The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act established specific requirements for LEAs to identify students who may have disabilities affecting their education and to ensure that those students are provided with the services required to support them in accessing educational opportunities.
This module provides an overview of each of those requirements, including activities required in identifying eligible students, assessing students to determine appropriate services, and developing the Individual Education Program to ensure eligible students have access to services to which they are entitled.
This is the second of a five-module series created by the California Department of Education to address various elements of the IEP process. Module 1 discussed how the IEP process has changed as a result of the passage of Assembly Bill 114. Module 3 examines the IEP development process in detail. Module 4 involves a training activity using actual IEPs, to show how the information in this series is put into practice. And Module 5 addresses some additional considerations for IEP development. All of the Modules are archived at the AB 114 Web Page at www.cde.ca.gov. Individuals seeking information on the IEP process are encouraged to consider viewing any or all of the other modules in this series.
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.
As a quick review, the last module focused on changes created by AB 114. The main thrust of these changes was the realignment of California’s special education practices for assessment and delivery of mental health services as related services coordinated by local education agencies. Essentially, AB 114 realigned California special education law with the requirements of IDEA.
This module will focus on the main components of a system for the delivery of related services, mental health being a related service, that is aligned to the IDEA.
This module will address the following requirements of IDEA, including:
Child Find – Identification of eligible students, a responsibility that LEAs must undertake proactively to ensure that all students are identified;
The Assessment Process – Required elements of assessment, including development of a formal Assessment Plan; and,
IEP Team Meeting key elements, including scheduling requirements, meeting participation, and meeting objectives.
A critical first requirement for LEAs is to identify students who may be eligible for special education services. Federal law requires that ALL students who may need special education and related services be identified. This is commonly referred to as “Child Find.” Under Child Find, an LEA needs to ensure that its schools have a system to identify eligible students; including staff training on identification of disabilities, appropriate assessment processes, and avenues for referring students with suspected disabilities for assessment. LEA staff is expected to take a proactive role in identifying students, but others may initiate the request for a child to be assessed for special education, including another public agency or a parent.
This slide notes some of the specific requirements that pertain to the request for an assessment, parental consent, and the timeline for assessment completion:
A parent may request that their child be assessed, as may any school professional or public agency. This request must be in writing.
Informed consent from the parents or holders of educational rights is required before the assessment can proceed.
The LEA must ensure that the assessment be completed within 60 calendar days of having received consent from the parent or guardian.
IEP Teams need to consider the following when assessing a student for the provision of mental health services to be provided as related services on a student’s IEP. As a result of AB 114, LEAs in California are now responsible for all elements of the assessment process, including assessing students with suspected social, emotional, or other mental health needs to determine if they are eligible under the IDEA to receive special education and related services. Before AB 114, mental health agencies did the mental health part of student assessment, but now the entire assessment process is the responsibility of the LEA.
When the student is assessed, certain questions must be addressed including determining whether the student truly has a disability that affects the student’s ability to access a free and appropriate education, the specific needs the student has as a result of their disability, and how the needs affect the student’s ability to progress in the general curriculum. Assessment results, including results from mental health assessments, are shared with the IEP team. If the student’s parent or guardian disagrees with the results of the assessment, they may request an independent educational evaluation, which the LEA must either provide at no cost to the parent, or the LEA must demonstrate that the initial assessment was appropriate through a due process hearing.
In addition to the general requirements for special education student assessment presented on the previous slide, each assessment must meet certain specific requirements enumerated here.
Notification of Parents - It is critical that parents are made aware in advance that their student is being assessed for eligibility for special education services, including information about what the assessment will entail.
Multiple procedures to gather student data and the determination of related services - The assessment must include procedures that provide information on the student from a variety of different measures, rather than relying on a single measure to determine the student’s eligibility and the related services to be provided to support the student’s progress through their IEP.
Technically-sound assessment instruments - The assessment process must be designed to generate sufficient information to determine the appropriate content for the student’s IEP, including eligibility for special education, identification of any related services the student will need to progress educationally, and suitable measurable annual goals to determine whether the student is making reasonable progress toward desired academic and behavioral outcomes.
All assessment instruments must meet reasonable standards of validity and reliability, and must address all areas related to the student’s suspected disability, including, health concerns, social and emotional issues, motor skills, and mental health concerns.
Before conducting the assessment, LEAs are required to ensure that a formal Assessment Plan is developed, which must be provided to the parent. The assessment plan must provide the parents the specific assurances noted here.
The language must be accessible to parents, written clearly in descriptive terms rather than using technical language.
If appropriate, the plan must be translated into the parent’s native language to ensure a clear understanding among all parties of the intended process.
The plan must explain the types of assessments that will be used, including social, emotional, and any other appropriate mental health assessments; and, it must include a description of any other assessments that have recently been used with the student.
The assessment plan must also include some specific assurances to parents concerning actions that will occur after the assessment process is completed, including that:
- The LEA will schedule a formal IEP meeting to discuss the results of the assessment and recommendations for services for the student based on the assessment results;
- The parent will receive a copy of the assessment results in the form of an assessment report.
- If the parents, or holder of educational rights, dispute the results of the assessment, they may request an independent educational evaluation, which in some cases may be provided at public expense.
- The LEA may observe a student placed by the parent in a nonpublic school when the student is attending the NPS, according to rules established in California education law.
Once assessment results are available, the LEA is responsible for arranging an IEP team meeting for the student. In scheduling the meeting, the LEA must ensure that the requirements listed here are met.
- -- Contacting all intended participants, including, but not limited to, the participants required by law.
- -- Notifying parents sufficiently in advance to allow them to arrange to attend the meeting.
- -- Ensuring that the time and place for the meeting are mutually agreeable to the parents and other participants.
- -- Stating clearly when, where, and why the meeting will take place, and disclosing who will be participating in the meeting
- -- And informing parents of their right to invite other individuals with additional knowledge about the student or technical expertise to participate in the meeting.
It is important to note that in cases were a student does not have parents, their legal guardian, or the holder of educational rights, will be a member of the student’s IEP Team.
The IEP team must also include a general education teacher of the student if the student currently participates in general education activities, or may in the future, as well as at least one of the student’s special education teachers and, if appropriate, the student’s related service(s) provider(s).
The LEA must ensure that one of its administrators, or their designees, who is qualified to provide or supervise special education and who knows about the LEA’s placement options also attends the meeting.
Now that the LEAs are fully responsible for requirements for assessment, IEP Teams may need to consider when it is appropriate to include licensed professionals who conduct diagnostic examinations. At least one IEP team member must be qualified to conduct such examinations, and as least one team member must have observed the student’s academic performance and behavior in school.
It should be noted that there are specific rules that allow LEAs to observe students placed by the parent in a nonpublic school. (See EC Section 56329(b)).
As noted previously, the parent may invite individuals who have knowledge about the student or applicable technical expertise, and the LEA may do so as well. The intention is that the IEP team is able to access as much pertinent information about the student as it reasonably can to assist in determining the student’s eligibility for special education, and in determining what services, if any, the student requires.
In instances in which the student has reached the age that requires that the IEP include postsecondary goals and transition services, the LEA must invite the student to participate in the IEP meeting.
The IEP team meeting considers the student’s circumstances and needs in two stages:
- Stage 1: The team must determine whether the student is eligible for special education services. Specifically, the team must determine whether the student has a disability that interferes with his or her ability to access the general education curriculum.
- Stage 2: If the student is eligible for special education services, the team must develop an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) that includes all of the items listed on this slide, as well as the other required content areas addressed in EC 56345.
- The assessment process must identify three specific elements” A) Whether a student has a disability; B) if there are needs related to their disability; and C) if related services required to support the student to be involved in, and progress in, the general curriculum.
- The assessment plan must: A) Be in language easily understood by the general public; B) be provided in the parent’s native language; C) explain the types of assessments that will be conducted, and, D) include a description of any recent assessments conducted.
- At minimum, the IEP Team must include: A) An individual qualified to conduct diagnostic examinations, B) one or both parents, a parent representative selected by the parent(s), or both; C) at least one regular education teacher of the student, if the pupil participates (or may participate) in general education; D) at least one special education teacher of the student and, if appropriate, related service provider or providers; and, E) an LEA representative qualified to provide or supervise special education and knows about resources available in the LEA.
- IEP team reviews assessment results to determine whether the student is eligible for special education and needs services. If the IEP team determines that the student is eligible for special education, it develops an IEP for the student.
This has been the second of five modules on the IEP process and related activities, many of which have been affected by changes in California law brought about by AB 114. 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 third module will focus on the responsibilities of Local Educational Agencies, or LEAs, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, (IDEA). Specific subjects will include:
- -- The concept of “Educational Benefit”, the legal basis for determining whether students with disabilities are receiving the educational opportunities to which they are entitled;
- -- The concept of “Least Restrictive Environment”, which guides the IEP team in making decisions about the most appropriate place to ensure the student’s access to the general curriculum, as much as possible with non-disabled peers.
- -- Specific requirements for describing in the IEP the services the student will receive, so that all involved in the student’s education have a clear understanding of the types and levels of services to be provided for the student.
Module 4 involves a training activity that uses actual IEPs to demonstrate some of the principles discussed in this series.
Module 5 discusses some additional considerations for IEP development
Module 1 described changes to the assessment and IEP development processes
We encourage you to consider viewing these other modules 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 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.