Q #1: My child is not doing well in school. How do I refer him/her to the Section 504 or Special Education Team?
A: A referral (in writing) to the school administrator is the best way to be placed on the Section 504 or Special Education Evaluation Team calendar. There is a form to complete – this form can be obtained from the school. A letter to the school administration is the first step, then completing the Referral Form is the second step. Upon receipt of your referral request, your child will be placed on the school’s Section 504 Team’s schedule or the Special Education Team’s schedule … But, also, please read # 2 for additional information about the referral processes within each school.
Q #2: What is RTI? Teachers talk about it all the time, and I don’t think I understand it very well.
A: RTI stands for “Response to Intervention.” It is a method of academic and behavioral intervention designed to provide early, systematic assistance to children who are having difficulty learning, or difficulty with behavioral adjustment.
RTI seeks to prevent academic failure through early intervention, frequent progress measurement, and increasingly intensive research-based instructional and/or behavioral interventions for children who continue to have difficulty. RTI requires schools to take a close look at children whose achievement and progress are not adequate for their respective grade level. RTI is a regular education initiative; it is not special education. The RTI team meets approximately every six weeks to receive referrals (from teachers, from service providers, from parents, etc.), to evaluate the progress of children already in the process, and to make determination of the next steps for the new referrals, as well as for those children whose achievement is being progress monitored.
There are three tiers that are the foundation of the RTI process: A child is referred and begins the RTI process at Tier 1, proceeding through the subsequent Tiers depending on his/her response to the identified interventions the RTI Team has developed and implemented. The major differences between the each of the Tiers are time and specialization – the higher the Tier of intervention, the more time is focused on the child’s specific needs and the more specialized the instruction, the behavior plan of supports – i.e. involving reading and/or math specialists and/or behavior specialists.
Tier 1- defined by the enhanced, instructional and/or behavioral supports provided by regular education teachers, with consultations from reading/math specialists and/or behavioral specialists in the school. The purpose of the instructional supports is to determine what the child’s specific needs (skills, concepts, behavior supports) are and what interventions and supports are needed to help the child progress.
Tier 2 –the interventions at this level are a bit more intense; these interventions involve added supports that may include individual (or small group) work with a reading and/or math specialist to implement some of the interventions, to assist the teacher in the classroom-based interventions and activities that are designed to foster growth and skills/concepts strength and/or behavioral regulation.
Tier 3: this the most intense level of the RTI process. This level of intervention involves much specialized support in the regular classroom, in concert with some “pull out time” with an academic and/or behavior specialist to implement the targeted interventions.
It is important to note that the interventions used in RTI must be scientifically based and must be delivered/implemented with fidelity - This means that the interventions have to be given time to work, they must be targeted to the child’s empirically identified needs, and the interventions must have a scientifically proven basis for their effectiveness.
Q #3: If I disagree with what is in my child’s IEP what would be my next step?
A: If you disagree with what is in your child’s IEP, the next step would be to request a meeting for an IEP review. To do this, contact your child’s case manager (usually the special education teacher) to coordinate the meeting. Please remember that you can always initiate a letter or a phone call to your child’s case manager asking for an IEP review meeting.
Q #4: If I want an independent evaluation on my child, how do I ask for that?
A. Parents can request an independent evaluation, at the school department’s expense, if the school has done an evaluation and the parent disagrees with the evaluation findings. In essence, parents can disagree with the information and data that the school is presenting regarding their child’s performance and achievement. Should this happen, ask for an independent evaluation related to the specific test that was given by the school.
Q #5: How can I be sure my child is getting the accommodations and modifications that he/she needs to be successful?
A. The best way to follow up on this part of the IEP is to connect with your child’s case manager/special education teacher. A simple parent teacher meeting where you review the specific modifications and accommodations that are identified in your child’s IEP may be all that is needed for you to be sure of your child’s supports. Should you want to modify the accommodations and/or modifications, an IEP review meeting would be needed – This can be achieved by a simple request for an IEP Review meeting.
Q #6: My child has a serious medical condition and cannot attend school – He/She has missed so much of school because of the medical issues that I am worried about his/her learning and achievement. What do I do? What team do I call to get a meeting to discuss help for my child ?
A: This is a complex question; first and foremost, you may very likely be talking about the need for home tutoring during medical treatment. You may need assistance in applying for home tutoring. It is simply a matter of applying to the school-based Section 504 Team or the Special Education (IDEA) Team. Both Teams can assist you with information and guidance even if you are just beginning to learn about your child’s medical condition. It would be wise to begin the conversation with the school personnel even if there has not been a complete, clear diagnosis.
Q #7: What if I don’t sign the IEP? Can it still be implemented?
A: Special Education regulations state that the parents must sign the initial IEP. If parents do not sign the initial IEP, then the school cannot implement the specialized program supports reflected in the IEP – i.e. the support services identified in that initial IEP cannot be provided to your child.
After the initial IEP, and for subsequent IEPs, the parent does not have to sign the document for the programmatic supports to be provided the child. The school will implement the revised IEP program and supports in 10 school days after the meeting in which the new IEP was developed.
To stop a new/revised IEP from being implemented, a parent would have to take some action, such as file for mediation or for a due process hearing through the RI Department of Education (RIDE).
Q #8: What if I disagree with the IEP that was written for my child? Where do I turn for help?
A: If you disagree with the IEP or any portion of the IEP, the best course of action is to contact your child’s special education teacher to request an IEP review. It does not matter if you change your mind one minute, one hour or one week, or one month after implementation, you have the right to call an IEP review meeting to address any concerns you have regarding your child’s IEP.
Q #10: What is the difference between mediation and a due process hearing?
A: The process of mediation is more informal than a Due Process Hearing (DPH). Mediation requires both parties (school department and parents) sitting with a RIDE appointed Mediator to discuss their differences, concerns and changes each side thinks is important and necessary for the child. Mediation is an open, frank discussion mediated by a RIDE arbitrator who listens, facilitates discussion and explanation and works for some consensus/resolution of the issues between the school and the parent. In essence, with the assistance of the RIDE Mediator, both the school and the parents come to an agreement on the issues.
A: A Due Process Hearing, on the other hand, is much more formal and involves court-like proceedings. Attorneys are involved; court stenographers are used to record the proceedings; rules of law apply; testimony is taken; evidence is presented; attorneys question the “witnesses”, etc.
The most important difference between Mediation and a Due Process Hearing is that the school and parents do not come to a consensus; rather the Hearing Officer decides the issue(s) based on special education law and the evidence and testimony presented.
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