A special education legal resource discussing case law, news, practical advocacy advice, and developments in state and federal laws, statutes and regulations. Postings include insight and sometimes humor from Charles P. Fox, a Chicago, Illinois attorney who is also a parent of child with special needs, and other guest authors. Email: email@example.com
Even though it is January, it is time now to make requests for accomodations on high stakes testing such as the SAT , ACT and Advanced Placement [AP] exams. Every year in March and even in April parents come to me with requests for help in appealing declination decisions for high stakes testing. Very often the problems center on the age of the evaluations which substantiate the needed accomodations, the validity of the evaluations or the documentation contained in the IEP or other student records. In the Spring there is almost no leeway to correct gaps in documentation.
Nearly 1 in 4 school aged children are suffering from the effects of lead exposure which can have pervasive effects on all areas of learning. Early detection is critical before the effects become irreversible. Lead exposure has been associated with behavioral issues, learning disabilities and mental retardation.
While lead testing is normally mandated as part of routine school physicals, it should be revisited as part of a case study evaluation for special education. Other medical questions are commonly raised during case study evaluations. Routine questions relating specifically to lead exposure, however, are rarely a part of the evaluation. ESA Biosciences of Chelmsford, Massaschussets, a medical diagnostic company , has released a lead diagnostic test that takes 3 minutes to make a determination of lead exposure . Now there is no reason for schools, pediatricians and local clinics not to screen or re-screen for lead, especially given its effects on nervous system
developement and learning. Parents should bring forward any possible
exposures to lead even if the school does not inquire during the case
study evaluation for special education.
The Diagnostic Statistical Manual 4th edition ("DSM-IV") may not be a text that is familiar to some parents, but it is considered one of the primary texts to determine whether a person has depression, ADHD or other psychological issues that are defined in the text. Very often determinations in special education are based on the application of criteria found in the DSM-IV or near verbatim copies of the text embodied in state law. It is THE standard that influences many decisions both clinically and educationally. It now appears that the yard stick may not be perfectly objective.
This blog post comes from the Intelligence Testing blog an incredible resource on issues relating to testing, learning disabilities, current research on testing which also injects some very funny cartoons. A new instrument called the School Motivation and Learning Strategies Inventory (SMALSI) wasintroduced at the National Association of School Psychologists' (NASP) convention. This instrument has the potential to "to tap some important non-cognitive aspects of a child's academic aptitude," according to Dr. Kevin McGrew, the author of the Intelligence Testing blog. If the SMALSI is validated and widely accepted, it could reveal important data for designing more effective IEPs. As with most innovative concepts, parents will likely have to inquire and advocate for the application of this instrument, if applicable.
Test protocols are the answers provided to educational testing, and explanations and interpretations of test questions even if the answers are integrated with the test question. The legal question which frequently arises is whether test protocols are "student records" and therefore, subject to parental inspection and copying. Schools almost reflexively answer "no" to this question and parents are left to fight this response. A recent hearing officer decision from Illinois, School District U-46, 45 IDELR 74 (2005) provides some sound reasoning for the parents' position on this question.
The Boston Globe published an article about a college bound young woman who has dyslexia and an IEP, and was denied accommodations on her SAT. [ Download Accommodations Denied.doc
] This story rings much more true than the op-ed piece in the New York Times. Accomodations are not being given out readily and easily. I have had to write numerous letters marshalling arguments for accommodations some of which have been denied even with significant documentation.
For all those students taking the SAT on April 1, 2006 (a cruel joke in itself), I wish you good luck, and if you have accommodations, I hope they help you demonstrate your knowledge. Thank you again to Liz Ditz for sending me the Boston Globe story.
The New York Times ran an op-ed [Download NY Times oped.doc]
piece critical of the SAT test accomodations for students with disabilities. This op-ed piece just glosses over the real reasons students get test accommodations—they need them because of a bona fide disability. It reads as if students who request accommodations are looking for a leg up when they do not deserve it. Some time ago another mother told my wife how lucky she was to park close in a handicapped spot in the parking lot. People do not see what is in front of them--accommodations based upon real and long standing need. In the case of SATs would more time make a difference for the student who is not prepared or even for the prepared non-disabled student ? It only makes a difference for the student with a disability who truly needs and benefits from testing accommodations.
Thank you to Liz Ditz for sending this story to my attention.
A high priority item for successful advocacy in special education is to have a good quality data based evaluation from a private evaluator. Such evaluations are not required in every situation; typically,however, when a parent calls an attorney or advocate it is time to seek private evaluations. These evaluations can be from a doctor, therapist, consultant or psychologist, but they all must hit the mark to be of any real value. The following are my highlights of the criteria to evaluate the evaluators.