US Department of Education Gives A Case For Parent Opt Out of Standardized Testing

The United States Department of Education sent a letter to school superintendents December, 2014.  This explained to them exactly what student and parents rights are in regards to the Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA).  This is the educational version of the medical HIPPA.  In this letter, it talks about when parents can opt their child out of certain events which could cover standardized testing if read the right way!

Page 4, #1 and #7 in the below document gives the best clear reason for opt out I have ever seen.  Under the section for the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment, it clearly states:

PPRA may apply to the programs and activities of a State educational agency (SEA), LEA, or other recipient of funds under any program administered by the Department.  It governs the administration to elementary and secondary school students of a survey, analysis, or evaluation that concerns one or more of the following eight protected areas:

1. political affiliations or beliefs of the student or the students’ parent;

7. religious practices, affiliations, or beliefs of the student or the student’s parent.

In addition, it states the following:

PPRA also concerns the development of local policies concerning…the opportunity for the parent to opt the student out of participation in certain specific activities…

A case could certainly be made for this if parent opt out ever became an issue in a Federal court.  My beliefs certainly don’t agree with standardized testing in a high-stakes one-size-fits-all environment.  Read the below document and let me know your take on this!

IEP Task Force #3, Live From Dover and Wilmington @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @dwablog @nannyfat #netde #eduDE

Live from Dover (and Wilmington), it’s the third meeting of the IEP Task Force.  It’s hard to tell with the video feed from Wilmington, but the task force looks a little bit slimmer this time.

Roll call, Brian Touchette is in the house, introduced himself as Director of Assessment.  I wonder where this is going….

Minutes won’t be approved for last meeting and this meeting until the next meeting.  Lieutenant Governor Denn said task force may need to be extended past December if they are not able to get to all matters in the Governor’s report.

Top 4 Matters to address:

What additional information should be provided to parents in the IEP process to make it more understandable?

What assurance should be required over life of IEP that teachers and schools are following the IEP?

What technical assistance is needed to prepare appropriate IEPs in schools and charters?

Language in IEPs, fewer acronyms and jargon

PIC rep: Needra Surratte, going over what PIC does for the state, to help parents become more informed and to be better advocates, provide services to parents just finding out about disabilities in child, give resources, their main goal is to educate parents so they can advocate for our children, under IDEA every state is required to have a PTI, which PIC is for the state of Delaware.   Partners with other organizations across Delaware to make sure there is consistency for parents in all areas

Denn asked Surratte if they go to IEP meetings, she said not usually, said they will prepare parents for meeting and let them know their rights, said IEP meetings can be recorded by any party, said level of service is based on what the parent needs, said there are circumstances where they have to attend IEP meetings, in situations where environment is adversarial they will sometimes go to meetings.

Senator Dave Lawson asked Surratte how parents know about them, Surratte said often they don’t.  She said some school districts will give parents information about PIC at the first IEP meeting.  Said has received complaints from parents that they would have like to have known that prior to first IEP meeting.  Lawson said it is after the fact to which Surratte agreed.

Bill Doolittle said in an ideal world parents would know all of this as soon as there is even a suspicion of a disability, said until parents go through it, it is very difficult for them to understand.  Suggested each school district has parent that has been through the process to provide support to new parents going through it.

Surratte said PIC used to have something close to that but it was very difficult to implement statewide.

Someone (my apologies to someone, hard to hear and see from my vantage point) suggested there is a special education council in each school district.  What kind of things should they be asking for in an IEP.

Deb Heffernan said parents should be used as mentors (as it was through ARC- will find out what that is).  Ruth Lavelle talking about difficulty getting parents to the point of utilizing the IEP process.  Frequently parents with disabilities are not always given accommodations (e.g. deaf-no interpreter, someone in wheelchair not given access to school).  Mary Ann Mieczkowski said parental safeguards are sent once an evaluation is requested.  She said when she worked for a district (Appoquinimink), a psychologist would call the parents giving them information on the IEP process and parental safeguards.  Diane Eastburn said in the 94 IEPs she has advocated for in Kent County, no parent has ever received a copy of the parental safeguards prior to the first IEP meeting.  She said each district needs to be consistent statewide.

Deb Heffernan stating task force is being too picky, going over everything but the very first part of SCR 63, which is making the process easier for parents.  She said we are getting very bogged down.  Said they are getting to far from the charge.  Surratte agrees in the respect there is a lot being said but many items are already written into law.  She said compliance is a separate issue.  Doolittle said the four parts talked about today.  Denn said as the writer of the resolution it is his opinion that helping to make sure parents is the most fundamental part of the task force.

Mieczkowski said the PLEP, the meat of the IEP, said there are projects with DOE to develop educational standards into IEPs (and so it begins), she said they build a parent component into each project they are working on.  She wants parents to know they are always thinking of the parent in the process.  Said at the Center For Disabilities Studies at University of Delaware there is a parent assigned to work on data for the project.

Doolittle said no school has a formal training group like PIC for students in transition.  Heffernan agreed with this.  Said she and Ruth Lavelle created a special needs PTA in the Brandywine School District.  She said due to privacy issues districts don’t want to share names with other students.

Liz Toney (sorry for being late) said she sees lots of problems with transition between elementary school and middle school.  She said it is very difficult for these students due to completely different environments.  Surratte said task force would need to be clear at what this would look like.  Said typically is at age 14, but is worth exploring but need to define what this looks like.

Senator Lawson bringing it back to the parents.  He said “It’s like climbing a tree but we haven’t planted it yet.” (love this guy!)  Denn agrees.  Surratte said they are funded and there has been a decrease in funding.  She said the best way to meet those needs is to leverage the capacity with the resources they have.  Denn guessing there are two types of parents: one who needs to learn the process and the other having adversarial conflicts with the school.  Surratte agreed, said often parents may be requesting certain services but school district won’t provide them.  She said they will provide the parents with their rights in this.  She said they won’t get involved if there is an attorney involved.

Doolittle said as an advocate they spend 5:1 time getting to know the parents and knowledge about the child.  He said he tells parents to relax and be the parent and the advocate will take care of the technical aspects.  He said it is designed to be a collaborative process between the schools and the parents.

Touchette talking about working with DAP (Delaware Autism Program) and parents would get a packet about services available and what resources they could utilize.  Someone brought up the fact that there are a good number of parents who either may not be able to read or understand written English.

Tricia Dallas said there are different types of parents so there may be a need for a differentiated response to parents, a multi-tiered support system.

Liz Toney said she received a bag when her child was in hospital due to hearing loss, she was given a bag and had no clue what the information was.  Diane Eastburn talked about Childwatch program, talked about the Amish population in Kent County and they don’t have the resources to obtain a great deal of information at all.  Denn said the far end is a parent has a lawyer, and the other end is being a parent by themselves in an IEP meeting, with PIC in the middle.  Denn wondering if there should be additional resources on this balance beam.

Someone in Wilmington talking about another program in place like PIC that provides services similar to them.  Dafne Carnwright said it is an excellent idea to have a parent-peer support program.  Eastburn said it should be listed on the DOE website (a list of parents willing to help).  Doolittle said districts would be very supportive of this.  Toney said districts shouldn’t be as divided as the IEP Process.  Ruth Lavelle said there is a need for a central location for all of this information.  Talked about issues with PTA and getting lists of parents and that has gone on for twelve years.  Heffernan said issues with funding and getting this material out to parents.  Surratte agreed.  She said she has seen several parent resource centers spring up but not all parents are serviced.  She said there are parents who do not have good relationship with schools due to trust factors and this is very difficult.  Doolittle said he is shocked by how many parents ask to become advocates after they are helped.

Deb Heffernan asked if other states are utilizing the practices brought up as ideas? Denn said it is something to look into.  Doolittle said no state in the country is consistent with this information.

Item #2: What assurance should be required over life of IEP that teachers and professionals are implementing the IEP?  Doolittle said “Is the IEP being followed” in a way that is helping the child.  Carnwright said the GACEC was faced with questions from parents trying to find out when the students related services were provided.  Tracy Bombarra said she has folder for every speech-impaired student and parents have access to it indicating when every meeting took place between therapist and student.  Toney said things like Friday folders are good places to get information, or during interim reports.  Mieczkowski talked about data provided from the goals.  Doolittle said as they are moved into a more inclusive environment it gets more complex and parents have a good sense of when the IEP is NOT being followed (been there, done that).

Eastburn said if providers hours are insurance billable, the logs are excellent.  She said if they are not billable, the records are less likely to be completed.  Touchette said worried that talk is more about process than outcome.  He said he is cautious about too much talk about process and not enough about outcome.  (He’s dropping hints already.  Fellow Delaware bloggers, we all know where this is going…)

Toney talking about assistive technology and substitutes and implementation issues.  Suggested putting provider information on school computer system that parents have ability to access.  Ruth Lavelle said another task force is needed for IEP implementation!

Eastburn talked about a Southern California system called Wellington and it is an excellent IEP system that parents have access to via password and providers can put notes on it.  She also said there are multiple language providers for those who speak languages other than English.

Talk going back to IEP Plus.  Denn wants to table this for another time.  Denn wrapping it up and wants to allow time for public comment.