Topic of the Month

June 2019

Regional Offices of Education and SAFE Schools

Regional Offices of Education, which are grouped by county or counties throughout Illinois, are administered by Regional Superintendents who are locally elected officials. They are the intermediate agency between the Illinois State Board of Education and local school districts. Services of the ROEs include:

  • visit and inspect school buildings
  • provide safety courses for bus drivers
  • process educator licensure
  • respond to questions, including legal questions, from citizens, educators, and Boards of Education
  • assist with cooperatives special education programs, and vocational programs
  • administer the GED programs administer truancy programs
  • offer Safe School Alternative Education programs

The Regional Safe School Program (RSSP) serves expulsion-eligible and suspension-eligible student in grades 6-12. Expelling or suspending disruptive students puts them on the street, which may increase safety and advance the learning environment inside the school premises, but does not service the educational needs of the expelled or suspended students or the community's need for public safety.

The purposes of RSSP is twofold: 1) to increase safety and promote the learning environment in schools and 2) to meet the particular educational needs of disruptive students more appropriately and individually in alternative educaiton environments. Currently, there are approximately 80 RSSP program sites in Illinois in urban, suburban and rural areas of the state. Each student has an Alternative Education Plan (AEP) and positive outcomes include: reduction in disruptive behavior, regular attendance, coursework completion and credit received advancement in grade level, return to home school, grammar or high school graduation and where appropriate completing a program leading to taking the GED test and passing the GED. Behavior modification training and other counseling, life skills trianing, community service, and work-based learning experiences are aspects of RSSP. Computerized learning systems may supplement the primary academic instruction or may be used as the primary method of instruction. For more information visit https://www.isbe.net/Pages/Regional-Safe-Schools-Program.aspx

 

May 2019

Summer Food Service Program

The Summer Food Service Program provides nutritious meals to children age 18 and younger during the summer months in low-economic areas when school is not in session. SFSP sponsors received federal reimbursement via the Illinois State Board of Education to cover the administrative and operating costs of preparing and serving meals. School districts, local goverments, and nonprofits can become sponsors and set up serving sites in schools, parks, recreation centers, resource centers, churches, summer camps, libraries, and other community locations. Former State Superintendent of Education, Tony Smith (replaced by Dr. Carmen Ayala on 2/26/19) said "Losing access to school lunch and breakfast over the summer poses a significant challenge for many Illinois families. The link between sufficient healthy food and our ability to learn and retain information is indisputable." Some Illinois counties still need partners to fill gaps in access to healthy meals. Families can find their nearest summer meals site by calling 800-359-2163 or visiting http://summerfeedingillinois.org

 

April 2019
Sharing Information About Your Child

When developing an Individualized Education Program, parents need to work with the IEP team to develop a plan that takes into consideration their child's strengths. Parents need a way to do this that best portrays their child's unique personality and yet is easily shared and concise.

One way to do this is to share a "Student Snapshot" with school staff prior to, or during, the IEP meeting. PACER Center in Minnesota has developed a format for student snapshots. They include a template for preparing a one-page document that is easily shared.
Student Snapshot

Another important way to individualize supports and services, is to make sure staff are aware of a child's preferences. The Center for Learning and Leadership has developed a guide related to preference indicators. This plan is organized around seven domain areas and is a tools for matching interests in peer activities and selecting providers.
Child Preference Indicators 

 

March 2019
Using Endrew F. Language in Determining F.A.P.E. for Your Child

Each child eligible for special education services is entitled to a Free Appropriate Public Education - F.A.P.E. What constitutes a "free appropriate public education" has long been debated by the courts. On March 22, 2017 the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion in the Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District case. The previous standard for F.A.P.E. was an educational program that was calculated to provide "merely more than de minimis" educational benefit. In the Endrew F. case it was determined that a school must offer an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that is "reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child's circumstances" and the court emphasized that "every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives". The court explained that a "student offered an educational program providing merely more than de minimis progress from year to year can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all".

The United States Department of Education issued a Question and Answer document about the case on December 7, 2017. Question 12 of that document addresses how an IEP team can ensure that every child has the chance to meet challenging objectives. The answer states that each child with a disability must be offered an IEP that is designed to provide access to instructional strategies and curricula aligned to both challenging State academic content standards and ambitious goals, based on the unique circumstances of the child, and that the IEP must aim to enable the child to make progress. In the answer to Question 13, it is noted that "advancement from grade to grade is appropriately ambitious for most children in the regular clasroom" and that the IEP must be designed to enable the child to be involved in, and make progress in, the general education cirriculum. The document also emphasizes that if a child is not making progress toward his or her annual goals, the IEP team must revise, as appropriate, the IEP to address the lack of progress.

The language of this case is important to keep in mind as parents review their child's current IEP, review their child's progress reports, and plan for their child's next IEP.

Question and Answers on U.S. Supreme Court Decision

 

February 2019
School Personnel

Each school district, or the special education cooperative of which it is a member, is to employee sufficient personnel as needed to deliver and supervise the full continuum of special education and related services needed by students who qualify for special education. The Illinois Administrative Code identifies the required education and experience required for professionals who provide instruction, career and technical coordinators, individuals assigned as teacher coordinators, business manager assistance, bilingual specialists, directors and assistant directors of special education, supervisors, chief administrators of special schools, other professional personnel, and personnel who do not hold educator licenses. The Code also identifies who can perform specific evaluations (academic, assistive tech, learning processes, neurological, psychological, etc.). Search for this information in Subpart 1: Personnel.

23 Illinois Administrative Code 226

 

January 2019

Sensory Processing Issues in the Classroom

Students who experience trouble receiving and responding to information that comes in through their senses often struggle in the classroom. Students may be over or under responsive to sensory input. Some are oversensitive to sounds, making common sounds painful. Some are oversensitive to touch, making them uncomfotable in their own clothing and at their own desk. Some may be uncoordinated in their movements. Students may improve their ability to respond appropriately and function more normally when provided with sensory integration therapy or a sensory diet. This support can be provided by an occupational therapist and activities can be carried out by other school staff. Learn more by readin gthese articles:

All Kinds of Minds Blog Article

Understood.org Sensory Diet Article

December 2018

Centers for Independent Living

There are 22 Centers for Independent Living located throughout Illinois (plus some satellite sites). They offer information and assistance with housing, transportation, employment opportunities, personal assistants, sign language interpreters, and services for those with visual impairments. They provide a bridge from high school to postsecondary education or work for youth. They set up social activities that provide peer support. They advocate for independence, inclusion, equal opportunity, and civil rights. 

To access this support, locate the center that serves your Illinois county.

INCIL - Illinois Network of Centers for Independent Living

CIL Locations

 

November 2018

Educational Services Provided in the Home

A child qualifies for home instruction if it is anticipated that, due to a medical condition, the child will be unable to attend school, and instead must be instructed at home for a period of 2 or more consecutive weeks OR on an ongoing intermittent basis. "Ongoing intermittent basis" means that the child's medical condition is of such a nature or severity that it is anticipated that the child will be absent from school due to the medical condition for period of at least 2 days at a time, multiple times during the school year totaling at least 10 days or more of absences.

In order to establish eligibility ofr home or hospital services, a student's parent must submit a written statement from a physician (gernal practice doctor, specialist, Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN), Licensed Physician's Assistant (PA, or psychiatrist). The written notice from the physician must state the condition, how it impacts the student's ability to participate in education, and the anticipated duration or nature of the child's absence from school. 

Instruction must begin immediately upon receipt of the required physician's statement, but not later than 5 school days after the statement is received. Eligible students must receive a minimum of one hour of instruction each school day, or a minimum of five hours of instruction per school week. The goal of the instruction is to afford the student experiences equivalent to those afforded to other students at the same grade level. It is designed to enable the student to return to the classroom without having fallen behind. The instruction is to enable the student to remain on pace with the other students in his or her class. The instructor for general education students must meet the same requirements as would be required in the classroom. For students with disabilities, the instructor needs to be the type of instructor that would be fulfilling the student's Individualized Education Program (IEP) requirements back at school.

Homebound Instruction

Medical Certification

 

October 2018

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

Intimidation

Cyberstalking

 

September 2018
IEPs for Students with Autism

Section 14-8.02 of the Illinois School Code addresses the development of an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for students who have autism spectrum disorders. A memo from the Illinois State Board of Education was issued regarding the requirements of the IEP team in meeting the unique educational issues of these students. The memo acknowledges that students on the autism spectrum often have complex needs that can be challenging for schools to provide effective and appropriate experiences. The special considerations IEP teams must consider are set up to assist schools in framing effective supports which result in improved outcomes for a student on the autism spectrum.

IEP teams are to consider all of the following factors:

  • The verbal and nonverbal communication needs of the child.
  • The need to develop social interaction skills and proficiences.
  • The needs resulting from the child's unusual responses to sensory experiences.
  • The needs resulting from resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines.
  • The needs resulting from engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movement.
  • The need for any positive behavioral interventions, strategies, and supports to address any behavioral difficulties resulting from autism spectrum disorder.
  • Other needs resulting from the child's disability that impact progress in the general curriculum, including social and emotional development.

Development of IEPs for Students with ASD

 

August 2018
Building Your Child's Self-Determination

Parents of children with disabilities want their children to have the positive outcomes associated with making personal choices and directing their own life path. Being able to express preferences and make choices has been shown to decrease challenging behaviors and increase engagement in appropriate tasks.

Ideas for parents on how to develop skills in their children that can enhance self-determination - skills like choice making, goal setting, self-advocacy, and self-management - have been compiled into a guide by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, the Waisman Center University of Wisconsin, and Vanderbilt University. Fostering Self-Determination Among Children and Youth with Disabilities-Ideas from Parents for Parents contains ideas on offering children choices, supporting decision-making, encouraging problem solving, promoting goal setting and planning, reinforcing self-directed behaviors, fostering responsbility, promoting independence, supporting self-awareness and self-knowledge, encouraging self-advocacy and leadership, supporting communication, encouraging participation, fostering relationships and social connections, modeling important skills and behaivors, providing reinforcement and feedback, partnering with schools, and holding high expectations and positive attitudes.

This guide offers a menu of ideas to draw upon, adapt, and add to the strategies already in use by parents.

Fostering Self-Determination among Children and Youth with Disabilities-Ideas from Parents for Parents

 

July 2018

Section 504 and the ADA

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal law designed to protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination in programs and activities that receive federal funds. The law states "No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States...shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance..." Students with a physical or mental impairment that substantially restricts one or more major life activities are eligible for services under Section 504. A Section 504 Plan is developed for each eligible student that includes the specific accommodations and related services that the student will need to in order to participate and benefit from educational services as adequately as other students.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, a civil rights law for people with disabilities, applies to public schools. This Act defined major life activities as, including but not limited to: caring for oneself; performing manual tasks; seeing; hearing; speaking; breathing; learning; and working.

The ADA was amended in 2008 and additional major life activities: eating; sleeping; walking; standing; lifting; bending; reading; concentrating; thinking; and communicating. The additions of reading, concentrating, and thinking made it clear that students who struggle in school for reasons other than health issues were included under the law.

Unlike eligibility for Section 504 services, eligibility for special education services requires that the student need specially designed instruction and related services based on qualifying for services under a developmental delay or one of 13 other categories. However, when a student is evaluated for special education eligibility and found to be ineligible, Section 504 eligibility should be considered.

Parent Advocacy Brief from National Center for Learning Disabilities

Protecting Students with Disabilities

 

June 2018
Rights of Parents Who Choose to Place Their Children with Disabilities in Private Schools

Parents can voluntarily enroll their children in private schools. These private schools may only have limited supports available to students with disabilities. The public school district in which the private school is located, is responsible for providing limited services to the private school students who qualify as a student with a disability. The plan developed for those students is an Individuzlied Service Plan (ISP) rather than an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that the student would have in a public school.

The services provided in the private school will often be less than the services the student would receive in the public school. Districts are only required to spend a portion of their federal special education funds on students in private schools. An ISP is a much less detailed document that may only include the service type, frequency of the service, and location of where the student will receive the service. Annual goals are not required.

If a student attends a private school and there are concerns that the student might be eligible for special education services, but the student has not yet been determined eligible, the district in which the private school is located has a "child find" obligation to conduct any needed evaluations to determine eligibility.

Question and Answer Document on Parentally Placed Private School Students

 

May 2018
Graduation of Students with IEPs

Children who are eligible for special education services, those with an Individualized Education Program (IEP), are eligible for special education services, those with an Individualized Education Program (IEP), are eligible for school services through age 21 (through the day before the student's 22nd birthday) if they require continued public school educational experiences in order to facilitate his or her integration into society. This provision ends if the student earns a regular high school diploma.

Students with IEPs in Illinois either earn a Certificate of Completion or a regular diploma. An IEP team can delay the issuance of a student's regular diploma if continued experiences are needed. The Illinois regulations state that "If the student's individualized education program prescribes special education, transition planning, transition services, or related services beyond that point, issuance of that diploma shall be deferred so that the student will continue to be eligible for those services.

If the student is to receive a regular high school diploma, at least on year prior to the anticipated date of its issuance, both the parent and the student is to receive written confirmation that eligibility for public school special education services ends following the granting of the diploma and informing the parent or student that they may request an IEP meeting to review the recommendation that the student receive a regular diploma.

Students may participate in a graduation ceremony, but continue to receive educational services until the diploma is issued.

The IEP will determine how the student will meet the requirements of an Illinois high school diploma. Requirements can be modified as outlined in the IEP.

Illinois State Board of Education STATE GRADUATION REQUIREMENTS (105 ILCS 5/27-22.05, 27-22.10) February 2016 Guidance Document

 

April 2018

Adapted PE

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that physical education must be made available to students with disabilities if it is available to students without disabilities of the same grade. Students with disabilities must be afforded the opportunity to participate in the regular physical education program unless the child needs specially designed physical education. Adapted or specially designed physical education must be prescribed in the child's individualized education program (IEP).

In determining if a student qualifies for adapted PE, the school should gather information from multiple sources including data from school evaluation of psychomotor, cognitive, and functional behavior. The school should be assessing how the student participates and follows directions, communications and moves in order to determine what supports or modifications to the physical education program is needed. The student's IEP should include a goal(s) related to this area if adapted PE is needed.

Specially designed PE is specially designed instruction, so it should occur in the least restrictive environment. Students are to receive adapted PE in the general PE setting as long as the supplementary aides and services needed can be provided there.

This document from SHAPE AMERICA lists the types of supports that students might dqualify for related to adapted PE and explains the associated laws and teacher qualifications required to provide the service:

SHAPE AMERICA (Society of Health and Physical Educators) Guidance Document