Maybe there is another way…
Many families who have tried the due process system set up by federal and state law to get appropriate services for their children know that the road is long, expensive and frequently ends in a dead end.
But there is another way to get there that may be more expedient and is definitely less expensive. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) also allows families to file complaints directly with the state education agency (MSDE) instead of or, in addition to, any due process hearing. The state has 60 days to investigate and decide and the decision is not appealable by either side.
A nationwide survey has found that parents prevail in about 50% of the complaints; that is quite a bit better than the prevailing rate in Maryland for due process hearings. The average national rate for parents success is 24%. In Maryland it is only about 5%. See why in last week’s blog.
A complaint to the state department of education can be used to remedy systemic issues which often stand in the way of a child getting an individual program as required by law.
Some of the issues to consider are cut-and-paste goals and objectives, removing goals and objectives without parental permission or after the parents have signed the IEP, and holding IEP meetings without the presence of a school administrator or general ed teacher.
Many of the goals listed are copy-cat goals from goal banks that are so generic as to be unmeasurable. For example, “the student will read and comprehend increasingly complex literary and informational texts.” Or, “the student will develop and strengthen writing by engaging in a process that includes prewriting, drafting, revising, editing and publishing.”. These goals appear to have come right out of something that was put into a bank to mimic Common Core objectives. The problem is they are pretty much not measurable for any specific student. How does the parent, student or teacher measure “increasingly complex”. Does it mean the student will move from pre-reading skills to primer reading or from sentences to chapter books. Similarly, the writing goal describes a process the child will go through at any level but it does not specifically say what this particular child will be doing. The use of goal banks that are pulled down from a computer based IEP production system are endemic. Sometimes the same goals appear year after year. It is not unusual for the wrong pronoun gender to be used when referring to the student.
Let’s be clear. The use of these “cookie cutter” goals for students violate both the letter and the spirit of the law. They are not ok. Parents need to learn there is another way to get that INDIVIDUAL Education Program for their child that is required by law. Of course, parents might have to go back to that writing goal and engage their state department of education. There is another way.