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September 22, 2011

Bless the paperwork

By Valle Dwight, LD Contributing Writer

Anyone who has a child in special education has at one time or another bemoaned the mountains of paper that come with the territory – evaluations, progress reports, notices, more notices, and, of course, the IEP itself. If you’re like me, you have a corner, a bookshelf, or even an entire room devoted to storing it all.

Teachers have a similar complaint – that they spend more time filling out paperwork than educating children. If they choose the child over the paperwork, they get slapped by the administration. If they choose the paperwork over the child, well, no teacher wants to answer to a parent who discovers that her child is not getting what he needs.

If no one is happy, you’d think there must be a better way. And maybe there is, but a pilot program in Massachusetts does not sound like the answer. Called Procedures Lite (note to the marketing people who came up with this name: You’re not building confidence in your product when you call it “lite,” or when you spell it incorrectly.), it claims to streamline the special education process by removing many of the procedural requirements of the law.

What it really does: Strips parents of the legal rights that protect their child’s education plan.

These are the more alarming parts of the agreement:

  • We agree to suspend state and federal special education procedural requirements during the implementation of Procedures Lite for one year from the date we enter into this Agreement.
  • We understand that an Individualized Education Program (IEP) will be replaced by a one-page Student Learning Plan (SLP) listing the services, goals, approaches, accommodations and modifications necessary to provide a FAPE  [free, appropriate education] for the Student.
  • We agree that during the time Procedures LITE is in effect, we will not:

    • _____convene the Team meeting to develop an IEP.
    • _____develop an IEP.
    • _____ send/receive periodic parent notices.
    • _____conduct procedurally required evaluations.

 In ideal circumstances, I can imagine that this would work for some families. But I worry about the parents who don’t know their rights and have no idea what they’re agreeing to (and this is probably most parents). They will be left out of the process, and left out in the cold when it comes to their child’s education plan. The paperwork can be onerous, but sometimes it’s the only way parents know what’s happening with their child’s education.

Comments

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I truly admire special ed parents. They not only become advocates for their children, they become experts in the law--whether they want to be or not.

Some of the best advice and expertise I've received has come from parents of special ed students.

Other subgroups could learn from their perseverance.

The paperwork is "onerous" and much worse; and the number of parents that follow the paper trail can be counted on one hand. The bureaucracy is inspired by ...can you guess? Hint; they make a lot of money by forcing the issue of information on paper...that's right...Lawyers.

A lot of concerned parents will be grateful for your blog. This will help them become aware of the rights that are being disregarded by paperwork and red tape.

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