Do others in your school understand SPED?

Discussion in 'Special Education' started by cupcakequeen, Dec 16, 2015.

  1. cupcakequeen

    cupcakequeen Comrade

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    Specifically, do you feel like others in your school understand the process for determining eligibility for sped services?

    I had three referrals for sped from the same grade level. None of the students wound up qualifying. The parents accepted it and moved on. One also really did not want services anyway, so it wasn't a huge deal to them. But now every time one of these kids does badly on a test or gets in trouble, the teachers say to me something to the effect of "and they said this kid doesn't need special education services?" or "I just don't understand how a kid who is this far behind doesn't qualify..." This happens at least once a week.

    And I understand that these kids are struggling. But one thing we talked about at our meetings is that they are making progress (albeit slowly) with in class and small group interventions. Their psych-ed. evals showed they do not have learning disabilities (at least by the narrow definition of learning disability we have to use) and they don't have ADHD, etc. that would allow them to qualify in another category. Simply put, these kids are not struggling because they have a disability and as much I want to help I'm limited in what I can do because I can't serve them if they don't qualify. I'm not going to fudge data to make it look like they do. I am not okay with that. My admins are aware of the situation, and I know they have spoken with them, but it's still frustrating and makes me feel guilty even though logically I know can't do anything to change the overall situation.
     
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  3. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    Some kids are just low, nothing else. I think that, for some teachers, having those low kids identified as needing Special Ed support takes the pressure off because they don't need to worry about how to work with the student within the regular class. I have a couple of students in my class this year who have been through the first part of testing for an LD, but didn't meet the criteria for further assessment. Are they low, yes, but I don't believe there are any underlying learning difficulties. Out of curiosity, what are your criteria to identify with an LD? For us, the psych assessment needs to show an overall score in the average range, with scores in at least one subtest below the average range.
     
  4. cupcakequeen

    cupcakequeen Comrade

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    That's the problem with these kids- they have lower overall scores, so they working to the best of their abilities- they're just low.

    We have to document at least 15 point discrepancy between IQ and one academic subtest. So a kid with an IQ of 100 would have to have an 85 or lower. I do have some with an overall score in the below average range (Think like 70) but still have 15 point or more discrepancies so they qualify LD.

    That's the problem with these kids- they have lower overall scores, so they working to the best of their abilities- they're just low.
     
  5. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I am a general ed teacher and I don't really understand the eligibility process.

    It seems bizarre to me that a student in 10th grade who has handwriting that looks like a Kindergartner's and who can't compose a complete sentence wouldn't qualify for services. There is apparently a lot more to it than that, but it just seems so strange for a kid to function well below grade level and not be in need of special ed services. I would hope that the special ed teacher who got my email asking about possible services for that kid would explain to me why he didn't qualify instead of getting all grumpy with me because I don't know how things work.

    There's a lot of things in the gen ed world that special ed teachers don't seem to know about, but I try not to begrudge them that. I don't expect every teacher to know all the things that I know, like Latin or where in the library you can find books about fluid mechanics (532, yo).
     
  6. cupcakequeen

    cupcakequeen Comrade

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    It's not so much them not knowing in general that has been frustrating. It's a confusing process, and I completely understand that it's not their area- it's mine- and thus they may have questions about the process, not be as knowledgeable about the requirements, etc. I'm happy to explain that!

    It's more that this specific grade level team has gone through the whole referral process for all of these kids, we have sat through multiple meetings and discussed in depth why they do not qualify, and yet the continue to complain about them not qualifying and asking me why they don't as if it's something I can change.
     
  7. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Yeah, I can see how that would be frustrating. It can be hard to work with people who ask questions but refuse to listen to the answers. I have worked with a few of those myself and I've never found an awesome way to deal with it. Mostly I just smile and nod and say, "Yeah, I'll look into that!" and then roll my eyes when they leave.
     
  8. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Things are changing, though slowly. The new(er) way of identifying kids for extra help is whether they need it, not whether they show a specific cognitive pattern. Some districts are holding on to the old pattern of IQ/achievement discrepancy as you all mentioned above.

    Yes, some kids are just not as smart, and we should definitely not expect all kids to achieve at the same level & rate, but I do think we should be equitable in how we allocate resources toward helping kids, and not give help to some and not others because of the assessment boxes we put them in.
     
  9. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    I absolutely agree!
     
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  10. agdamity

    agdamity Fanatic

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    I will say, I have three currently being referred (in a grade where we don't typically do referrals), because they have been in Tier 3 interventions for over three years with no significant progress. The parents have requested help for years. I have another one who was tested and was borderline, but ultimately didn't qualify because they had developed coping strategies since they never had help all these years. It's frustrating all around.

    I really think the system needs to be fixed. There needs to be some level of help for those kids who fall into the commiserate category. When classroom interventions fail, but they don't qualify for special education, many of these kids are being left to figure things out on their own. I find it really hard to say, "Well, they're just always going to be low." They might not be an A or B student, but they shouldn't be left to fail.
     
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  11. Culturanta

    Culturanta Rookie

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    Eligibility should be a team process. No one individual determines whether a student qualifies or not, it is done by the case study team, which should include the parent, at least one general education teacher, the psychologist and any other relevant parties with knowledge of the child and their struggles.

    Yes, psychological tests are a significant part of eligibility, but I'm troubled hearing that a certain "cut score" is 100% determinative of eligibility in the cases described above. If these anecdotal reports are true, they violate IDEA.

    In general, teachers do not receive the support and information they need to effectively work with students of all ability levels. And "low" students bring down test scores, which bring down teacher evaluation scores, which can lead to a poor summative rating and possible non-renewal of contracts. So I think it's common for some gen ed teachers to do their utmost to refer their lowest students out to SpEd, because these students generally bring the teacher nothing but problems.....in terms of behavior as well as academics.

    The system is deeply flawed and needs major overhaul IMHO. I am a special education teacher myself.
     
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  12. waterfall

    waterfall Maven

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    This is a big source of frustration for me also. We use RtI and testing to identify students at my school. We don't require certain cut scores or anything like that, but students have to be significantly below average AND show a lack of response to intervention to qualify. We have worked really, really hard at my school on improving our RtI team and process. There are two gen ed teachers on the team and they've been on it for all three years I've been at the school. I think they both have an excellent understanding of the referral/qualification process, but this took a couple of years! One big misconception that they both had was that our sped testing was some type of magical test that would tell you exactly what was "wrong" with a child and what you could do to fix it. My first year on the team, I brought in the Woodcock Johnson and showed them what the questions looked like and what kind of information I could get from it. They were literally shocked to see that it was just regular academic questions, and the information was similar to what you would get with many other assessments. They also admitted that they completely thought I was doing some special strategies from my "special college classes" that other teachers don't know about/can't implement, which is why they were previously so insistent that kids qualify.

    These two teachers have both tried to talk to other teachers and we've done several PD sessions, but it just falls on deaf ears for the most part. We've talked a lot about how some kids really do just "live in tier 2." They may need some extra help to get through school, but they simply don't have learning disabilities. I went to a training once where the presenter kept saying "Sped is not a tutoring service." That really stuck with me. It's not fair to take on those students who simply need "extra help" because that takes away from the students who do have legitimate disabilities. It's not that I don't want "extra help" kids. They're typically far easier to work with than my students and they make a lot of progress, which makes me look good! However, this waters down services for everyone else and makes the span of abilities in my groups really large, which makes it hard to meet everyone's needs.
     
  13. cupcakequeen

    cupcakequeen Comrade

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    Dec 17, 2015

    If it makes you feel (at least a little better) I should probably clarify that the 15 point discrepancy isn't the only way we determine eligibility. It's just the main one. I have several who have qualified without a discrepancy, but a large part of that is that is they have not made progress with interventions for a significant period of time. (Not sure what the cut off for significant is, this is just the phrase used around here). With the three students I mentioned, they have only been receiving interventions for a limited period of time and thus far they were making progress with them.

    But I completely agree that there are major flaws with the system. I don't even know how we would begin making the major changes that are needed, but something needs to be done.
     
  14. cupcakequeen

    cupcakequeen Comrade

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    I have experienced everything you mentioned! I was surprised at how many gen ed teachers didn't realize that I'm not doing any "magic" teaching strategies, I'm just breaking down academic skills and teaching and reteaching them in a lot of different ways.

    Some teachers also ask me if I can "take this student and help them review" for a few days if they are struggling with something. I usually volunteer to do an "inclusion review session" in that case, because I know I'm really not supposed to serve kids who do not have special ed services, but I hate saying no and seeming like the bad guy when I know it's the kids who will suffer. I'm at a low income school, and we have a lot of kids that, as you mentioned, "live in tier 2" for lots of reasons not related to having a disability. I would love to see our tier 2 services strengthened- it think that would help a lot!
     
  15. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Cut scores don't violate IDEIA - federal law clearly allows for a discrepancy model to be used, even if in my opinion it shouldn't be :).

    It also doesn't violate the multi-disciplinary team requirement as - even though discrepancy cut scores are necessary - they aren't by themselves sufficient in qualifying a child for SLD. There are other pieces of the equation that also only come from one person, such as the parent piece and general education/classroom teacher piece.
     
  16. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    Cut scores are illegal under IDEA if they are used at the exclusion of all other methods. It cannot be used as the sole method of qualifying a student. Often times the other information is ignored such as the fact that the student is receiving hours of extra help outside of school in order to be making any type of progress or other such interventions. So, the parent who steps in and hires tutors or spends hours might get the student to that one point above where the student would otherwise qualify for services. When the intervention is ignored as part of the picture and the cut score is used instead, that would be illegal.
     
  17. Culturanta

    Culturanta Rookie

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    Yes, that was the point I was trying to make. OP, thanks for clarifying that the discrepancy model is not used exclusively, because that was my impression - apologies if I read it wrong.

    In my experience RTI/MTSS plus psych/social worker reports, qualitative assessments such as the BASC, etc plus teacher and parent input all would be considered in determining eligibility.

    We had one student last year who didn't qualify under SLD, but it was clear from all other inputs that something was going on. We asked the psych to run an autism spectrum assessment based on some behaviors observed (GARS for anyone interested), and he ended up qualifying based on this assessment plus other reports and measures. He began to improve dramatically after his instruction and placement were changed. Those are the good moments. On the opposite end I have seen far too many African American male students shunted into the land of behavioral disabilities, because it's easier to get them out of the gen ed population than to address their social maladjustment and histories of trauma and abuse.
     
  18. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    What section of IDEIA are you referring to here? It's certainly my understanding that the MDT can override the discrepancy model under such a circumstance, but it's NOT my understanding that the MDT would be in violation of federal law for usual lack of discrepancy as a rule out variable for SPED services, even if mediating variables are present. Are you reading otherwise?

    And FYI I don't support the discrepancy model, even as part of the overall evaluation process. But, sadly my viewpoints on the matter don't constitute law :)
     
  19. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    300.307 says "Must not require the use of a severe discrepancy between intellectual ability and achievement for determining whether a child has a specific learning disability, as defined in Sec. 300.8(c)(10);"

    If a school is not allowing other factors to be used to determine eligibility then it is a problem. So, yes, a school can use discrepancy, but it can't require it. By never allowing other factors to be used to determine eligibility that is by default requirement.

    As OP said, her school doesn't require it.
     
  20. agdamity

    agdamity Fanatic

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    This is good information to know. A colleague had a student denied services one year because they scored one tenth of a point below the cut score. The school didn't acknowledge all the other documentation provided.
     
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  21. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    Now IDEA does say the state must not require it, but district public schools are schools of the state. They must follow the state education code.

    As always, the regulations are always open for interpretation which is why you often see so many different implementations of the code. Also, schools know that most parents won't pursue due process or file complaints so many will train their staff to believe what is in the best interest of the school, not necessarily of the child.
     
  22. EdEd

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    This is actually about states not being allowed to require LEAs to use the discrepancy model. This doesn't have bearing on school level decisions. Schools can still choose to use the discrepancy model, and mandate the IQ/achievement split be present.
     
  23. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    So you are basically saying a district can do anything they want regardless of what the federal law or the state law requires. If that is the case, what is the point of having federal or state laws that set the requirements for schools in the state?

    In the case of a district that decides to use the discrepancy formula to the exclusion of all others and a parent files a complaint with the state, can the state then say that even though they cannot require a state to use the discrepancy model to the exclusion of other factors that the district is well within its rights to do so and the state cannot stop them? I think not. The states laws regarding special education are the laws that the districts are required to follow. Therefore, because states are not allowed to allow discrepancy to the exclusion of all others, either are the districts.
     
  24. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    So, my understand is yes & no. First, the law only prohibits the state from mandating discrepancy - it does not prohibit the state from prohibiting it, or from requiring RtI.

    The idea is that the feds knew RtI was the way to go, so didn't want states to be able to step in and squash it. Hence they made sure states can't mandate discrepancy. But, that's it - it's a very specific and narrow prescription.

    A few specific responses:

    No, they can't simply disregard it. The feds just baked into the law the rights of districts to not choose discrepancy. In that very specific, very narrow context, yes - the feds said states can't force the districts' hands.

    Again, I'd say narrow vs broad. This isn't saying, "in all situations of education policy, districts can do whatever they want." They're simply granting power for districts to choose RtI despite what states may want.

    Not sure I entirely caught that, but again the idea here is "necessary vs sufficient." Even though there are tons of criteria out there for SPED qualification, there are plenty of "necessary" conditions that must be present. Take "rule out of lack of instruction." That's federally baked-in - if it's shown that instruction did not occur, that's it - SPED label can't be granted. Doesn't matter what else is there - that factor has to be present. It's the same with discrepancy in that districts are free to choose that as a necessary condition - one that has to be present in order for SPED identification to occur.

    Again, I'd ask where you are finding that states "are not allowed to allow discrepancy to the exclusion of all others." I'd also question your language of "exclusion of all others" - there's simply a checklist of things that need to be present when identifying SPED, and districts are allowed to choose discrepancy as one of them. A district is not "excluding other factors" because it requires discrepancy - they're simply not overriding the discrepancy requirement with other data.

    Now..... all of this being said, there's nothing in federal law that stands in the way of states prohibiting discrepancy. So, if a state doesn't allow it, the district can't even consider it.

    Stepping back, the backstory of the situation is that the feds had a ton of pressure with the 2004 revision to move toward RtI, but there are some staunch advocates of discrepancy out there, so this legislation is, like a lot of other pieces of legislation, a bit awkward because it's trying to appease a few different groups. If RtI folks would have had their way, discrepancy would have simply been banned outright, everywhere.
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2015
  25. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    If every time a student is assessed a district will not allow other data to override the lack of discrepancy, that is requiring the discrepancy model and requiring the discrepancy exists. That "excludes other factors" because those factors are irrelevant for obtaining services. By never overriding the discrepancy requirement that means the discrepancy requirement is required.

    No, districts cannot legally mandate that the discrepancy exists to qualify for services. When that is the case that requires the discrepancy formula be used. Since districts must adhere to state laws, they cannot choose to mandate that the discrepancy exists since states cannot require the discrepancy formula be used. Requiring that the discrepancy exists to get services is requiring that the discrepancy model be used. There is no word spin to get around that.
     
  26. EdEd

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    Yes - the district can require the discrepancy model. The state can't. Here's the specific language:

    So, it specifically prohibits states from requiring discrepancy, not districts.

    See the quote above - the federal law specifically speaks to "criteria adopted by the states." It doesn't speak the LEA. The LEA is allowed to come up, and mandate, whichever criteria it chooses - provided it doesn't go against state or federal law, which discrepancy does not.

    Believe me, I wish I was wrong! I think this is the #1 problem with localizing education - people at the LEA level sometimes just don't have the background & training to devise their own systems.
     
  27. EdEd

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    And as a follow-up, I see where (at least part of) your argument is - that because a district is within a state that everything required of states is also required of districts. I don't think this is true, though, as federal law treats the state differently from LEAs as entities. The LEA is considered, in many ways, the final decision-maker related to education. Our government - released to education - doesn't function in a pass-down manner- that everything imposed on the federal government is imposed on states, then imposed on districts, then imposed on schools, then imposed on teachers.

    Districts are organized differently in different states, but in general function as independent entities - they are separately incorporated and legally autonomous (and are defined and clearly treated as separate entities in the definitions section of IDEIA). They do have to follow state guidelines, but are not simply "local affiliates or branches" of a state department of education. This sets up the distinction between federal policy that would apply to states specifically as an entity, not everything falling within states.
     
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2015
  28. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    Criteria for special education eligibility does fall under that of the state. Child Find is a state function which is why districts need to follow state criteria. Since states must not require the discrepancy formula be used, setting criteria that says a cut off for the discrepancy model in order to qualify for special education services is in effect making it a "sole criterion" for eligibility.

    Please read the information in the link below. It explains how LEAs work under the SEAs in terms of special education, child find, and eligibility. Question C-4 explains the state's role in the process and the LEAs requirement to follow the state's criteria. You said,
    States do control how LEAs are supposed to function when it comes to assessment and eligibility of students for special education. You are right in that the law now gives more flexibility for assessment and eligibility, but no matter how you look at it, requiring a cut off score in the discrepancy model would violate the other provision in the law.

    http://idea.ed.gov/explore/view/p/,root,dynamic,QaCorner,8,

    Q and A: Questions and Answers On Response to Intervention (RTI) and Early Intervening Services (EIS)
     
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2015
  29. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Sometimes those comments are coming out of frustration and not ignorance of the sped process on a teacher's part. Generally teachers are dancing as fast as they can, balancing curriculum, student needs, parent communications, new state and district mandates, paperwork, and a whole host of other professional (and personal) responsibilities and obligations.
    Sometimes having a student evaluated, even if they don't qualify for services, is a bit CYA 'starting a paperwork trail' in addition to trying to get extra help for a student who is struggling despite all that a classroom teacher is doing.
     
  30. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Thanks for the link a2z. I had trouble with the link but was able to find the Q&A I think you were referring to. I definitely concede that that language does tie the LEA & SEA more closely together than I had previously described, but I don't believe the language suggests that the state fully develops the SLD identification process prescriptively, which districts then follow. Rather, my interpretation of the language is that the state does have the right and obligation to make certain decisions which LEAs must follow. The SEA creates a framework in which LEAs develop their own procedures. If, for example, the state mandates RtI, districts must use that.

    The LEA is still not a local branch or affiliate, and still develops its own policies & procedures, provided that they are not in conflict with federal or state law. As such, any requirement of an SEA is not automatically passed through to an LEA.

    One other comment that may be helpful - there are plenty of tasks specifically delegated to SEAs that wouldn't make sense for an LEA to follow, such as adopting statewide child find procedures. Obviously, IDEA sees the LEA and SEA as having different roles and responsibilities. To the extent that IDEA bans something, it outright bans the practice, or specifically mentions the LEA. Language of parent consent, for example, doesn't talk about a "State's obligation," but an LEA's obligation.

    I don't think this is just my read, either - I think it's fairly common knowledge that districts develop their own SPED procedures and make their own decisions, provided those decisions don't violate federal or state law.

    At this point, it seems we've probably read the sections of the law we're going to read, and have drawn our own conclusions. I do see where you're coming from, and hope that you see where I'm coming from. To summarize our 2 main points of disagreement:

    1) You say that because an LEA falls within the geopolitical boundary of an SEA, that the LEA is obligated to do the same things as an SEA. I say that IDEA clearly distinguishes between the roles of the LEA and SEA, and obligations imposed on one do not automatically transfer to another.

    2) You say that using the discrepancy formula as a necessary condition violates IDEA's requirement that multiple assessment procedures be used and considered when making SLD determinations. I say that requiring a condition to be present, such as ruling out "lack of instruction," as a singular, necessary condition do not violate the multiple assessment procedures clause.

    Given that the language does favor my perspective - the language of IDEA clearly distinguishes between SEAs and LEAs, and only prohibits SEAs from the discrepancy mandate in the text of the document - I think the burden would be on you to prove that said mandate (or mandates in general) applies as a default extension to LEAs. This, to me, would be done by either getting a clarifying response from the DOE, or by finding relevant case law. For example, have there ever been any lawsuits by parents regarding the discrepancy situation in which they've argued what has been argued in this thread? What was the court's response? There are hundreds of decisions made in most districts across the country in which kids have been denied SLD identification solely based on lack of discrepancy - if you're right about what you're saying, surely one parent must have realized this and filed a lawsuit?
     
  31. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    "You say that using the discrepancy formula as a necessary condition violates IDEA's requirement that multiple assessment procedures be used and considered when making SLD determinations." Yes, I do.

    Here is a case. The district does exactly what I have been explaining as not legal and in violation of federal law. Even though they gather other information, the only criteria they actually use to determine SLD is discrepancy. Gathering data is not enough. By saying if the discrepancy doesn't exist the child can not be found eligible is, by default, using a sole factor because that is the factor they use to make the determination.

    I'm having trouble getting my link to the case to post.

    https://mspecmillburn.wordpress.com/

    https://cases.justia.com/federal/district-courts/new-jersey/njdce/2:2012cv00892/271007/34/0.pdf
    V.M. v. SPARTA TOWNSHIP BOARD OF EDUCATION


    I have to say that when I read the testimonies of the staff, I had to laugh in a sad sort of way at the grossly illogical thought process that was being used.
     
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2015
  32. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Wow, a2z - I've got to say you've done it! You've found case law that specifically addresses this conversation, and I have to say that what you've found squarely disagrees with my perspectives, and establishes that your perspective is, in fact, the present interpretation of the law. Note that this is not because of the SEA vs LEA issue before, but because they've interpreted that the LEA may not rely on a "single procedure."

    So, first I concede. And I'm happy to do so, and this needs to be spread far and wide, because there are so many districts out there that continue to rule out eligibility based solely on discrepancy.

    That being said, I disagree with the decision, for 2 reasons:

    1) The argument in this opinion is very clear that there can't be any single criteria used as a rule out. This clearly negates federal law which specifically mandates single factors to be ruled out, such as "lack of instruction" with SLD. If this judge is correct, the IDEA is a violation of itself as it prescribes single criteria which are necessary, even if not sufficient to find a child eligible. A natural extension of this is that lack of response to intervention cannot be used to identify a child as eligible since that's "one procedure." This is hugely problematic, and again, hypocritical.

    2) I believe the judge clearly misunderstands both the letter and intent of the law - namely, that the intention of the clause about considering "multiple sources of data" and not relying on "single procedures" means that we should adopt a multi-method, multi-rater approach toward evaluating each criteria. So, when considering "lack on instruction," for example, we should gather multiple types of data from multiple people. In short, I think the judge is confusing criteria on an SLD eligibility checklist from assessment/data used to consider those criteria.

    Still, you are right, and I am wrong, and I'm happy to be so in the context of discrepancy. However, what happens when judges apply this law to criteria that we do want or need to be necessary conditions (e.g., RtI is enough to qualify you for services).
     
  33. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    Dec 20, 2015

    EdEd, I've reached my fill of this discussion. I do not agree with your opinions for your disagreement of the decision, nor do I want to discuss the whole SEA vs LEA issue any more. I've given my opinion and show the legal basis for my comments. I am happy I was able to provide you with the case that suited your needs in order to prove that my comments were accurate when it came to cut scores. Enjoy your further quest for knowledge.
     

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