As part of its effort to meet the educational needs of all students, the district offers a variety of related services as prescribed by each student's individual education program that meets state and federal mandates are also provided. There are thirteen disability categories under which a student may be eligible for services. They include:
The following information on Special Services was created a number of years ago by Christina Hoskin, a former Community Relations Supervisor for our district.
IDEA is considered by many to be landmark legislation for our country. It changed several things. First, it took special education services from individual states, which had varied widely in their policies and programs, and created Federal guidelines. Since that time, the services offered—and required of all public schools—would be the same nationwide.
Secondly, IDEA guaranteed a “free, appropriate public education” to children with disabilities and placed these children with their non-disabled peers in the “least restrictive environment.” In other words, children with disabilities are to be included in as many non-disabled classes as their individual disability will allow.
Third, with one sweeping motion more than one million children were added to the public school system. In 2003, according to the U.S. Department of Education, more than six million of the nation’s school children, almost 13 percent, were enrolled in Special Education programs. Over 700 of the students in the Bartlesville Public School District usually identify as qualifying for Special Education. The services provided to Bartlesville students vary from curriculum modifications and speech therapy to physical and occupational therapy and help with self-care skills (dressing, eating, etc.), all services depend on the student’s disability and the Individual Education Plan (IEP) for each child.
Many times when we think of children in Special Education, we think of only those with the most severe impairments. However, there are far more students with milder forms of learning or attention disorders. Of the over 700 students enrolled in Special Education services in the Bartlesville Public Schools District, about one percent are considered severe and profoundly disabled, and the majority have learning problems which may not be apparent when first meeting these students.
The federal law, IDEA, defines a learning disability as:
The law also lists thirteen different disability categories under which a child may be eligible for services. These categories require curriculum modifications for educators at every level of education. Students with a learning disability are required to be taught differently than non-disabled peers. For example, a student may take tests in a separate room from the classroom to help aid concentration, have a test read out loud to them, study shorter vocabulary and spelling lists, or write shorter essays than their non-disabled peers.
Unfortunately, special education services are costly to the public school districts. In the next section in this special education series, we will show how the funding is used, how the federal government has yet to live up to the money promised over thirty years ago, and how the Bartlesville Public School District is keeping their budget balanced.
In 1975, the Federal Government passed new legislation regarding Special Education. The law now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) came with two promises. First, for students and parents it promised a “free, appropriate public education” to children with disabilities, and that children with disabilities would be educated with their non-disabled peers in the “least restrictive environment” as possible. For School Districts, IDEA promised “up to 40 percent” of the national average of per-pupil expenditures.
Of these two promises, only one of them has been kept. Students are receiving the needed changes in education, but school districts are not receiving the financial assistance to the level promised. School districts on average receive a federal subsidy of about 15 percent. Each year our school district spends millions of dollars for Special Education Services for Bartlesville students.
In years past, Medicaid reimbursed public schools for providing many special education services to students from low-income families. However, as legislation continued to redefine the law and change eligibility requirements, the reimbursements have been greatly reduced. Critics of the system cite the many administrative and logistical barriers, confusing and inconsistent policies, a lack of federal guidance, and lack of time and resources when pursuing billing. According to the American Education Newspaper, some school advocates say states could be missing out on more than a billion dollars a year for these students.
Just getting the portion of the federal funding Bartlesville now receives is no easy feat. Bartlesville Public Schools must comply with all state and federal regulations. Data is submitted and analyzed and then compared to other schools and previous years. If something is out of line, fines could be levied against the district. At a time when more students are entering the Special Education Program, and more school districts are dealing with tight budgets, this is a very serious concern.
Bartlesville Public Schools has over 700 students with an Individual Education Plan, or an IEP, involved in Special Education services. Bartlesville Public Schools offers a professional teaching staff of over fifty educators that teach these students all aspects of Special Education required by law, and does this within the budget they have.
Each student in Special Education is required to have their own plan for personal modification to help them learn. In the next section we’ll examine this aspect of special education and explain how it protects the students and requires certain actions by the school district.
The IEP is considered one of the most critical elements in ensuring effective teaching and learning for children with disabilities. More than 700 Bartlesville Public School students have an IEP. The school district is legally responsible to implement the IEP effectively and is accountable to the U.S. Department of Education of Special Education Programs (OSEP) in doing so. OSEP regularly monitors all states for compliance with federal education laws and to see if states show progress in meeting goals for IEP students.
Creating an IEP for a student is a process. First, students identified as possibly needing special education services are tested to see if they meet the federal law standard as “having a disability”. Once these results are processed, a team of professionals including a special education teacher, classroom teacher, school psychologist, school administrator, and parents meet to determine eligibility and write the IEP. The schools provide these evaluations and tests at no cost to a student or student’s family.
Parental involvement in the IEP process as well as the continued education is critical. Parents can give input about a child’s background and offer emotional support to students at home. It’s important to note that at all times parents may access their child’s records and progress reports. When a Special Education student reaches 18 years of age, that information then goes directly to them. Parents are also encouraged to bring any concerns to their child’s school counselor to allow adjustments to be made. It is the goal of Bartlesville Public Schools to make every effort to contact and evaluate, and to educate, in the least restrictive environment. Also, all information used by the school district regarding the child must be kept confidential.
Once the IEP is written, it will put into place modifications Bartlesville Public Schools is required to provide. The type and amount of services to be provided must be stated in the IEP so that the level of the agency’s commitment of resources will be clear to parents and other IEP team members. The student will receive services as soon as possible after the IEP meeting.
The IEP is re-evaluated annually so a child’s progress can be measured and the IEP can be modified, if needed. Progress reports are given to parents throughout the year. In addition, every three years, students are re-evaluated to determine if they still qualify within the federal law definition of a “child with a disability”.
Done correctly, the IEP should improve teaching, learning and a student’s results, but it’s not just learning and education affected by an IEP. Depending on the needs of the child, the IEP team must consider what the law calls “special factors” such as if the child’s behavior interferes with his or her learning or the learning of others. Then the EIP team will consider strategies and supports to address the child’s behavior. The IEP places certain procedural safeguards in action that the district must follow in the discipline process. That topic will be addressed in the next section.
The Federal law known as IDEA, was originally passed in 1975, guaranteeing the nation’s 6.5 million students with disabilities the right to a free, appropriate public education. However, the law’s language regarding disciplining those students has become a major point of contention among educators, parents, and legislators. In fact, the reauthorization of the IDEA in 1997 stretched over three years, mostly because of bitter debate on discipline issues. The final decision: a student’s disability must be a factor in determining appropriate – and legal – punishment.
Under current law, when a special education student misbehaves in public school, an investigation process, called a manifestation determination, is required. School professionals investigate the incidents, called a manifestation determination, to determine whether the student’s behavior was due to his or her disabilities. One immediate stipulation for special education students with an IEP is they cannot be suspended long-term for actions related to their disabilities, this is in place partly to protect students from long stretches without educational services.
A school can suspend a student with an IEP for up to 45 calendar days (not school days) for serious infractions such as bringing a weapon to school, or illegal drug incidents. However, the law requires alternative educational services must be provided after the tenth day. Bartlesville Public Schools offers Alternate Placement Education afternoons at the Mid-High. This program allows students who are under discipline action to continue to earn credits toward graduation. Only with the very extreme behavior will a special education student be removed from Alternate Education. The next phase is a home study program where an educator will visit and teach the student in the home. This is in accordance with State and Federal laws by maintaining educational services to IEP students.
With the beginning of a new semester or school year, a student’s slate is “wiped clean” and they are placed back into the regular school system. However, school educators will put new strategies in place to help curb the student’s behavior.
Many critics of the discipline procedures see special education students not receiving the same punishments as students without an IEP and feel it is unfair. The reality is Bartlesville Public Schools – like all public schools - must follow the law and honor the stipulations required by the IEP. The main crux of federal law regarding special education students is if the student has the capacity to understand what he or she did was wrong and to learn lessons from the consequences.
In the final section, we’ll look at some of the good things happening at Bartlesville Public Schools Special Services.
Since the federal government enacted the law now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1975, millions of American children have benefited from Special Education Services. Hundreds of students are currently enrolled in Special Education Services through Bartlesville Public Schools. These students receive assistance through speech therapy, curriculum modifications, self-care skills, sign language interpreters, or whatever needs their disability requires.
Bartlesville Public Schools is committed to contacting, evaluating, and educating all special needs children ages three through twenty-one. Bartlesville Public Schools Special Services now assists parents in the process of getting an Individualized Education Plan, or IEP, for their child. First, after the initial tests have been administered, the school psychologist meets privately with parents to discuss the results. Then, the parents meet again with the IEP team of professionals to discuss the best options for their child. Since parents have had the opportunity to ask questions, they often feel more comfortable in the team meeting for their child and are more likely to give opinions and ideas.
Bartlesville Public Schools has a professional and dedicated Special Education staff. They are master jugglers, teaching in regular classrooms, teaching the modifications for special education students, filing proper paper work for each child, meeting with parents, scheduling annual IEP’s, and so forth.
They aren’t the only teachers who teach special education students. Any teacher, from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, who has a student with an IEP in his or her classroom, must make curriculum adjustments for that student. This depends on the student’s needs, but in some cases, teachers may need to create two or three lesson plans for the same topic.
Special Education Services continues to progress towards inclusion of special education students into regular classrooms.