An Advocate’s Guide to Transforming Special Education


Creating Schools Where All Students Can Thrive
May 2018

In order for me to thrive, my school must…
Find Me

The school team has a quick, accurate and transparent process for identifying students who will benefit from an individualized education plan (IEP).

> How quickly does the school assess students? Do parents or teachers currently have to fight to get their child assessed?

> How accurately do schools identify students with disabilities?

> Does the school and district/charter network take steps to ensure the process is accurate, objective and bias-free?

DISTRICT / CHARTER SCHOOL NETWORK

> District/charter network leaders have a clear process for identifying students with special needs that meets the legal requirements of “Child Find” under IDEA legislation. The process is followed throughout the year, including summer months. Leaders notify parents about policies related to special education and communicate the legal rights of parents and students.

> The district/charter network responds within 60 days to its legal obligation to evaluate any student upon request by the parent.

> District/charter network officials collect and analyze data about specific disability types and report any disproportionality in terms of race, english learner (EL) status, or income.

> Schools identify students with most disabilities in early elementary grades and the district/charter network provides resources and training for implementing universal screening and early identification processes.

> The district/charter network supports early identification through ongoing staff, community, and family education and communication. This communication is particularly present in preschool, pre-k, and kindergarten programs with targeted outreach to families that may not know their legal rights or the benefits of early identification.

SCHOOL / CLASSROOM

> School team proactively sends home information to all parents, especially those with students in early grades, to explain the process for assessing and identifying students with disabilities, the timelines, and the legal rights of parents and students throughout the process.

> If a parent requests that a student be assessed for special education services, the school team acts quickly to perform complete psycho-educational assessments as required by law.

> School teams collect data from a wide variety of sources including academic assessments, behavioral checklists, and early childhood development inventories for all students, including those in early grades. Teams use this data to conduct universal screenings and identify students who need additional support and those who might benefit from special education services.

> School-wide systems are in place for sharing data about student performance and behavior, which is used to make decisions about which students are referred to be assessed and when for special education.

> Teachers and administrators welcome and actively seek insights from families about how their children learn. Families receive frequent reports on how their children are progressing and how their needs are being addressed.

> The school team provides early, school-wide and appropriately intensive support to all students as soon as they fall behind.

> If these interventions are not enough, the school starts a collaborative, unbiased and timely process to formally evaluate a student’s need for special education services.

> The school team regularly reviews the results from the identification process to ensure that certain student groups — particularly students of color, low-income students, and English-language learners — are not over-identified as having a disability.

> The school team proactively communicates with families at every step of the identification process.

YOU ARE VIEWING AN EXCERPT FROM THE FULL CHAPTER IN AN ADVOCATE’S GUIDE TO TRANSFORMING SPECIAL EDUCATION.

The excerpt shows the observable actions that parent advocates should “look for” in a school, organization, or district that is truly doing what it takes to help students with disabilities succeed. Parents can use these “look fors” not only to advocate for their child, but also to push for reforms that are necessary at a broader level.

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Click on the “English” or “Spanish” link to download a PDF.

Full report English | Spanish
Believe in me English | Spanish
Include me English | Spanish
Find me English | Spanish
Catch me when (or before) I fall English | Spanish
Meet me where I am and challenge me English | Spanish
Know me English | Spanish
Involve me and my family English | Spanish
Stick with me English | Spanish

See what it looks like in action.

KIPP Raíces
Academy

A low-income school in Los Angeles where students with disabilities excel.
Read more

Lafayette
Elementary

This San Francisco Unified school shows what great special education can look like.
Read more