the student (if 18 or older), the school must invite a representative of any participating agency that is likely to be responsible for providing or paying for transition services
  • Other individuals, at the discretion of the parent or the school, who has knowledge or special expertise regarding the student (including related service personnel such as OT, PT, and speech therapists)


If the meeting will not be addressing a specific related service, the school and parent can agree that the service provider need not be present for part or all of the meeting.  A member can be excused when the meeting involves the member’s area of the curriculum or related services, if the parent and the school consent, and the member submits input in writing.  The parent’s agreement to this is to be in writing.


If minor additions or revisions need to be made to the IEP before the annual meeting is due, the parent and the school may agree to the amendments or modifications without a meeting of the full IEP team.  A copy of the modified IEP document is to be provided to the parent.


The parent and the school may, if necessary, agree to the use of alternative means of meeting participation, such as conference calls or video conferencing.  


March 2017

Curriculum-Based Assessment

In order to achieve social and academic competence, students need to meet the goals and objectives of a curriculum that teaches to the learning standards for their grade level. To examine whether a student is achieving this target, frequent assessment data is needed. Curriculum-based assessment is an assessment tool that allows students to be quickly and easily assessed as they engage in a typical classroom task related to reading, spelling, writing, or math. Repeated measures over time will generate information on the student's rate of progress.

In reading, assessments look at oral reading fluency (students read aloud for one minute and the number of words read and the number of errors are recorded), and maze reading (students insert correct words into a reading passage from choice of three words). For early reading assessments, students are tested on letter sound fluency (students are shown pictures and indicate which one starts with a particular letter) and word identification (reading words they are expected to master during the year).

In spelling, students may be given 12-17 words to spell that the teacher says orally. Students have 10 seconds to spell each word. The list of words corresponds to spelling words included in the spelling curriculum. 

In writing, students may be given a "starter sentence" and then have to write a passage during a three minute time period. Students are assessed on the number of words written, punctuation, spelling, and correct writing sequences.

Math skills are also assessed by looking at skills directly linked to the skills being taught in the curriculum and that the student is expected to learn by the end of the year. Assessments include the areas of early numberacy, computation, and math concepts and application.

These assessments are so brief that a student may not even realize they are being assessed to determine their skill level. The results should be graphed and compared over time. Teachers can use the information gained by the assessments to determine which students need help, which students need modified instruction, and which students no longer need specialized assistance. The scores/graphs generated by curriculum-based assessments can help parents better understand how their child is progressing and highlight strength and deficit areas that parents and teachers can discuss as they make educational planning decisions together.

IRIS STAR Progress Monitoring

Reading Rockets


February 2017
Restraint and Seclusion of Students

What constitutes seclusion
The involuntary confinement of sa student alone in a room or area from which the student is physically prevented from leaving. It does not include a timeout, which is a behavior management technique that is part of an approved program, involves the monitored separation of the student in a non-locked setting, and is implemented for the purpose of calming.

What constitutes restraint?
Physical restraint: A personal restriction that immobilizes or reduces the ability of a student to move his or her torso, arms, legs, or head freely. The term physical restraint does not include a physical escort. Physical escort means a temporary touching or holding of the hand, wrist, arm, shoulder, or back for the purpose of inducing a student who is acting out to walk to a safe location.
Mechanical restraint: The use of any device or equipment to restrict a student's freedom of movement. This term does not include adaptive devices, vehicle safety restraints, devices for medical immobilization or orthopedically prescribed devices.

In December 2016, the Office for Civil Rights issued a fact sheet explaining how the use of restraint and seclusion may result in discrimination against students with disabilities and explained the process for requesting information or assistance from their office.

Fact Sheet: Restraint and Seclusion of Students with Disabilities

In a 2012 Restraint and Seclusion: Resource Document, the U.S. Department of Education maintained that every effort should be made to prevent the need for the use of restraint and seclusion and that any behavioral intervention must be consistent with the child's rights to be treated with dignity and to be free from abuse. The resource document made it clear that restraint or seclusion should never be used except in situations where a child's behavior poses imminent danger of serious physical harm to self or others and that restraint or seclusion should never be used as punishment or discipline.

The U.S. Department of Education noted that the use of restraint or seclusion, particularly when there is repeated use for an individual child, multiple uses within the same classroom, or multiple uses by the same individual should trigger a review and, if appropriate, revision of strategies currently in place to address dangerous behavior.

Parents should be informed of the policies on restraint and seclusion at their child's school or other educational setting, as well as applicable Federal, State, or local laws. Parents should be notified as soon as possible following each instance in which restraint or seclusion is used with their child. 

Restraint and Seclusion: Resource Document 2012 - U.S. Department of Education

January 2017

SAT Exam Replaces PARCC Assessment for High School Students

From 2001 to 2014, Illinois high school juniors took the ACT college readiness assessment each April to test high school achievement and to obtain a score for college admission. In 2015 and 2016 Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) testing was administered to both grade school and high school students. For Spring 2017, high school students will take the SAT with a writing component included. Students in grades 3-8 will continue to take the PARCC assessment.

Tony Smith, Illinois' State Superintendent of Education, explains in a July 11, 2016 Dear Colleague letter, that it is important to provide access to a college entrance exam for all Illinois students. He feels it is essential to give all students an opportunity to receive a college-reportable score at no cost that may assist with admission to an institution of higher education. The SAT will provide that opportunity and will serve as the state assessment for purposes of state and federal accountability. Smith notes that the SAT aligns with the Illinois Learning Standards.

Dear Colleague on SAT

FAQ on Replacing PARCC with SAT