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Three Takes On Special Ed Changes

Teachers union not sold on speedier special ed help Sun Times
A dramatic shift in the way special education students get services was
approved by the State Board of Education Thursday, despite objections
by the state's largest teachers union and some advocates.

State board OKs new guidelines for special ed Tribune
After nearly 10 months of turmoil, the
Illinois State Board of Education on Thursday approved new guidelines
that could profoundly affect children with special needs and their
teachers.

 Illinois Adopts New Special Education Guidelines WBEZ
Illinois teachers could see increased numbers of students with
disabilities in their classrooms due to new state guidelines just
adopted.

Filed under: The World Outside CPS

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  • I attended the ISBE Springfield meeting on Thursday December 14th that approved the 226 regulations discussed in the articles. I was pleased that the proposed 226 regulations were modified from those that Access Living began reviewing back in July. Particularly I was glad to see that the 30% rule for the maximum number of students with identified disabilities placed in regular classrooms in our State has been retained. However, the ISBE indicated in its commentary on its rules that the 30% rule would not apply to the CPS. They write at page 64 of ISBEs Plenary Packet for the December 13-14 meeting the following:

    We believe there has been a very persuasive body of comments indicating that resources, time, and support for serving students in the general education environment are often inadequate as things stand now. Many individuals and organizations are convinced that increasing the maximum percentage to 40 would surely exacerbate those problems, and there is no ironclad way to guard against abuses of a higher overall limit or unintended curtailment of services needed by students, both with IEPs and without. Although the 40 percent limit and the associated stipulations will remain in force for the Chicago Public Schools regardless of this rulemaking, we have concluded that this change in the rules should be reversed.

    Special education teachers in CPS need to understand that the stipulations ISBE references in relation to allowing CPS to exceed the 30% limit going up to 40% of a classroom were put into effect by the Corey H. Monitor for co-taught classes only where a certified special education and certified regular education teacher were present for the class. But most importantly these stipulations were made under the presumption that special education teachers had defined case loads, case loads which these new rules abolish. I would urge CPS teachers to object to these comments imposing on CPS special educators only a 40% standard without case loads by writing to the ISBE. Please copy me by email at rdest@aol.com and I will forward your statement to counsel for the Corey H. plaintiffs.

    The ISBE in its commentary on the rules being forwarded to the State Legislature also made the following reference to objections to the elimination of special education teacher case loads that came from CPS special educators:

    Some comments about tremendous case loads came from Chicago teachers and were apparently linked to cuts in staffing that had actually occurred, rather than to the presumed effects of these changes. [p. 66 of ISBEs Plenary Packet for the December 13-14 meeting] The ISBE was right about the fact that CPS special education teachers were objecting to their current reality being created by cuts, but ISBE conveniently failed to note that the elimination of case loads will only make the situation of these special education teachers worse than they related to ISBE.

    I found in general that statements made by ISBE staff in their analysis of objections made to their proposed regulations coming from Chicago to be dismissive, treating Chicagos special educators as if they were teaching in Baghdad instead of the largest city of our state.

    To add insult to injury ISBE staff at the meeting attempted to cut a deal behind closed doors with the Illinois Education Association and the Illinois Federation of Teachers on December 14th. One of the things that ISBE tried to sell to the state level union organizations was the following language at 226.730 (c) that relates to the possible impact of the elimination of the case load provisions in state rules:

    "The maximum class sizes set forth in subsection (b) of this Section shall, if necessary, be further restricted at the local level to account for the activities and services in which the affected educators participate in order to provide students with IEPs the free, appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment to which they are entitled. Each entity subject to this Part shall, in cooperation with its affected employees or their excusive representative, as applicable, adopt and place into effect, no later than the beginning of the 2007-08 school year, a policy stating how staffing decisions will be made so that all services required under students IEPs, as well as all needed ancillary and support services, can be provided at the requisite level of intensity. Each policy shall encompass, but need not be limited to:

    1) individualized instruction;

    2) consultative services and other collaboration among staff members;

    3) attendance at IEP meetings and other staff conferences; and

    4) paperwork and reporting."

    My impression is that this is just a feel good provision and hopefully the CTU as the largest union in the IFT will join Access Living and other special education advocacy groups in attempting to restore fixed case load provisions for special education teachers when this issue is before the Joint Committee on Administrative Regulations of the State Legislature.

    Rod Estvan

    Access Living of Metro Chicago

  • It seems incrediable that once again, Chicago is treated as if it is not part of the State of Illinois. Again and again, it seems that students and teachers in the rest of the State have rights that are denied in Chicago and then they wonder why the Chicago schools have the problems that exist and are becoming worse. As an adult with a disability who was in the school system before special education was mandated, the changes which are stated by the above writer scare me. Why are we going backwards instead of forward? As a retired Special Education, I know what the administers in Chicago will do with the limits on case load lifted and the the percentage raised for SPED students in Gen. Ed. We will definately see 40% as the norm and the classes will do be team taught. I urge people to work together to fight these changes.

  • I received this e-mail from a friend and I want to pass it on to others who are willing to take action.

    The Illinois State Board of Education has now sent the Part 226 special education rules to the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) for consideration at their meeting on January 9, 2007.

    THIS IS OUR LAST CHANCE TO STOP THE ELIMINATION OF SPECIAL EDUCATION TEACHER CASELOAD. IF THESE RULES ARE APPROVED, SOME SPECIAL EDUCATION TEACHERS MAY HAVE UP TO 90 STUDENTS, AND THERE WILL BE NO LIMIT ON THE NUMBER OF STUDENTS ON WHICH A SPECIAL ED TEACHER WILL BE EXPECTED TO "CONSULT" WITH GENERAL ED TEACHERS.

    You can voice your objections to these rules-specifically the elimination of special education teacher caseload and a new mandate for Response to Intervention (for GENERAL education teachers) without the funding and teacher support for it. The removal of special education teacher caseload will result in fewer special ed teachers and the individuals who are left in the field will not have time to provide support for classroom teachers to implement Response to Intervention.

    According to JCAR's procedures:

    "Public comment is vital to the JCAR Review Process. Frequently, it is only through this comment that the Committee fully recognizes the effect of a rule on the individual, business or local government that has to adhere to it on a daily basis."

    You can stress to JCAR and its members that the Illinois State Board of Education's refusal to keep rules that maintain special education teacher caseload is seriously jeopardizing the education of children with disabilities. You can also stress that Response to Intervention is a new mandate for all school districts in Illinois without money and support for ALL schools and that the Federal Government (thru IDEA 2004) does NOT require Response to Intervention.

    How can you voice your objection to Part 226?

    1. You can send an e-mail to JCAR at:

    You must do this as soon as possible. (Put "Part 226, Special Education in the Subject line.)

    2. Contact the members of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules. Here are their names and numbers.

    MEMBERS OF THE JOINT COMMITTEE ON ADMINISTRATIVE RULES

    C0-CHAIRMAN

    Senator Maggie Crotty

    15028 S. Cicero Unit A Oak Forest, IL 60452

    311 State House Springfield, IL 62706

    708/687-9696 217/782-9595

    Co-Chairman

    Representative Brent Hassert

    1408 Joliet Rd. Ste. 102 Romeoville IL 60446

    217-N Stratton Bldg. Springfield, IL 62708

    630-739-7063 217/782-4179

    Senator J. Bradley Burzvnski

    505 DeKalb Ave. Sycamore IL 50178

    103D Mezzaine State House, Springfield, IL 62706

    815/894-6318 217/782-1977

    Senator James F. Claybourne, Jr.

    327 Missouri Ave. 1st IL. Bank Bldg. Room 422 East St. Louis, IL 62201

    618/875-1212 217/782-5399

    Senator Steve Rauschenberger

    1112 South St. Elgin, IL 60123 309F State House Springfield, IL. 62706

    847-622-1049 217/782-7746

    Senator Dan Rutherford

    320 N. Plum St. Pontiac, IL 61764 104B State House Springfield, IL. 62706

    815/842-3632 217/782-5500

    Senator Ira Silverstein

    2951 W. Devon Chicago, IL. 60659 121B State House

    Springfield, IL. 62706

    773-743-5015 217/782-5500

    Representative Tom Holbrook

    9200 W. Main Ste. 4 Belleville, IL. 62223

    267-S Stratton Bldg. Springfield, IL. 62706

    618/394-2211 217/782-0104

    Representative David R. Leitch

    3114 N. University Peoria, IL. 61604

    220 State House Springfield, IL. 62706

    309/685-3900 217/782-8108

    Representative Larry McKeon

    1967 W. Montrose Ave. Chicago, IL. 60613

    279-S Straton Bldg. Springfield, IL. 62706

    773/348-3434 217/782-3835

    Representative David E. Miller

    1350 E. Sibley Blvd. Ste. 202 Dolton, IL. 60419

    278-S Straton Bldg. Springfield, IL 62706

    708/201-8000 217/782-8087

    Representative Rosemary Mulligan

    932 Lee St. Ste. 201 DesPlaines, IL 60016

    218-N Straton Bldg. Springfield, IL. 62706

    847/297-6533 217/782-8007

  • When I posted earlier, I didn't realize the e-mail address was left off for JCAR so here it is.

    You can send an e-mail to JCAR at: jcar@ilga.gov.

    Put "Part 226, Special Education" in the Subject line.

  • I know quite a few teachers who left Spalding when it was closed who were told that they had to diaper as a part of their new assignments and if they didn't like it, they wouldn't be hired. Even when it was pointed out that the Union contract states that teachers will not be required to diaper, the principal stated that he didn't care!!!!!!!!!!!! This was going on before the cutbacks although I am sure that it is more prevalent now.

  • 12:43 asks "Does anyone know how many special education teachers have left CPS in the past year? (past 5 years?)" I do not have a number, but I do know that before the cuts there were about 200 unfilled special ed. teaching positions and the number jumped to about 290 this school year.

    The teaching position eliminations should have in theory reduced the number of unfilled positions. So we have to assume based on the increase in unfilled positions some special ed. teachers who lost their positions left the system in addition to retirements.

    Rod Estvan

    Access Living

  • Access Living today submitted the following statement to the Joint Committee on Admin Rules. I would urge you all if you have not done so to object to JCAR.

    I am Rodney Estvan Education Outreach Coordinator for Access Living of Metro Chicago. I am writing to the Joint Committee about agenda point 8 set for your January 9, 2007 meeting which addresses Special Education regulations (23 Ill. Adm. Code 226).

    On July 25, 2006 we submitted our written comments to ISBE on its proposed amendments to Part 226 of the Illinois State Administrative Code. On August 3rd U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings released the new regulations for Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act that were in a number of areas different from the draft of these Part B regulations that ISBE used when drafting it own 226 rules. On August 8, 2006 we supplemented these original comments with an additional statement to the ISBE at a public hearing held in Springfield Illinois. The ISBE never reissued its proposed regulations in light of the new regulations for Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. We again commented on September 12, 2006 at a public hearing held in Chicago on the proposed 226 regulations. We yet again presented comments at ISBEs December 14, 2006 meeting on these regulations.

    We were pleased that the proposed 226 regulations were modified from those that we began reviewing back in July. Particularly we are glad to see that the 30% rule for the maximum number of students with identified disabilities placed in regular classrooms in our State has been retained.

    We want to focus our comments to the Committee on the elimination of the existing case load requirements for special education teachers in our State and a particular aspect of the scientific, research-based intervention process called RTI that appear in the 226 rules that your Committee is reviewing.

    We indicated to ISBE in prior commentary to ISBE that currently in our state, each special education teacher who teaches a particular configuration of students has a case load of students commensurate with that configuration. This case load carried with it implicit presumptions that this teacher would have some greater responsibility for students on this case load beyond any one particular class period. In general these teachers under the case load system were assumed to have some general monitoring responsibility for these students and IEP development obligations. For special education teachers IEP development and monitoring are considered to reasonably be part of their professional responsibilities and certainly would constitute part of these teachers efficiency ratings in many school districts. The elimination of maximum case load for teachers can directly impact the number of special education teachers allocated to schools in large unit school districts such as 299 and in smaller school districts in our State.

    Under the existing regulations what is commonly called a special education resource teacher would have a case load of only 20 students. The case load system has the effect of creating a minimum staffing level in any one school. For example a small high school or elementary school, possibly one of CPSs new Renaissance 2010 small schools, could have only 40 students with disabilities in attendance. There are small schools that do not have one student that would require services in their Individual Education Plans in a separate setting for more than 20% of the school day, in fact there are schools that are highly inclusive where there is not one student with a disability who is receiving services in a separate resource setting. This is particularly true for charter schools which generally do not have many if any students with more severe disabilities that require extensive education in self-contained settings. Under the existing regulations a school with 40 students with disabilities would be required to have at a minimum two special education teachers regardless of instructional configuration. Under the proposed regulations it is completely unclear whether a highly inclusive school with 40 students with disabilities would remain entitled to two special education teachers.

    It is unclear how the ISBE rule 226.730 c) would impact teacher allocation. This rule is described on page 79 of the ISBE plenary packet (December 14, 2006 meeting) and states that the rule was added to that Section in order to give voice to the expectation that educators work loads will be reasonable in light of the specific demands placed upon them. No where in the rules the ISBE is submitting to JCAR is there any discussion of how ISBE monitoring teams would determine whether or not any district wide special education staffing policy adopted would or would not allow this one special education teacher we have depicted who teaches in a small highly inclusive school to: 1) carry out individualized instruction for 40 students; 2) to have time to carry out consultative services and other collaboration among staff members; 3) to be in attendance at 40 IEP meetings and other staff conferences; and 4) complete paperwork and reporting for 40 students.

    The first area of generally accepted best special education practices to collapse is collaboration among staff members when teachers are time crunched. The failure to have effective collaboration between regular education staff and special education staff creates the conditions for failure to appropriately education students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment and leads us back to where we started in the class action Corey H. case in Chicago which is still on going. We also have to ask ourselves seriously the question whether a highly inclusive school would find it advantageous under the proposed regulatory scheme to educate more students in self contained settings with lower teacher to student ratios in order for the schools overall allocation of staff to be larger.

    Lastly, I want to very briefly again comment on the now infamous RTI issue which members of JCAR have no doubt been contacted about in the last several weeks. Access Living has indicated to ISBE that we support the thrust of utilizing an RTI or school based problem solving approach as part of a process to limit over identification of students. However, we do not understand how RTI can work in schools that are currently failing to effectively implement reading programs and are not making adequate yearly progress for students pursuant to the No Child Left Behind Act. This is also the case with schools that are undergoing a process of restructuring and are having difficultly with retraining staff in effective approaches to reading instruction.

    We do not understand why the ISBE believed that ASPIRE (Alliance for School-based Problem-solving and Intervention Resources in Education), a five-year training and technical assistance initiative will be able to address the numerous problems District 299 has in its many failing schools when millions of dollars have already been spent on reading improvement over the last ten years and fewer than 7% of CPS 11th graders with disabilities are still reading at or above state standards.

    We have significant concerns with the open ended nature of RTI and at what point will a student be referred for special education services. In relation to this issue we have asked for the regulations to include time limits for the intervention phase of RTI, but as you can see from the regulations submitted to JCAR this has not happened. We expect that if the rules do not set some type of maximum time for a student suspected of having a learning disability to remain in the intervention phase of RTI before referral that either the administrative law process or the Federal courts will create this framework through litigation for ISBE and our State. In effect the ISBE is deferred its authority to that of the judicial branch by avoiding this critical issue.

    We believe that JCAR representing the interests of the State of Illinois should intervene and issue an objection addressing the issues Access Living has raised in relation to the 226 rules. JCAR can issue such an objection based on its statutory authority (Illinois Administrative Procedure Act) it would require ISBE to reply in writing to JCAR within 90 days. Such an objection issued by JCAR would be in the best interest of students with disabilities in our State.

    Yours truly,

    Rodney D. Estvan

  • I have real concerns about school based problem solving because of my personal experience. My granddaughter is in school based problem solving and there is little or no documented intervention. Inspite of the fact that she has been suspended and written up three times this school year, there is no behavior plan in place. When I requested testing as her guardian, the Case Manager told me that there was no need for testing and yet she is falling further and further behind. I am seeking outside assistance but the help should be provided within the school. If the modifications are approved to the ISBE rules I am afraid that the situation is going to get worst.

    Please realize that the State has the responsibility to provide guidance to the local districts and don't relinguish this responsibility.

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