This presentation is provided by the Special Education Division of the California Department of Education to address key elements of the development of the Individual Education Program or IEP. The IEP is perhaps the most critical component toward ensuring that students with disabilities receive access to the educational opportunity and related services to which they are entitled under federal law.
This presentation is intended to clarify specific requirements concerning the IEP process to parents, local educational agencies, service providers, and other stakeholders so that all involved in the education of students with disabilities have access to key information about the IEP process and related activities.
The presentation is divided into five modules to allow flexibility in the use and delivery of this information. The CDE encourages interested individuals and groups to determine the most effective way to present this information based on the needs of each audience. It may be appropriate to use only selected modules that address the interests of some groups. However, the CDE encourages individuals and groups who are directly involved in IEP development, particularly LEA employees, to view all five modules.
This first module provides information on how recent changes in California law have affected the IEP development process.
The other modules take a deeper look into the IEP process, particularly in light of changes resulting from AB 114. Module 2 discusses specific LEA activities in developing the IEP, from identifying eligible students through conducting the IEP meeting. Module 3 discusses the IEP development process in detail. Module 4 involves a training activity using actual IEPs, to put show how the information in this series is put into practice. And Module 5 addresses some additional considerations for IEP development.
Before we proceed, we want to point out some acronyms that commonly appear in this presentation. It is helpful to be familiar with these acronyms because they are commonly used in both written guidance among educational entities and in discussions among individuals involved in the development of Individualized Education Programs.
IDEA – Individuals with Disabilities Education Act – This is the title of the federal law that establishes the educational benefits and services to which students are entitled, and for which local educational agencies are responsible.
IEP – Individualized Education Program – The IEP describes the plan for the student’s educational program, including current performance levels, student goals, and the educational placement and other services the student will receive.
CMH – County Mental Health Agencies – These agencies were, until recently, responsible for the mental health element of services provided to eligible students. They often continue to provide services to students, although in a different context than in prior years.
LEA – In most cases, this term refers to a local school district, but LEAs also include county offices of education, Special Education Local Plan Areas, and charter schools.
The passage of AB 114 in 2011 significantly changed the way special education services related to mental health were identified and provided to California students. Under the prior structure, established by AB 3632 (Also known as Chapter 26.5 of the Government Code), county mental health agencies had a key role in determining what services students needed, and in providing those services. AB 114 removed this structure, reverting the process for determining and providing mental health related services to students to requirements established in federal law. Federal law makes LEAs fully responsible for identifying student needs and required services (via IEP teams) and for providing those services to special education students. This module n more fully describes this change, including reviewing the roles of CMH agencies and LEAs under the prior structure and the roles of those agencies under the new structure, and comparing two key elements of the special education process before and after the passage of AB 114: student assessment, and IEP development.
This graphic provides a visual representation of the effect of the AB 114 legislation:
California special education was previously modeled after federal law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
In 1984, California passed AB 3632 in an effort to more appropriately serve the mental health needs of students with disabilities. This law, in effect from 1985 until 2011, essentially overlaid on federal law a set of laws creating a structure for mental health services to students with disabilities that was specific to California.
In 2011, the California Legislature passed AB 114, which removed those California-specific laws related to mental health services to students with disabilities, leaving the structure for providing such services to be determined by federal law.
It can be said that AB 114 returned the law regarding determining special education services to students to what it had been prior to 1986, specifically, federal law, which states that all decisions for the services a student with disabilities is to receive are made by the LEA through the IEP team.
So, to clarify how the rules have changed, let’s revisit the process that was in place under AB3632, which was in force from 1985 until 2011 when AB 114 was enacted.
Under AB 3632, the LEA’s referral to CMH triggered a mental health assessment by CMH staff or contractors, and based on the assessment results the CMH made a “recommendation” of appropriate mental health services for the student to the student’s IEP team. The IEP team was required to accept that recommendation. The IEP team and LEA staff were not authorized to question the recommendation or present possible alternative service options.
The passage of AB 114 returned full responsibility for assessment and service decisions to the IEP team, and the LEA was made responsible for ensuring provision of all services the IEP team identified.
It is important to note that, while the law specifies how decisions on appropriate services for the students are made, it does not specify how those services are to be provided to the student. The LEA has some options concerning how it provides services, including whether it will provide the services using its own staff or whether it will contract with other entities to provide some or all services to the student. In fact, the LEA may elect to continue to involve CMH in assessing students’ needs and providing some services, but the LEA may also opt to provide assessment and subsequent services directly, or through another appropriately licensed individual or entity. Many LEAs are electing to use a combination of resources to provide services to students. In all cases, it is critical that the LEA ensures that all resources and individuals involved in delivery of related services meet legal requirements, both concerning the funding streams used to pay for the services, and in staffing positions with individuals who are appropriately licensed, certified, or otherwise authorized by law to provide the services they are assigned to provide.
This graphic shows how LEAs and CMH agencies interacted to provide mental health-related student assessment under the prior structure (AB 3632/GC Chapter 26.5), and contrasts it with the current process, which is based on federal law (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). Note that under the new structure, the LEA is responsible for the entire process of special education student assessment.
This graphic offers a similar view of changes to the IEP development process resulting from the passage of AB114. Under the prior structure, the CMH recommendation for mental health services was provided to the IEP team, and the IEP team was required to incorporate that recommendation into the student’s IEP. Under the new structure, the LEA coordinates assessment of the student using its own staff, qualified contractors, and or CMH, then provides assessment results to the IEP team, and may provide a recommendation of appropriate related services for the student. Still, the IEP team is empowered to determine the related services the student will receive. That determination may reflect assessor recommendations, or the IEP team may opt for a different set of services based on other information the IEP team has about the student.
- The net effect is that state law has been amended so that rules for developing the IEP return to the requirements of IDEA for the provision of related services.
- Previously under GC 26.5, LEAs identified students who potentially needed mental health services, engaged in pre-referral activities, and referred the student to the county mental health agency. The CMH would then assess the student and then provide the IEP team with a treatment plan containing related services. The IEP team accepted the proposed plan from CMH and the related services were incorporated into the IEP. CMH became the service provider for the related services addressing the student’s mental health needs. Now, LEAs are responsible for the entire evaluation process and provision of mental health services as well as all other related services called for in the IEP, as required by the IDEA.
- Previously CMH conducted an assessment for mental health needs, provided the assessment report, and made recommendations for related services to the IEP team. These recommendations were included in the IEP. Now, the LEA is responsible for all of these stages, including assessment, the assessment report, and providing recommendations to the student’s IEP team.
This has been the first of five modules on the IEP process and how it has changed in light of recent changes to California Law. This module is designed to be viewed on its own, or in combination with any or all of the other modules in this series.
The second module will provide an overview of key elements of federal law related to the education of students with disabilities, known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, including:
- -- Child Find, the federal term for identifying students who are eligible to receive special education services
- -- Components and rules concerning the process of assessing students suspected of having disabilities, including required elements of the process, and development of a formal Assessment Plan
- -- Considerations for LEAs when scheduling IEP Team meetings
- -- An overview of law that establishes requirements for who participates on an IEP team; and,
- -- Expected processes and outcomes of the IEP Team meeting.
Module 3 discusses LEA requirements for developing IEPs under federal law, IDEA, now that California-based procedures are no longer in law.
Module 4 involves in-depth review of actual sample IEPs to demonstrate how the information discussed in these modules is put into practice.
Module 5 addresses other considerations about IEPs, including timelines, goal development, and additional resources.
We encourage you to consider viewing other modules in this series, as appropriate, to address additional professional learning needs of your group.
For more information on a variety of issues related to the passage of Assembly Bill 114, please visit the AB 114 Web page on the California Department of Education Web site. For the AB 114 Web page, go to the hyperlink on this slide. For other information about California Public Schools, visit the CDE home page.
Here are several additional resources that provide more detailed information on the subjects addressed in this series.