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09/11/20

Special Education & EL In-Person Services Rally

Parents and educators join to demand “in-person services in safe spaces” for highest-needs students

Schoolyard News
Sep 11 · 7 min read

By Alain Jehlen

About 100 parents and educators came together outside the Bolling Building headquarters of the Boston Public Schools yesterday to demand that officials find safe spaces for students who desperately need in-person services.

These are children who have severe disabilities, or are just starting to learn English, are homeless, or face other major barriers that block them from learning online.

“Why not put our students in the Bolling Building, and send the administrators into the schools?” asked Edith Bazile, a former BPS special educator and former President of the Black Educators Alliance of Massachusetts who was one of the organizers.

Bazile suggested City Hall could also be used for in-person learning. She said there are many spaces, public and private, that are available and easier to make COVID safe than some of the aging school buildings.

The rally was organized by the Boston Education Justice Alliance, the BPS Special Education Parents Advisory Council, the Boston Teachers Union, and 10 other organizations.

In-person help delayed

But while the groups were gearing up for the protest, the BPS administration delayed the four-day-a-week, in-person learning they have promised for the highest-needs students.

Last week, the reopening schedule called for four-day-a-week in-person services to start October 1. But this week, with no notice to families, the schedule on the BPS website was changed to just two days a week starting October 1.

Four-day-a-week help for these students is now put off until a “Date to be determined… based on classroom capacity and transportation timeline.” The only exceptions are a relatively small number of students who go to special schools. They are to start four days a week October 12.

Do the right thing?

The change was so sudden, it tripped up an effort by Mayor Marty Walsh and Superintendent Brenda Cassellius to promote the reopening plan in a column in the Bay State Banner, posted yesterday. “We are prioritizing high-needs special education students by giving them the option of in-person learning up to four days per week, starting October 1,” Walsh and Cassellius wrote. “This is the right thing to do.” It may be right, but it’s not what they’re doing according the current plan.

Parents explain why their children need in-person learning

At the rally, several parents described their children’s unsuccessful experience with remote learning.

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Karina Paulino-Pena

“My son has significant intellectual and physical delay due to Down Syndrome,” said Blackstone School parent Karina Paulino-Pena, speaking in Spanish with an English translator.

“He was not able to stay seated in front of the computer for more than 15 minutes. He could not concentrate, much less respond to the teacher’s questions. Of three therapies he has to do for 30 minutes every week, he only managed to do one.

“I did not see any positive results for him in terms of his learning, to the point where I’m asking the principal if my son can repeat the year,” she said.

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Brittany Fox Blackwood

Trotter School parent Brittany Fox Blackwood said her four-year-old son has disabilities in expressing himself and interacting with peers. “He can’t overcome them if he’s just with his mom,” she said. “He knows I can predict his needs so he doesn’t try hard to explain himself. It’s like pulling teeth to get him to spell it out.

“Also, at home, there’s just me and my sister. But at school, there are many different people, so he learns, ‘I can do this with this person, but not with that person.’ Those are basic abilities he needs as he grows up and he can’t get them at home,” she said.

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Renee Banks

Josiah Quincy School parent Renee Banks said her son has a muscle disease for which he gets physical and occupational therapy at school.

“Virtual therapy is not doing anything for his body,” she said. “The teachers have done what they can, but the district is not making sure things are happening for him.

“I bought exercise equipment for him but I don’t have a degree in physical therapy. His ligaments are tightening up. And I can’t meet his educational needs. My son needs to go back to school.”

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Occupational Therapist Cassandra Crichlow

BPS Occupational Therapist Cassandra Crichlow told about a nonverbal four-year-old boy on the autism spectrum whom she works with. “His mom and I did everything we could think of. We did Zooms, we did videos, we did phone calls. But we both knew it was not enough.

“Imagine if I could have said to her, ‘Bring him to the Grove Hall Library and I can coach you on strategies, and you can try them out in front of me and I can be sure that when you go home, you feel empowered to support your son.’

“Maybe he would have kept his skills.”

According to BPS Assistant Superintendent for Special Education Ethan D’Ablemont-Burnes, BPS officials are determining how many high-needs students can get four days a week of in-person learning based on what other parents decide for their children. He described the process as he faced angry parents at a Zoom meeting of the Special Education Parents Advisory Council (SpEdPAC) August 20.

He said the first step was to find out how many parents want their children in the “hybrid,” two-day-a-week program rather than fully remote learning. Those students are assigned seats first. The highest-needs students will get four days a week in the seats that are left over in each school.

D’Ablemont-Burnes said he had not heard any discussion of moving highest-needs students to other buildings if there’s no space at their current schools.

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Roxann Harvey

The SpEdPAC was one of the main sponsors of the rally.

“We want to know why high-needs students weren’t prioritized and offered the option for four days of in-person services first in the 35 safe schools that have ventilation systems,” said SpEdPAC chair Roxann Harvey.

“These children will never get this year back.”

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Jessica Tang

BTU President Jessica Tang said the union recognized that remote learning did not work well for many students in the spring, and came up with a plan to do it better in summer school, which they called the “Whatever It Takes” plan. But she said the administration wouldn’t agree.

The union’s reopening proposal would give first priority for in-person learning to the highest-needs students, and send them to the safest buildings regardless of where they are currently assigned.

“What we don’t want to see happening,” Tang said, “is that only those students that are already in the schools that have safer facilities get the services. That’s not equitable.”

Many other school districts have announced plans that do give the highest-needs students clear priority for in-person learning. Those districts, according to their published plans, include Brookline, Cambridge, Lynn, New Bedford, Randolph, Somerville, and Worcester.

The groups sponsoring the rally, in alphabetical order are:
Boston Coalition for Education Equity
Boston Education Justice Alliance
Boston Liberation Health Group
Boston Network for Black Student Achievement
Boston Special Education Parents Advisory Council
Boston Teachers Union
Citizens for Juvenile Justice
Citizens for Public Schools
City Life/Vida Urbana
Massachusetts Advocates for Children
Order of St. Martin de Porres
Quality Education for Every Student (QUEST)
St. Stephens Youth Programs

09/2/20

Min. 4 Day In-Person Option For All Students with High Needs

In Person Services in School, Community or Home

Spanish

Chinese

Haitian Creole

 

08/19/20

School Committee Meeting: School Reopening Plan Update_8/19

BOSTON SCHOOL COMMITTEE REMOTE MEETING

The Boston School Committee will be meeting remotely on August 19 at 5 p.m.

JOIN THE ZOOM MEETING

Or join by phone:

 Dial (for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location):

 US: +1 301 715 8592  or +1 312 626 6799  or +1 929 205 6099  or +1 253 215 8782  or +1 346 248 7799 or +1 669 900 6833

 Webinar ID: 992 7735 9753

   International numbers available

DISCUSSION TOPICS

  1.  Agenda
    • Pledge of Allegiance
    • Roll Call
    • Approval of Meeting Minutes: August 5, 2020
    • Superintendent’s Report
    • Reports
      • School Reopening Planning Update
      • Policy Regarding Preparing and Sharing Student Incident Reports and Other Student Information with the Boston Police Department
    • General Public Comment
    • Action Items
      • Grants for Approval Totaling $62,889,945
    • Temporary Suspension of Maximum Age Assignment and Enrollment Policy
    • Superintendent’s School Year 2019-2020 Final Performance Evaluation Rating and SY 2020-2021 Goals
    • Report
    • Connecting Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) and Boston Public Schools (BPS): Proposal for a Connector System between UPK programs and BPS
    • Public Comment on Reports (Optional)
    • New Business
    • Adjourn

     

08/18/20

Compensatory Services & Recovery for Students with IEPs

Compensatory Services

 

Introduction

Beginning March 17, 2020, pursuant to an order from the Governor, public schools (including educational collaboratives) and most private special education schools in Massachusetts suspended in-person instruction in response to the COVID-19 pandemic through the end of the 2019-20 school year. Following extensions of the Governor’s school closure order, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department) issued guidance[1] requiring districts and schools to provide students with access to remote learning opportunities and recommended teaching the content standards most critical for student success in the next grade level. On March 21, 2020, the United States Department of Education (USED) issued guidance clarifying that schools and districts were required to continue to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to students with disabilities during the period of suspension of in-person instruction. USED acknowledged that FAPE would necessarily look different during the national emergency because of the need to protect the health and safety of students and their educators.[2]

With the unexpected suspension of in-person education due to the pandemic, schools and districts were not necessarily able to provide all special education instruction and services in the manner they were typically provided or described in students’ Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). Also, despite efforts by schools and districts to create and implement remote learning plans for students with disabilities, some students may not have been able to access special education and related services necessary to make effective progress on IEP goals.

Where, due to the global pandemic and resulting closures of schools, there has been an inevitable delay in or disruption to providing services, the U.S. Department of Education has stated that IEP teams must make an individualized determination whether and to what extent compensatory services may be needed.[3] Moving into the 2020-21 school year where instruction may be in-person, remote, or a combination of both (a hybrid model), it is critical to identify and address the impact of the interruptions caused by the unexpected suspension of in-person education due to the COVID-19 pandemic on students with IEPs. The Department recommends that districts focus on authentic engagement of students with disabilities and their families in determining students’ needs for services and support to mitigate the impact of extended school closures on their learning.

The purpose of this policy and practice guidance is to frame the considerations schools, districts and IEP Teams should make in determining the individual need of students with disabilities for compensatory education or support related to their disrupted education or inability to access special education services due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This guidance is solely intended to address the issues raised by the emergency shift to remote learning because of school building closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and should not be relied on or referenced for compensatory claims based on alleged deprivations of FAPE for other reasons. In presenting this guidance, the Department recognizes that current public health and safety needs may change, and that the U.S. Department of Education could release additional guidance that may require the Department to revisit this document.

The Department also recognizes the complexity of the tasks faced by schools and districts to safely return students to school in the new school year. School and district blueprints for the 2020-21 school year must include multiple models of instruction (in-person, remote and hybrid) in order to easily respond to changing circumstances because of the pandemic. Additionally, structures and systems must be adapted to complete special education evaluations that were left incomplete in the spring when schools were required to shift quickly to remote operations.

Within these priorities is also the need to determine students’ needs related to the disruption of service delivery and instruction. These determinations will require districts to encourage and fully consider information and input provided by parents regarding their child’s ability to access remote learning and the student’s progress during school closure. The Department encourages schools and districts to work closely with parents and Special Education Parent Advisory Councils (SEPACs) to determine how to effectively address each of these areas timely and comprehensively, based on unique circumstances in each school or district and addressing the unique needs and circumstances of each individual student. Communication and transparency of student-centered decision making is essential.

Terminology – Recovery Support, COVID-19 Compensatory Services and New IEP Services

In this guidance we use the following terms – “recovery support,” “COVID-19 Compensatory Services,” and “new IEP services” – to describe the types of supports and services a student may need to address the impact on their learning from the unexpected suspension of in-person education due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

 

  1. General Education Recovery Support

Many students may need some type of recovery support to address their educational and social emotional needs and to reorient them to learning in the 2020-21 school year. Neither state nor federal law defines the term “recovery support.” However, the term is increasingly being used by states to refer to the general education support that all students, including students with disabilities, may need to recover from educational gaps in learning or loss of skill – or even the impact on students’ emotional well-being – caused by the unexpected suspension of in-person education.

Despite the efforts that schools and districts made to deliver instruction and services remotely in the spring, students may show signs of regression or return to school in the fall with gaps in their learning when school resumes to a greater extent than is usually experienced over the summer, or demonstrate impacts of trauma experienced during this emergency. To mitigate the impact, students may need general education recovery support to regain lost skills and knowledge. Some recovery support may be provided to students through core instruction, and other support may be available through the school’s or district’s Tiered System of Support[4] or pursuant to the District Curriculum Accommodation Plan (DCAP).[5]  For students with disabilities, access to recovery support does not need to be identified by the IEP Team but rather is made available to them the same way that it may be available to other students.

  1. COVID-19 Compensatory Services

In this guidance document, the term “COVID-19 Compensatory Services” (CCS) refers to services that a student’s IEP Team determines are needed to remedy a student’s skill or knowledge loss or lack of effective progress that resulted from delayed, interrupted, suspended, or inaccessible IEP services because of the emergency suspension of in-person education related to the COVID-19 pandemic.[6] Recognizing that these exceptional circumstances have likely impacted provision of services, USED stated that “[i]f a student does not receive services after an extended period of time, the student’s Team … must make an individualized determination whether and to what extent compensatory services are needed, consistent with … applicable requirements, [i.e., IEP Team requirements and data-based individualized decision-making] including to make up for any skills that have been lost.”[7]

Students with disabilities who did not receive or were unable to access any special education services during the suspension of in-person education are likely to require CCS and should be prioritized. Other students with IEPs, including students with significant and complex needs,[8] are also likely to require CCS and should be prioritized for consideration. For these priority populations, the Department recommends that CCS determinations be made as soon as possible but not later than December 15, 2020.

Given that students and staff will need to acclimate to a new instructional environment this fall, the Department recognizes that for many students not in these priority populations, the individualized determination of the need for CCS will be informed by a period of initial observation, a period of re-acclimation to learning, and a review of data on recovery of learning loss and progress. Using data available from multiple sources, IEP Teams should determine whether, and to what extent, the student recouped the lost skills and/or behaviors or has made effective progress, and whether and to what extent the student needs CCS.

Determinations of CCS by the IEP Team must be based on information provided by the parents and data and information available from other sources, and be information-based, individualized determinations. CCS are not necessarily a 1:1 correspondence to missed IEP services but are identified following the individualized determination of a student’s need.

  1. New IEP Services

Students may also require new services to address new areas of disability-related need, including mental health needs. Decisions regarding new IEP services must be made by IEP Teams in accordance with the requirements of state and federal special education law and must be documented in the student’s IEP.

Getting Started

While all students’ education was affected by the sudden shift to remote instruction and service delivery, some students with disabilities experienced more significant challenges. It is critical that schools and districts attend to the needs of these students promptly in order be able to provide them with CCS. Therefore, the Department encourages schools and districts to promptly gather relevant information and data and convene IEP Teams to identify necessary CCS using data from parent input on student progress, remote learning assessments, other progress reporting, and/or other means. The Department recommends prioritizing the scheduling of IEP meetings to discuss CCS for the following student populations:

  • Students with complex and significant needs[9]:
    • students already identified as “high needs” through the IEP process on the form entitled “Primary Disability/Level of Need-PL 3;”
    • students who could not engage in remote learning due to their disability-related needs or lack of technology;
    • students who primarily use aided and augmentative communication;
    • students who are homeless;
    • students in foster care or congregate care; and
    • students dually identified as English Learners;
  • Preschool aged children whose eligibility evaluations or start of preschool special education services have been delayed or interrupted; and
  • Students who turned 22 during the suspension of in-person education or who will turn 22 during the first three months of the 2020-21 school year, and whose transition programs were interrupted or suspended before they aged out.[10]

CCS determinations for these prioritized student populations should be completed no later than December 15, 2020. The Department recognizes that in some schools and districts a large percentage of students may fall into one or more of the above categories. Schools and district should use ongoing parental engagement along with their discretion and professional judgment when determining which IEP meetings to prioritize.

Reviewing Data from All Available Sources, Including from Parents and Caregivers

Determinations regarding CCS must be individualized decisions based on data and information that are made by a student’s IEP Team, which includes the student’s parents. The IEP Team will make determinations about a student’s need for CCS following the review of data regarding a student’s skills and progress toward meeting IEP goals during the period of unexpected suspension of in-person education due to COVID-19.

Because most students have spent several months in the full-time company of their families and caregivers, schools and districts should prioritize collecting data and information from families and caregivers. Families and caregivers can provide observational and other data about a student’s access to learning, engagement, attention, behavior, progress, and skills, as well as information about students’ home experiences and the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on them. Schools and districts may provide families and caregivers with an optional tracking sheet to document information. Schools and districts must provide necessary translation and interpretation services for limited English proficient parents when collecting this kind of information.

The information and data to be collected and considered by the IEP Team may include:

  • The instructional and special education services provided to the student during the period of suspension of in-person education, including whether particular services were not provided or could not be accessed by the student;
  • Any barriers to the student’s access during the period of unexpected remote instruction;
  • Levels of academic and functional performance, including levels of performance on all IEP goals prior to the unexpected suspension of in-person education in March 2020, as compared to the student’s current level of performance, as well as the expected growth through the end of the 2019-20 school year;
  • Data collection or progress monitoring during spring 2020, and also summer 2020 for students receiving extended school year (ESY) services, including;
    • Information and observations from parents, caregivers and other family members, teachers, related services providers, provider agencies; and
    • For preschool age children, this may include information collected from childcare providers or Early Intervention (EI). For secondary students, this may include information collected from Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) providers; and
  • Student data from previous school years indicating the student’s ability to recoup lost skills or make effective progress after extended breaks in instruction, such as during the summer.

Identifying General Education Recovery Support

Schools and districts should also review available data and information described above to identify a student’s needs for general education recovery support. Recovery support may be provided to students with and without disabilities who need such support to mitigate impacts of the emergency shift to remote instruction, and to assist their successful transition to the 2020-21 school year. Some of that support may be available to all students, while other types may be offered through the school’s or district’s Tiered System of Support or the District Curriculum Accommodation Plan (DCAP). Schools and districts should review available data and information, including data from families, caregivers, and students themselves, in making the determination about the need for recovery support.

Recovery support may include both academic and non-academic support, including but not limited to the following:

  • Academic scaffolds, accommodations, and differentiated core instruction informed by assessment data and observations;
  • Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions targeted at demonstrated academic need;
  • Behavior plans, counseling, and other social emotional support; and
  • Support for following new health and safety protocols (e.g., masking, hallway passing, hand washing, disinfecting, etc.).

Schools and districts already have in place efforts such as wrap-around services, the use of high-quality core curricular materials, evidence-based interventions, trauma informed practices, and strategies to engage learners to address factors that may impact student learning. These same systems and resources may be relied on or adapted to provide recovery support for students’ needs related to the COVID-19 pandemic and suspension of in-person learning. Data-based, collaborative decision-making systems already in place to identify students’ needs and appropriate support can be used to determine appropriate recovery services for students with and without disabilities. Collaboration and communication between students, educators, families, and community partners is a key component in determining and providing appropriate supports for all students. Schools and districts should maintain open channels of collaborative communication with families regarding a student’s need for recovery supports and their scope, frequency, and delivery, as well as progress monitoring.

For IEP Teams that are determining a student’s need for CCS, the Team should also consider if any recovery support will be made available to the student, and whether or not that will impact the CCS decision.

Determining COVID-19 Compensatory Services

In determining a student’s need for CCS, the IEP Team must consider all information and data from parents about the student’s ability to access remote learning and their child’s progress during school closure. The IEP Team must review all sources of information and data in considering the student’s loss of skills or lack of effective progress because of their inability to access or participate in services during the period of unexpected suspension of in-person education. CCS (and recovery support provided to students with IEPs) may not supplant, i.e., take the place of, the student’s current IEP services. In other words, needed CCS and recovery support will be provided in addition to a student’s current IEP services.

IEP Teams should consider the following questions to determine if CCS are warranted. The Team may determine that such services are needed based on answers to one or more of these questions:

  1. Are there services in the student’s IEP that were not offered or that the student could not access during the period of suspended in-person education?

Discuss the impact of the absence of services on the student’s skills and/or behaviors or ability to make effective progress and identify what CCS are needed to address the impact. (CCS are not necessarily a 1:1 correspondence to missed IEP services but are identified following an individualized determination of need.)

  1. To what extent has the student demonstrated regression in skills?
  2. Has the student failed to make effective progress towards their IEP goals and in the general curriculum?[11]

IEP Teams considering the need for CCS should also discuss available recovery supports. An additional question for review is:

 

  1. Does the school or district have available general education recovery support that will support the student in recovering from educational gaps in learning or loss of skill, or the impact on student’s emotional well-being, caused by the unexpected suspension of in-person education?

The Team should then discuss with specificity the student’s need for CCS to address their unique needs:

  1. What COVID-19 Compensatory Services are necessary to address the student’s special education needs arising from the suspension of in-person education?

If the IEP Team determines that the student needs CCS, the Team should then discuss which services are required to address the documented regression of skills or failure to make effective progress so the student can make appropriate progress given their unique circumstances, and how those services will be provided, including the amount, type, duration, and progress monitoring of CCS.

  1. Students Needing New IEP Services

As part of the discussion about CCS, an IEP Team may identify that a student has additional disability-related needs, including but not limited to mental health needs. Consistent with the requirements in IDEA and state special education law, the IEP Team must use an appropriate process to identify the new services required and amend the student’s IEP, including identifying and obtaining parental consent for assessments in areas not previously assessed. These IEP services are not CCS, but rather new services to be added to the student’s IEP service delivery grid.

  1. The Difference Between Extended School Year (ESY) and COVID-19 Compensatory Services Analyses

Similar factors are considered in determining both ESY and CCS. However, ESY and CCS are two separate and distinct determinations made by an IEP Team. The IEP Team’s assessment of a student’s need for ESY programming is a predictive analysis that takes into account the student’s history of significant regression and limited recoupment capability; the Team considers what is likely to happen without such services.[12] In contrast, in determining whether CCS are required, the IEP Team needs to consider what was the actual impact of the suspension of in-person education on the student’s skills or ability to make effective progress toward their IEPs goals and in the general education curriculum.

Decisions May Be Made at an IEP Team Meeting or Using Other Means Agreed to by Parents and Districts   

  1. Documenting Meeting Requests Using the N1

There are two ways in which discussion and determination of CCS can occur. One is through an IEP Team meeting. The other is when parents and districts agree in writing to meet without convening the full IEP Team. The latter may be especially useful for students for whom it is more likely that CCS are necessary, i.e., students with complex and significant needs (students already identified as “high needs” through the IEP process on the form entitled “Primary Disability/Level of Need-PL 3;” students who could not engage in remote learning due to their disability-related needs or technology barriers; students who primarily use aided and augmentative communication; students who are homeless; students in foster care or congregate care; and students dually identified as English Learners); preschool aged children whose evaluations have been or start of preschool special education services have been delayed or interrupted, and students who turned or are turning 22 and whose transition programs were interrupted or suspended before they aged out.

It is also permissible for parents and school districts to use a more informal process to determine CCS if parents and the district agree in writing to do so. Parents and districts can agree to use this flexibility when it is in the best interest of students to engage in a more informal process for determining CCS. This may allow decisions to be made as soon as possible so that CCS delivery may begin promptly.

Districts should use the Notice of Proposed School District Action/N1 form to notify a student’s parent or guardian of the request to meet for the purpose of assessing the need for CCS. On that form, the district should select “Other” as the reason for the meeting and may specify that the purpose of the meeting is “Consideration of CCS due to the unexpected suspension of in-person education related to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

If parents and district mutually agree to meet without convening the whole IEP Team, the district must maintain written documentation of that agreement. Additionally, as required by IDEA, the parent and district must agree, in writing, that the attendance of a Team member is not necessary because the area of curriculum or related services is not being discussed, or if the Team member submits in writing (to the parent and the IEP Team), input into the CCS discussion.[13] The district must inform parents, using the Notice of Proposed School District Action/N1, that they have the option to discuss the student’s need for CCS with the full IEP Team.

  1. Amending the Student’s IEP When a Student Needs New IEP Services

The IEP Team may also identify that an amendment of the student’s IEP is warranted when the student demonstrates new or different needs for special education and related services and requires new IEP services. These are not CCS. Rather, they are new IEP services required by the student because of the student’s disability and must be recorded in the IEP service delivery grid.

The IEP Team can agree in writing to amend or modify a student’s IEP to include the newly identified special education and related services subsequent to an annual meeting without holding an IEP Team meeting.[14] The Team must consider whether a student presenting with new needs may warrant a re-evaluation or a new evaluation if the student has not yet been evaluated in that area of suspected disability.

Evaluating the Need for COVID-19 Compensatory Services for Students Whose Eligibility Determination Was Delayed Because of the Suspension of In-Person Education

With regard to students whose eligibility determination was delayed due to the inability to conduct in-person assessments in the spring, including preschool aged children referred by their parents or by Early Intervention (EI), the district must complete the evaluation as soon as possible.

Upon a determination by the IEP Team that a student is eligible for special education services, the IEP Team must consider as it is developing the student’s IEP whether, due to the delay in completing the evaluation, the student requires CCS. These determinations must also be made for young children with disabilities referred by EI to the district for evaluation whose services have been provided in cooperation with EI during the period of suspension of in-person education, or pursuant to an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). For some students, the general education recovery support that will be made available to all students who need it may be appropriate to address some or all of the student’s needs.

Which School or District is Responsible for Determining and Providing COVID-19 Compensatory Services?

  1. When a Student Moves from One District to Another or Attends a New Program School in School Year 2020-21

Some additional considerations apply if a student attends a school or district in school year 2020-21 that is different than the school or district they were enrolled in and attending when in-person instruction was suspended in Spring 2020. Specifically, these considerations apply where the school or district that a student is enrolled in and attends during the 2020-21 school year, e.g., a program school,[15] is not the same school or district that was responsible for the student’s remote learning and special education services during the Spring of the 2019-20 school year.

The current district/school of enrollment is responsible for convening the IEP Team to determine the need for CCS. This is because the current district/school of enrollment assumes programmatic responsibility for implementing the student’s IEP upon enrollment.[16] The current district/school of enrollment should invite to the IEP Team meeting a representative from the former district/former school of enrollment.

The financial responsibility for providing CCS that are needed because of the 2019-20 suspension of in-person instruction remains with the former district/former school of enrollment.  When the Team determines that the student needs CCS, the Department recommends that that the former district/former school of enrollment contract with the current district/school of enrollment or a private provider in the area, to provide and implement the needed CCS. Depending on the type and amount of CCS to which the student is entitled, other arrangements mutually agreed to by the IEP Team and documented as set forth elsewhere in this guidance, can also be considered.

  1. Determining COVID-19 Compensatory Services for Students in Out-of-District Placements in Educational Collaboratives or Approved Private Special Education Schools

For students in out-of-district placements, the district responsible for the student’s special education program must convene an IEP Team meeting to determine the student’s need for CCS. The district must collaborate with the educational collaborative or the approved special education school to gather relevant data and information for the IEP Team to consider in determining the student’s need for CCS. As described above, the IEP Team must determine the amount, type, and duration of CCS, as well as whether there are necessary changes to the transportation arrangement to facilitate access to the services. As noted above, the parent and district may agree not to convene the Team, using procedures consistent with IDEA. In those circumstances, it is also necessary to include a representative of the out-of-district placement in the discussion about a student’s need for CCS.

In general, it is likely that the educational collaborative or approved private special education school will have the primary role in providing necessary recovery support and CCS to a student whose service delivery and ability to make effective progress was interrupted or impacted by the school’s shift to remote instruction in spring 2020. The Department urges school districts, educational collaboratives and approved special education schools to collaboratively determine how CCS will be delivered to the student to address the student’s identified needs.

Funding for COVID-19 Compensatory Services and Recovery Support

Districts may use IDEA Part B funds (Fund Codes 240 and 262) to pay for CCS and new IEP services for students with IEPs. The U.S. Department of Education has approved an extension of the allowable use period for Fiscal Year 19 grant funds; these funds may be used through September 30, 2022. In addition, districts may use funds made available through the CARES Act, Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER),[17] for CCS, recovery support, and new IEP services as necessary. The Department also recommends that districts, in collaboration with municipalities if necessary, consider allocating funding recouped from the School-Based Medicaid program for these purposes.

Procedural Safeguards  

Nothing in this guidance affects the due process rights identified in state and federal special education laws and regulations. Parents or guardians may pursue dispute resolution options through the Bureau of Special Education Appeals (BSEA) including a facilitated IEP Team meeting, a mediation, and/or a due process hearing. A parent or guardian may also file a complaint with the Department’s Problem Resolution System. 

Closing

For questions related to COVID-19 Compensatory Services , please contact the Department’s Problem Resolution Office at 781-338-3700 or compliance@doe.mass.edu. For more guidance and information related to special education during the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit the Department’s Coronavirus/COVID-19 special education webpage.

APPENDIX A – Summary Step-by-Step Process for Determining COVID-19 Compensatory Services for Students with IEPs

  1. School districts must develop plans for IEP Teams to assess the needs of students with IEPs for COVID-19 Compensatory Services (CCS). School districts should begin with the following populations:
  • Students with complex and significant needs:
    • students already identified as “high needs” through the IEP process on the form entitled “Primary Disability/Level of Need-PL 3;”
    • students who could not engage in remote learning due to their disability-related needs or technology barriers;
    • students who primarily use aided and augmentative communication;
    • students who are homeless;
    • students in foster care or congregate care; and
    • students dually identified as English Learners;
  • Preschool aged children whose eligibility evaluations or start of preschool special education services have been delayed or interrupted; and
  • Students who turned 22 during the suspension of in-person education or who will turn 22 during the first three months of the 2020-21 school year, and whose transition programs were interrupted or suspended before they aged out.

CCS determinations for these prioritized student populations should be completed no later than December 15, 2020. Prioritization of certain meetings and decisions must not in any way delay a school’s or district’s obligation to fully implement all students’ IEPs in the 2020-21 school year.

  1. IEP Teams must encourage and consider parent information and input along with information from other Team members to make individualized decisions regarding CCS. Information and data to be collected and considered may include:
  • The instructional and special education services provided to the student during the period of suspension of in-person education, including whether particular services were not provided or could not be accessed by the student;
  • Any barriers to the student’s access during the period of unexpected remote instruction;
  • Levels of academic and functional performance, including levels of performance on all IEP goals prior to the unexpected suspension of in-person education in March, as compared to the student’s current level of performance, as well as the expected growth through the end of the 2019-20 school year;
  • Data collection or progress monitoring during spring 2020, and also summer 2020 for students receiving extended school year (ESY) services:
    • Information and observations from parents, caregivers, teachers, related services providers, provider agencies, medical and other services providers working with the family, and other family members; and
    • For preschool age children, this may include information collected from childcare providers or Early Intervention (EI). For secondary students, this may include information collected from Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) providers; and
  • Student data from previous school years indicating the student’s ability to recoup lost skills or make effective progress after extended breaks in instruction, such as during the summer.
  1. Districts must convene an IEP Team meeting or agree in writing with parents to use an alternative means of meeting to review the student’s IEP and available information data and make necessary determinations about CCS. IEP Teams should consider the following questions to determine if CCS are warranted, and may determine that such services are needed based on answers to one or more of these questions:
  2. Are there services in the student’s IEP that were not offered or that the student was not able to access when in-person education was suspended. If so, identify those services and discuss how CCS will be offered? (CCS are not necessarily a 1:1 correspondence to missed IEP services but are identified following an individualized determination of need.)
  3. To what extent has the student demonstrated regression in skills?
  4. Has the student failed to make effective progress toward their IEP goals and in the general curriculum?
  5. Does the student need additional supports and/or services temporarily to recover from the period of time the student did not receive or could not access services remotely?
  6. Does the school or district have available general education recovery support that will support the student in recovering from educational gaps in learning or loss of skill, or the impact on student’s emotional well-being, caused by the unexpected suspension of in-person education?
    • If Yes, which recovery supports will the student access and how?
      1. Will the recovery supports be sufficient to meet the student’s needs arising from the suspension of in-person education?
      2. If yes, then the student will not require CCS.
  • If no, then which CCS will be required? How will they be delivered?
  1. What COVID-19 Compensatory Services are necessary to address their special education needs arising from the suspension of in-person education? The district must document in the Notice of Proposed School District Action/N1 or meeting notes, and provide to the parent in the parent’s home language, the decision regarding CCS made at the IEP Team meeting or an alternative meeting as agreed to by the parents and district, including amount, type of service, duration, and progress monitoring.
  2. Does the student have new or additional needs that will require new or additional IEP services?
    • If yes, then the district will seek consent for evaluation in a new area of suspected disability if appropriate, or the IEP Team will amend the student’s IEP to include new services. These are not CCS.

 

APPENDIX B – Questions and Answers on COVID-19 Compensatory Services and the Transition to Adult Life for Students Turning 22 between March 17 and December 23, 2020

The Department provides this Q & A on the provision of COVID-19 Compensatory Services (CCS) to students who turned 22 during the period of suspended in-person instruction due to COVID-19 beginning March 17, 2020, and for students who will turn 22 during the first three months of the 2020-21 school year following the resumption of  instruction (whether instruction is provided in-person, through a hybrid model, or remotely).

The Department notes that schools and districts, like their adult agency counterparts, continue to experience significant challenges due to the COVID-19 emergency. More than ever, the Department encourages schools and districts to communicate fully and work closely with adult agency colleagues in a spirit of mutual understanding and support, to promote the best interests of students and families during these difficult times.

  1. Must districts convene an IEP meeting for every student who has reached or will reach their 22nd birthday between March 17 and December 23, 2020?

Not necessarily. For some students, an IEP meeting may already have been held, and needed supports, resources, and connections for adult life may already be in place. In these cases, districts should communicate with students, families, and any appropriate adult agencies to reconfirm arrangements and confirm that all parties have the information and resources they need for a smooth transition. As always, districts should carefully document this communication and inform parents that they have the option of convening an IEP Team meeting if they choose to do so.

In other cases, students and families may agree with school personnel not to convene the IEP Team but rather to communicate and develop a written document to amend or modify the student’s IEP, as IDEA allows.[18] In these instances, the Department encourages schools and districts to include relevant adult agency staff in these discussions.

For many other students, however, it will be important to convene an IEP meeting, even if the student’s 22nd birthday has already passed, particularly if:

  • The student was unable to access services during the unexpected suspension of in-person education.
  • The student has demonstrated regression or has failed to make effective progress during remote learning.
  • The student has significant difficulty with transitions and changes in routine, and there is concern that the suspension of in-person education will result in an unduly challenging move to adult agency services if no additional school services are provided.
  • No connections, or minimal attempts at connections, have been made to the relevant adult agencies such as the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC), the Department of Developmental Services (DDS), or the Department of Mental Health (DMH).
  • The student and family have been unable to follow through on identified transitional services with adult agencies because of COVID-19, or the adult agency(ies) have been unable to follow through because of COVID-19.
  • The student had been expected to fulfill the requirements for the competency determination by their 22nd birthday but was unable to do so because of the suspension of in-person education.
  1. Should IEP Teams consider whether COVID-19 Compensatory Services are required for those students who reached or will reach their 22nd birthday between March 17 and December 23, 2020?

Yes. When considering whether an individual student is entitled to CCS, IEP Teams should make an individualized determination based on the considerations outlined in this guidance document. In determining CCS, there is not a one-to-one correspondence between services missed during the pandemic and services to be obtained now.[19] The goal for these students is to facilitate a successful transition to adult life, including a smooth hand-off to any adult agency services for which they are determined eligible.

It is important to note that consistent with state and federal law, a student’s entitlement to special education ends on the student’s 22nd birthday or upon graduation with a regular diploma. A determination that CCS are due to a student does not extend the student’s special education eligibility beyond the student’s 22nd birthday.

  1. What types of COVID-19 Compensatory Services might be provided to students who reached or will reach their 22nd birthday from March 17 to December 23, 2020?

The Department encourages IEP Teams to consider the student’s postsecondary plans when discussing the type and frequency of any CCS which the Team decides would be appropriate to provide to these students. The IEP Team should consider the following non-exhaustive list of types of transition services as well as other services discussed above in this advisory:

  • Accessing agency/community resources and services
  • Instruction in activities for daily living, including personal finance and accessing healthcare
  • Continue specialized instruction for the completion of an MCAS portfolio appeal for students who are seeking to earn a high school diploma
  • Community-based instruction
  • Community participation
  • Health and safety
  • Pre-vocational/employment support services
  • Job search and retention skills
  • Job coaching/training opportunities
  • Preparation for college and/or postsecondary training
  • Related services, e.g., counseling, occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech-language services
  • Self-advocacy skills
  • Social skills
  • Travel Training
  1. Which funds may districts use to deliver COVID-19 Compensatory Services to students past their 22nd birthday?

Districts may choose to use federal, state, and/or local funds. The Department has now received additional clarification from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs that IDEA Part B funds may be used to fund CCS, even if the student has reached 22, the state’s maximum age of special education eligibility. This is a unique circumstance due to the COVID-19 pandemic and limited only to students who reached or will reach their 22nd birthday between March 17 and December 23, 2020 and who are determined to need CCS. Districts may also use ESSER (CARES Act) funds for this purpose. In addition, the Department is not aware of any prohibition on the use of local and/or state funds to cover the expense of necessary CCS, with the exception of Circuit Breaker reimbursement. Because state law reserves Circuit Breaker funds for “eligible” students,[20] and students’ eligibility is not extended past their 22nd birthday, these funds may not be used for CCS.

  1. How may districts work with adult agencies to enhance the student’s transition to adult life on or after the student’s 22nd birthday?

The Department strongly encourages districts to maintain close, productive relationships with adult agencies and providers and to invite representatives of these entities to IEP meetings, as required by 34 C.F.R. § 300.321(b)(3) to meet each individual student’s needs. This approach is the most effective way to provide the continuity of support that students need to successfully transition to adult life. Districts should seek to understand agency services to the greatest extent possible and to serve as a connector and source of information for students and families. During IEP meetings, districts  and adult agency personnel have the opportunity to agree on what services are required to meet the needs of each student, how services will be delivered, who will be responsible for providing each of the services, and determine who is responsible for funding different portions of the services. To help agency staff gain a better understanding of students, to familiarize students with new faces, and to improve school personnel’s understanding of agency services, districts can invite their adult agency counterparts to participate in remote or in-person classes, programming or meetings, and educators can participate in remote or in-person adult agency programming or meetings.

[1] See Remote Learning Recommendations During COVID-19 Closures (On the Desktop – March 26, 2020) and Updated Remote Learning Guidance (On the Desktop – April 24, 2020).

[2] See U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, Office for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, Supplemental Fact Sheet Addressing the Risk of COVID-19 in Preschools, Elementary and Secondary Schools While Serving Children with Disabilities (March 21, 2020); Coronavirus/COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions for Schools and Districts Regarding Special Education, (Updated May 15, 2020), 6.

[3] See Supplemental Fact Sheet Addressing the Risk of COVID-19 in Preschools, Elementary and Secondary Schools While Serving Children with Disabilities (March 21, 2020).

[4] See the Department’s Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) Blueprint.

[5] M.G.L. c. 71, § 38Q½.

[6] COVID-19 Compensatory Services are not the same as compensatory services, an equitable remedy ordered by a court, hearing officer or as part of a state complaint investigation when a school has been found to have failed to provide a student with FAPE. As mentioned above, COVID-19 compensatory services are services for students with IEPs necessary to remedy skill or knowledge loss or lack of effective progress due to delayed, interrupted, suspended, or inaccessible IEP services because of the emergency suspension of in-person education related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

[7] U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, Fact Sheet: Addressing the Risk of COVID-19 in Schools While Protecting the Civil Rights of Students (March 16, 2020), at 3. The Office for Civil Rights’ guidance also refers to the requirement for compensatory services for students under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, although that is not addressed here in Coronavirus (COVID-19) Special Education Technical Assistance Advisory 2021-1.

[8] For purpose of this guidance, students with complex and significant needs include: students already identified as “high needs” through the IEP process on the form entitled “Primary Disability/Level of Need-PL 3;” students who could not engage in remote learning due to their disability-related needs; students who primarily use aided and augmentative communication; students who are homeless; students in foster care or congregate care; and students dually identified as English Learners.

[9] See Guidance on Fall 2020 Special Education Services (July 9, 2020), at 3. The Department urges schools and districts to prioritize in-person instruction for students with significant and complex needs.

[10] See Appendix B: Questions and Answers on the Transition to Adult Life for Students Turning 22 between March 17 and December 23, 2020

[11] The Department has provided guidance to schools and districts about the importance of progress monitoring during the period of remote learning, and factors to consider for remote progress monitoring.  See Coronavirus/COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions for Schools and Districts Regarding Special Education,  (Updated May 15, 2020). In limited circumstances where there is no progress data available, schools and districts should compare the student’s current skills level compared to grade level expectations.

[12] See Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Question and Answer Guide on Special Education Extended Year Programs, 603 CMR 28.05(4)(d).

[13] While IEP Team meetings regarding determination of compensatory services are not contemplated in the IDEA, the IEP Team requirements included in 34 C.F.R. §300.321 , including requirements for excusal described in 34 C.F.R. §321(e)(1) and (2), must be followed.

[14] See 34 C.F.R. §300.324(a)(4).

[15] 603 CMR 28.02(16): “Program school shall mean the school in which the student is enrolled according to the provisions of M.G.L. c. 71, § 89 (charter schools): M.G.L. c. 71, § 94 (Commonwealth of Massachusetts virtual schools); M.G.L. c. 74 (vocational schools); M.G.L. c. 76, § 12A (Metco) or M.G.L. c. 76, § 12B (school choice), and shall not include schools approved under 603 CMR 28.09 or institutional school programs as described in 603 CMR 28.06(9).”

[16] 603 CMR 28.03(1)(c)

[17] See Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund: Quick Reference Guide – Fund Code 113 (May 2020).

[18] 34 C.F.R. §300.324(a)(4)(i) (“In making changes to a child’s IEP after the annual IEP Team meeting for a school year, the parent of a child with a disability and the public agency may agree not to convene an IEP Team meeting for the purposes of making those changes, and instead may develop a written document to amend or modify the child’s current IEP.”)

[19] Per IDEA and guidance from the U.S. Department of Education, the Department further notes that an IEP is not a guarantee of a specific educational or functional result for a student with a disability. See United States Department of Education, Questions and Answers (Q&A) on U. S. Supreme Court Case Decision Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District Re-1, (December 7, 2021), at 7, Question #15.

[20] 603 CMR 28.02(9) (“Eligible student shall mean a person aged three through 21 who has not attained a high school diploma or its equivalent, who has been determined by a Team to have a disability(ies), and as a consequence is unable to progress effectively in the general education program without specially designed instruction or is unable to access the general curriculum without a related service. An eligible student shall have the right to receive special education and any related services that are necessary for the student to benefit from special education or that are necessary for the student to access the general curriculum…”).

 

[1] See Remote Learning Recommendations During COVID-19 Closures (On the Desktop – March 26, 2020) and Updated Remote Learning Guidance (On the Desktop – April 24, 2020).

[1] See U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, Office for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, Supplemental Fact Sheet Addressing the Risk of COVID-19 in Preschools, Elementary and Secondary Schools While Serving Children with Disabilities (March 21, 2020); Coronavirus/COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions for Schools and Districts Regarding Special Education, (Updated May 15, 2020), 6.

[1] See Supplemental Fact Sheet Addressing the Risk of COVID-19 in Preschools, Elementary and Secondary Schools While Serving Children with Disabilities (March 21, 2020).

[1] See the Department’s Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) Blueprint.

[1] M.G.L. c. 71, § 38Q½.

[1] COVID-19 Compensatory Services are not the same as compensatory services, an equitable remedy ordered by a court, hearing officer or as part of a state complaint investigation when a school has been found to have failed to provide a student with FAPE. As mentioned above, COVID-19 compensatory services are services for students with IEPs necessary to remedy skill or knowledge loss or lack of effective progress due to delayed, interrupted, suspended, or inaccessible IEP services because of the emergency suspension of in-person education related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

[1] U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, Fact Sheet: Addressing the Risk of COVID-19 in Schools While Protecting the Civil Rights of Students (March 16, 2020), at 3. The Office for Civil Rights’ guidance also refers to the requirement for compensatory services for students under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, although that is not addressed here in Coronavirus (COVID-19) Special Education Technical Assistance Advisory 2021-1.

[1] For purpose of this guidance, students with complex and significant needs include: students already identified as “high needs” through the IEP process on the form entitled “Primary Disability/Level of Need-PL 3;” students who could not engage in remote learning due to their disability-related needs; students who primarily use aided and augmentative communication; students who are homeless; students in foster care or congregate care; and students dually identified as English Learners.

[1] See Guidance on Fall 2020 Special Education Services (July 9, 2020), at 3. The Department urges schools and districts to prioritize in-person instruction for students with significant and complex needs.

[1] See Appendix B: Questions and Answers on the Transition to Adult Life for Students Turning 22 between March 17 and December 23, 2020

[1] The Department has provided guidance to schools and districts about the importance of progress monitoring during the period of remote learning, and factors to consider for remote progress monitoring.  See Coronavirus/COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions for Schools and Districts Regarding Special Education,  (Updated May 15, 2020). In limited circumstances where there is no progress data available, schools and districts should compare the student’s current skills level compared to grade level expectations.

[1] See Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Question and Answer Guide on Special Education Extended Year Programs, 603 CMR 28.05(4)(d).

[1] While IEP Team meetings regarding determination of compensatory services are not contemplated in the IDEA, the IEP Team requirements included in 34 C.F.R. §300.321 , including requirements for excusal described in 34 C.F.R. §321(e)(1) and (2), must be followed.

[1] See 34 C.F.R. §300.324(a)(4).

[1] 603 CMR 28.02(16): “Program school shall mean the school in which the student is enrolled according to the provisions of M.G.L. c. 71, § 89 (charter schools): M.G.L. c. 71, § 94 (Commonwealth of Massachusetts virtual schools); M.G.L. c. 74 (vocational schools); M.G.L. c. 76, § 12A (Metco) or M.G.L. c. 76, § 12B (school choice), and shall not include schools approved under 603 CMR 28.09 or institutional school programs as described in 603 CMR 28.06(9).”

[1] 603 CMR 28.03(1)(c)

[1] See Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund: Quick Reference Guide – Fund Code 113 (May 2020).

[1] 34 C.F.R. §300.324(a)(4)(i) (“In making changes to a child’s IEP after the annual IEP Team meeting for a school year, the parent of a child with a disability and the public agency may agree not to convene an IEP Team meeting for the purposes of making those changes, and instead may develop a written document to amend or modify the child’s current IEP.”)

[1] Per IDEA and guidance from the U.S. Department of Education, the Department further notes that an IEP is not a guarantee of a specific educational or functional result for a student with a disability. See United States Department of Education, Questions and Answers (Q&A) on U. S. Supreme Court Case Decision Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District Re-1, (December 7, 2021), at 7, Question #15.

[1] 603 CMR 28.02(9) (“Eligible student shall mean a person aged three through 21 who has not attained a high school diploma or its equivalent, who has been determined by a Team to have a disability(ies), and as a consequence is unable to progress effectively in the general education program without specially designed instruction or is unable to access the general curriculum without a related service. An eligible student shall have the right to receive special education and any related services that are necessary for the student to benefit from special education or that are necessary for the student to access the general curriculum…”).

 

08/7/20

SpEd Reopening Question & Answer Meeting

Please RSVP here.

Thursday, August 13, 2020
6:00-7:30p
Zoom: https://bit.ly/2PqdmWn Meeting ID: 999 2061 9783
Passcode: 013617

08/6/20

English Learner Student with Disability (ELSWD) Parent Wanted to help Improve Services for Students

The English Language Learners Task Force of the Boston School Committee has a subcommittee devoted to English Learners who also have disabilities.  They are anxious to have a SpedPAC parent of an ELSWD student to work with them on the subcommittee.  If anyone is interested they can contact the subcommittee through Roxi Harvey, email@bostonspedpac.org or directly by emailing John Mudd (formerly at Mass Advocates for Children, johnmudd1@gmail.com) or Maria Serpa (Lesley University, mserpa@lesley.edu )  With Covid-19, the subcommittee meets through Zoom or telephone about once per month.

There are 4,000 English Learners with disabilities in BPS.  They have been one of the most marginalized, neglected groups of students in the district.  They need our attention, support, and advocacy.  Please help.

08/4/20

BPS Reopening Fall 2020, Draft 1

BPS Reopening Plan Draft 1

07/21/20

Reopening Schools for Special Education Families July 28th Meeting

Tuesday, July 28,
6:00-7:30 pm
Reopening Schools for Special Education Families
Register here

 

Boston Public Schools (BPS) is conducting meetings with students, families, staff, district partners, and community members to gather input to help develop a plan for remote learning and the reopening of school buildings for this upcoming school year. We value your input. More meetings are being scheduled so that you can voice your concerns and recommendations.  

The health, safety, and well-being of our students and staff remain our top priority. All decisions are made based on current guidelines from public health officials and what is best for our community.

All public meetings will be recorded and shared. No Boston Public School internal meetings will be shared publicly.

Get involved! Contact communityengagement@bostonpublicschools.org and join the discussion.

UPCOMING MEETINGS

07/14/20

BPS Students with Disabilities Denied Access to Dual Language Programs

Boston schools deny some disabled students enrollment into dual-language programs

Tara Garcia Mathewson . Boston Globe (Online) ; Boston [Boston]13 July 2020.

Sign up to receive a newsletter for The Great Divide, an investigative series that explores educational inequality in Boston and statewide. And please reach out to us at thegreatdivide@globe.comwith story ideas and tips.

For almost a decade, Simón López, the special education coordinator at Boston’s Sarah Greenwood School, has been fighting against the school district that employs him. He has lobbied principals, written letters to the revolving door of superintendents in the district, made his case to school board members and even contacted state education agency officials. All to no avail. His cause? López maintains that the Sarah Greenwood School’s coveted dual language program, which teaches students in both English and Spanish, is violating civil rights laws by intentionally excluding many students with emotional disabilities —including some native Spanish speakers who would benefit from a bilingual approach.

Many of the excluded students “have proven that they have the ability to learn a second language if given the opportunity,” López said. The district runs five other dual language programs in addition to the one at Sarah Greenwood in Dorchester —four more in Spanish and a fifth in Haitian Creole. All of them refuse admittance to certain categories of special education students, including those with developmental delays and emotional impairments, according to the district. In three city schools, including Sarah Greenwood, the students with these disabilities attend a shadow school of sorts, spending their days learning mostly, or entirely, separate from the rest of their peers.

The district confirmed that they are denied any access to the bilingual instruction happening in the same building. This, according to experts, is a violation of state and federal laws that prohibit districts from excluding kids from any educational programs just because they have a disability. It also violates laws that require students be taught in the most inclusive environments possible, given their disabilities. “You can’t just stick these kids in the corner,” said Elena Silva, director of PreK-12 for the Education Policy Program at New America, a Washington, D.C., based think tank that has studied both special and bilingual education.

Boston schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius would not say when, or if, all students with disabilities will become eligible for the city’s dual language programs. But she said the district plans to expand its bilingual offerings, including for students with disabilities, and reduce the number of special education students who are isolated from their peers. At Sarah Greenwood, 58 students with disabilities learn in isolated classrooms and are ineligible for the dual language program, according to district data. Even if the district determines they no longer need special education services, the students have to find a new school. After being excluded from the dual language program until that point, most aren’t prepared to transfer in.

López said that over the years he has worked with several families whose children would have been a good fit for the bilingual program but were barred. One family, who declined to be interviewed for this piece, moved to Boston from Puerto Rico in 2017 after Hurricane Maria ravaged the island, López said. The family’s first-grader qualified for special education services for an emotional impairment, and the district placed him at the Greenwood School’s specialized program for such disabilities. His parents were overjoyed —initially —because they thought he would also be able to participate in the school’s dual language program, easing his language and cultural transition. “They started crying when I had them in my office and told them, ‘No, he will not be able to participate in the dual language program,”‘ López recalled. In general, any Boston family can list a school with a dual language program as their top choice in the district’s assignment process, but students with disabilities who qualify for more specialized services have more limited options. It’s an oversight in a network of dual language programs that, by all accounts, was designed with the needs of immigrant communities in mind. Across the state and country, some dual language schools have increasingly come under criticism for the opposite: enrolling primarily or even exclusively native English speakers, often from wealthy, highly educated families who consider bilingualism an asset for work and travel. These families advocate for the programs in their children’s schools or move into formerly immigrant neighborhoods and take up the seats in long-running bilingual education programs. At the same time that immigrant children are told to learn English and leave their native language at home, their native-born peers take classes in Spanish, French, Japanese, and other languages that might give them a leg up in their future careers.

Many school districts in Massachusetts designed programs for these more privileged families, according to Phyllis Hardy, executive director of the Multistate Association for Bilingual Education, Northeast, but she said a growing number are joining Boston in using dual language education as a way to better serve immigrant students. Still, students with disabilities are routinely left out.

In Boston, not all students with disabilities are barred from the dual language programs, but they are severely underrepresented. While 20 percent of students districtwide receive special education services, their numbers are far smaller at the bilingual programs: at the Mario Umana Academy and the Rafael Hernández School, the percentage of students with disabilities is in the single digits. In addition to the outright exclusion of students with more severe disabilities, bilingual education experts say the low representation can be explained by a lack of interest in these programs among families of children with disabilities. Hardy said some do not see dual language programs as an option, either because schools haven’t made it clear special education supports will be offered or because the families have been told English-only instruction is better. “We’re still breaking down those barriers,” Hardy said. “Some parents may say, “My child is going through a lot. I just don’t want to add another layer of challenge to my child.” Hardy emphasized, however, that students with disabilities have done just as well in bilingual education programs as in English-only programs. For López, one of the ironies of the exclusionary policy is that some of the kids denied admission are already on their way to becoming bilingual. Their native language is Spanish, and the English they speak and hear at school all day is their second language. (Researchers have found, perhaps counterintuitively, that bilingual education can be a particularly effective way to help newcomers master English.) “They are quite capable of participating in the program and making progress if we give them the opportunity,” López said. Experts and state officials did not know of other districts that explicitly bar students with certain disabilities from enrolling in dual language programs. But Paul Aguiar, director of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Office of Language Acquisition, said his office routinely fields questions from districts about whether they can keep students with disabilities out of such programs. The answer is always no. “Obviously if you get a kid with severe disabilities, it’s a little tougher, but we have an inclusion model in this state,” Aguiar said. That means students with disabilities should be learning and interacting with their general education peers as often as possible— and never excluded from any program outright.

Schools are supposed to find ways to get them the extra supports they need without segregating them into isolated classrooms. Yet Boston maintains 12 categories of special education programs that teach children in “substantially separate” classrooms. In a recent district audit, officials from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education called this isolation of kids with certain types of disabilities “a long-standing issue” that “contributes to a pattern of inequitable access.” During the 2018-19 school year, more than twice as many students in Boston Public Schools spent their days in these segregated special education programs as the state average, according to the audit. This latest criticism from the state prompted the district to commit to increasing the percentage of students with disabilities in inclusive classrooms over the next three years.

One way Cassellius expects to achieve this is with a new special education director: Ethan d’Ablemont Burnes, who took over July 1. As principal of the Joseph P. Manning School in Jamaica Plain, Burnes prioritized inclusion for students with emotional impairments and saw academic gains as a result. He will lead an effort to help other principals dismantle the programs that segregate students with special needs, Cassellius said. “That understanding of how to turn around a school, how to do inclusion, and do inclusion right, is really going to be beneficial to the district,” Cassellius said. She is asking principals to make these changes, however— not ordering them to do so. At Sarah Greenwood, school leaders have resisted López’s advocacy for years. The current principal, Camila Hernandez, declined to comment for this story.

At the school, students in the “substantially separate classrooms” spend 100 percent of the school day segregated from their peers in general education (at many other schools with the separate classrooms, the students spend at least some time in more mainstream settings). Not only are students kept from participating in the core academic classes, which are bilingual, they spend recess and lunch on their own, along with art and physical education, according to López. López said he has seen parents take the extreme step of declining special education services entirely to get their children access to the dual language program at Sarah Greenwood. And he has witnessed thriving students get pulled out of the school’s dual language program when diagnosed with a disability. Perhaps most frustratingly, López said, he has watched successive education leaders in the district and the state allow the civil rights violations to persist. Cassellius’ plans for improving special education services in the district are a promising start, he said. But he’s not going to stop agitating until his students are sharing lunch rooms, classrooms and every opportunity the school has to offer —with the rest of their peers.

This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for the Hechinger newsletter. Credit: By Tara Garcia Mathewson Hechinger

05/7/20

MAC’s Remote Access & Language Access Survey

We are writing to encourage you (and other attorneys, advocates & providers) to complete MAC’s remote access and language access surveys on behalf of any families you’ve worked with during the COVID-19 crisis (one survey per family).  Please feel free to also forward the survey links to families directly via email or text.

It takes only about 5 minutes to complete the survey. The results of this survey will be important to help us advocate to remove barriers faced by families, and to help more effectively advocate with the legislature and others to obtain funding for devices, internet access, and interpretation and translation services for families and students across the state. Please complete on behalf of and/or forward to as many families as possible. 

 

SURVEY English: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/N2HTZBB

SURVEY Spanish: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/N9CCQQ9

 

Let us know if you have any questions, and thank you!

Liza Hirsch

Senior Attorney

Massachusetts Advocates for Children

25 Kingston Street, Suite 2F

Boston, MA 02111

Phone 617-357-8431 x 3225

Direct line 617-874-5345

Fax 617-357-8438

lhirsch@massadvocates.org

she/her/hers

 

Introducing #COSA:
Connect, Share, Advocate

MAC’s Response to COVID-19

massadvocates.org/COSA

 

Massachusetts Advocates for Children