Sunday, August 24, 2014

When GenEd and SpecEd Collaboration Really Works: Putting the Puzzle Together

Let's accentuate the positive. There is a creativity and personalization about collaboration between GenEd and SpecEd that is invigorating and satisfying. How to get there?

Know Who You Are
A Special Education student has many members on his/her team. What role do you play? Let me illustrate by sharing an anecdote from my teaching experience. This unusually complicated situation shows a teams functioning like a well-trained World Cup soccer team. I was privileged to work with these professionals to score the beginning goal for the student's win.

A new student enrolled at our Middle School, on a Monday, second semester.  Debbie, the school counselor, carefully examined the 'Baby Cum,' the abbreviated cumulative file that arrives with the student. The entire cumulative file arrives later, maybe days, even weeks later. Maybe never. She spotted an inconsistency in the pattern of placement for the seventh grader, which raised the question, "Was this student Special Education or not?"

So she spoke to me, the Special Education Resource Specialist for Grade 7. I took a copy of the information and began my SpecEd Sherlock Holmes investigation. After school I called the schools this girl had attended. We had info back to grade 5. She moved a lot, and had been in foster care, just recently returned to her mother's care. I discovered she had qualified for Special Education, placement had been made, but she moved too fast for the annual assessment to happen. This took me about 25 minutes, 5 calls.

On Tuesday, I spoke to Sara, our school records expert. She put in a request for the cum file using the updated info from my investigation. We had the cum file by Thursday.

I proceeded to schedule a 30-day IEP meeting-which, miraculously, would also fulfill the existing IEP dates if held the Friday of that week. Only SpecEd would appreciate this.This would be an expedited meeting, usually 10 day notice is required before an IEP. I contacted the ELA (Michaeline) and Math (Tiffany) GenEd teachers, who released her from class so I could give the student a Special Education Assessment--these happened to be the WIAT and TOWL, which takes about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. I notified my own collaborative teachers I would not be in their classes during that time. Tuesday, I began writing the IEP, mailed info for the meeting, notified all team members.

On Wednesday, I conferred with Adam, assigned administrator for Special Ed., about the situation. He would be attending the meeting.

I then requested from Myra, administrative manager the use of an office for the meeting.

Sara translated a phone conversation with the parent, a Spanish speaker, who had questions about the meeting.

Sara would later act as translator at the meeting for the parent.

The meeting was held Friday with a full IEP team in attendance. The decisions for this student would take many more meetings and months for the team to effectively negotiate the best educational plan for the student. But the initial step had efficently, legally been taken.

So Who's On An IEP Team?

  • School Counselor The first to analyze the cum file, contact Special Ed. Debbie also attended IEP meetings, though this was not a requirement.
  • Special Education teacher If there is a doubt about Special Education Placement, usually the Resource Specialist, as the most highly-qualified SpecEd teacher on campus, would handle the 30-day IEP. (30 Day IEPs are held when a student comes from a different SELPA. Now y'all are Googling--what is SELPA. It is the local County level Special Education area.)
  • Records Experts Office staff such as Sara are rare because she is super efficient and courteous.Special Education is very document driven.
  • GenEd teachers In-class cooperation and IEP attendance are only a part of what GenEd has to adjust for when working inclusion. Special Education testing (which is initial to qualify, 30-day when a student enters the school from another SELPA, annual with the Special Education teacher, and also includes extra testing from the Educational Psychologist testing for triennual testing and the Special Ed Teacher) takes flexibility and time from GenEd.
  • Administrators It is required administrators attend IEP meetings, but it is exponentially easier to have success with parents and teachers collaborating with an administrator that is flexible, knowledgeable and generous with their time. Administrative support during complex IEP placements expedites the best outcome.
  • Administrative Manager Special Education is very fluid, changing meeting times especially. Usually meetings are scheduled months ahead, but in this case, grace and organization came together and we had an appropriate place to meet. And the Office is the first contact with parents--the greeters, so to speak.
  • Parent A parent is required to attend the IEP meeting to develop a plan for the student. The parent has concern, anxiety, frustration--this is the time for the best people skills from everyone. The meeting is to discuss placement, academic, behavior, transition goals--a game plan for the student's future. IEPs are legal documents signed by everyone in attendance, especially the parent.
  • Translator It is the law that a qualified translator be available for non-English speaking parents. At times, with parent permission, others can translate. Obviously, this is a very technical job, as well as requiring poise and courtesy.

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