Contact Us · About CADRE · Privacy

The National Center on Dispute Resolution in Special Education

"Encouraging the use of mediation and other collaborative strategies to resolve disagreements about special
education and early intervention programs."

Working Together: Building Improved Communication

Working Together is a collection of CADRE resources designed to support effective collaboration between parents, schools, and early childhood programs. In the following video, Marshall Peter, Director of CADRE, gives a brief introduction to Working Together: Building Improved Communication.

Click on any Lego building block below to begin exploring these resources. We recommend viewing the videos in this order:

  1. Listening
  2. Understanding Positions & Interests
  3. A Tale of Two Conversations (a 2-part video from the PA Office for Dispute Resolution).

These videos may be useful before or during... Informal Resolution Processes, IEP/IFSP Meetings, Resolution Meetings, Mediation Sessions, Staff Trainings, Pre-Service Training for Administrators and Teachers, Co-Populated Trainings with Parents and Educators, and Training for Secondary Students with Disabilities.

For more on improving communication skills, check out A Tale of Two Conversations Study Guide.


CADRE resources to support effective collaboration between parents, schools, and early childhood programs.
A Tale of Two Conversations Listening Understanding Positions and Interests


Nuevos Videos en Espanol: Escuchar and Entendiendo las Posturas y los Intereses

Guías para Padres Sobre la Resolución de Disputas de IDEA Después de la divulgación de unas P & R de IDEA Parte B de la Resolución de Disputas de julio de 2013, se le pidió a CADRE que creara un conjunto de recursos complementarios para padres y sus familias. En respuesta, CADRE desarrolló cuatro guías para padres.

In the Best Interests of the Child: Individualized Education Program (IEP) Meetings When Parent Are In Conflict This publication was developed to better understand the problem of parents or caregivers having difficulty working together, especially during IEP team meetings.

Navigating Special Education Disputes in Schools Through a question-and-answer format, this article presents the views to two experienced special education attorneys on a number of ways in which parents and school districts can work together. They address communication, changes in law and regulations, and the valuable roles of IEP facilitation, resolution meetings, and mediation. [Excerpt, p.34] "Relationships between school districts and the parents of special needs students are notoriously adversarial, and lawyers sometimes get involved in the disputes that arise. Given the increase in students diagnosed with disabilities and the cost involved in serving them, district leaders who want to provide the proper instruction and care, and avoid costly litigation, must stay abreast of the law."

The Hale Position for a "Third Method" for Specific Learning Disabilities Identification: A Legal Analysis [Abstract] This short article provides a legal analysis of the Hale et al. white paper on specific learning disabilities identification. The white paper presents a purported consensus of experts that an approach combining response to intervention with severe discrepancy is consistent with the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The analysis examines the white paper position in relation to the IDEA legislation, regulations, and agency policy interpretations. The conclusions are that this position is legally flawed in terms of its reliance on the "pattern of strengths and weaknesses" provision, its failure to consider state special education laws, and its overemphasis on the processing component. As a result, the position is justifiable only as advocating revisions, rather than in finding support, in the law.

The perceived influence of divergent parent and teacher perceptions of student abilities on students and the establishment of effective family-school partnerships [Dissertation Abstract] The purpose of this phenomenological study was to describe the essence of parent, teacher, and student experiences when parent and teacher perceptions of student abilities diverge; of particular importance was the perceived influence of these divergent accounts on students and the establishment of effective family-school partnerships. This purpose was achieved through a qualitative investigation of parent, teacher, and student experiences when parent and teacher perceptions of student abilities diverge. Analysis of data collected from 10 in-depth interviews with students, parents, and teachers revealed five themes and one subtheme related to discrepant parent and teacher perceptions of student abilities. These themes included: family-school partnership qualities, impressionability of student attitudes, failure to resolve conflicts, challenging parents, and lack of teacher training. Communication was included as a subtheme of family-school partnership qualities. Exploration of these themes described the overall essence of participant experiences. Participants identified family-school partnership qualities that are consistent with those presented in the literature, but they lacked agreement on the qualities of family-school partnerships considered most important. Participants also desired improved communication between parents and teachers, and they recognized several aspects of communication that could improve family-school partnerships. Participants identified the impressionability of student attitudes and the failure to resolve conflicts as perceived outcomes of the conflict. Additionally, participants believed that demanding and disengaged parents presented additional challenges to partnership development, and teacher participants reported that they were not adequately trained to foster family-school partnerships. The experiences of parents, teachers, and students in this study provided insights that could help educators and parents build family-school partnerships that withstand conflict.

The Odd Man Out: How Fathers Navigate the Special Education System [Abstract] Research about parent experiences with the special education system is largely dominated by the perspectives of mothers. Using purposeful sampling techniques, we interviewed 20 active fathers about their experiences navigating the special education system. All the fathers described three primary roles they experienced, including acting as a partner, advocate, and student. With respect to each of these roles, the fathers also described feeling as if they were not a part of the team, describing themselves as “the odd man out.” Each construct is discussed in detail, along with implications for practice.

Actions Speak Louder than Words: How Do Special Education Administrators Prevent and Resolve Conflict with Families? [Abstract] Conflict between parents of children with disabilities and school district members has been an ongoing issue for decades. Special education administrators are often designated to address conflict with the intent to find an amicable resolution. Otherwise, conflict can lead to due process hearings that move valuable time and money away from general district funds. Understanding how administrators informally address such conflict can guide leaders as they promote collaboration between the home and school. This paper presents a qualitative interview study of special education directors’ experiences with conflict prevention and resolution. Seven key action-based strategies that prevent and resolve conflict with families were identified: establish communication, provide parent support, level the playing field, intervene at the lowest level possible, maintain the focus on the child, find a middle ground, and understand perspectives. Each of these themes is discussed in detail, along with implications for practice and future research.

Advocating for Students With Disabilities at the School Level [Abstract] The article discusses school and classroom level advocacy for special needs students, and provides advice for special education teachers on how to effectively advocate for their students to receive needed services and interventions. An overview of professional advocacy standards and the importance of advocacy in special needs teaching is presented, and the potential negative consequences of advocacy are touched on. Suggestions including developing relationships with involved parties, find commonalities, and being willing to compromise are also offered.

Parent Empowerment: Connecting With Preservice Special Education Teachers [Abstract] Parent empowerment includes the ability to meet the needs of one's family while feeling in control. This phenomenological study seeks to understand the experience of 71 parents of children with disabilities who participated with pre-service teachers in a 16-week special education course between 2006 and 2010. Analysis of pre-course and post-course parent focus group transcripts resulted in four shifts in perceptions of parent-professional partnerships: (1) from judgmental and impersonal to caring professionals; (2) from intimidation to confidence; (3) from defensiveness to trusting professionals; and, (4) from despair to hope. Results demonstrated parents' perceived increase in self-efficacy in decision-making, access to resources, group affiliation, positive perception change, feelings of mutual respect, experience as a change agent, and hope (i.e., empowerment).

Title 1 schools parent liaisons' reports regarding their roles and associated responsibilities to facilitate parent engagement to support children's academic achievement [Dissertation Abstract] Parent Liaisons can play an integral role in working to realize a vision for a strategic, comprehensive, and continuous system of family, school, and community partnerships that demonstrably contribute to children's development and school success. Parent involvement continues to receive an increasing amount of attention in federal and state legislatively mandated requirements for school districts. This study examined one formal strategy, district employment of Parent Liaisons, used in Title 1 schools, to engage more parents in their children's learning. A qualitative and exploratory study, twelve Parent Liaisons in an urban district were interviewed and data was analyzed from interview transcripts. Four areas of responsibilities of Parent Liaisons, as defined by the conceptual framework of Mapp (2008), studied were: a) direct services to targeted families determined at risk, (b) support for teacher outreach to families, (c) support for school improvement teams, and (d) collecting data for use in roles. Key findings demonstrated that this position is dynamic in a changing environment and focused on their interactions with a diversity of families and how Parent Liaisons perceived families' as well as their own fit within the school's organizational structure. Additionally, strategies of the Parent Liaisons did not identify the best parent communication strategies in light of technological advances. Findings included multiple strategies used to meet families' immediate needs, acting as an agent for teachers in outreach to families, a desire for a leadership role in school partnerships, and a marginal role in activities to specifically increase student academic achievement. Parent Liaisons did not see a direct link with the data gathered to roles played in the schools and documented increases in students' academic achievements. Organizational barriers identified included negative perceptions of school climate by families, availability and accessibility of space for parent use, and a job description with tasks that overlap, loose reporting and supervisory structure, and ill defined overall role in the school and district. This study further supports Sanders' (2008) finding of the importance of district leadership to ensure that Parent Liaisons are prepared to carry out their essential work and to document their influence in family engagement program development. ISBN: 9781303086854 Dissertation/thesis number: 3561524 ProQuest document ID: 1369847907

Effects of Individualized Education Program meeting facilitation on parent and educator relationships [Dissertation abstract] For a student with a disability to receive special education services, an IEP team composed of education professionals and the student's parents must reach consensus on eligibility, programming, and placement. Conflict, mistrust, and dissatisfaction contributed to the breakdown in the IEP process. These three factors were examined through a survey accessed by IEP meeting participants in five school systems. Personnel in two of the school systems were trained in the facilitated IEP (FIEP) model, while school staff in the remaining three districts had not received FIEP training. A total of 284 participants completed the survey. Answers to the first three questions were analyzed by participant position on the IEP team, and elements of the FIEP treatment were examined for differences. ISBN: 9781303157790 ProQuest document ID: 1413325810

IDEA Special Education Mediation: A guide for parents of children and youth This booklet, which is particularly aimed at parents and family members, provides an overview of the mediation process and how it works. Included is information on the benefits of mediation and how to prepare for mediation.

IDEA Special Education Resolution Meetings: A guide for parents of children and youth The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA 2004) and its final Part B Implementing Regulations describe how disagreements about special education services between parents and schools may be resolved. This guide for families will help readers to have a better understanding of resolution meetings, one of the ways in which special education disputes can be resolved. (ERIC)

Recent Legal Developments of Interest to Special Educators [Abstract] An overview is provided of five recent legal developments that merit special attention of special educators: (a) the amended Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) regulations concerning parental consent, including subsequent agency interpretations concerning their practical application; (b) the IDEIA provisions and resulting state laws and implementation issues for response to intervention; (c) the IDEIA provision for basing the individualized education program statement of special education on peer-reviewed research to the extent practicable and subsequent case law applying this provision; (d) the case law on behalf of students with autism spectrum disorder, including the issues of eligibility and free appropriate public education or least restrictive environment; and (e) the IDEIA revisions concerning discipline, with special attention to suspensions/expulsions, disproportionality, and the corresponding Section 504 requirements.

It’s Time for an Alternative Dispute Resolution Procedure This article presents the case for arbitration as a fitting process for special education disputes. "the availability of arbitration as suggested [herein] would add two improvements to the IDEA dispute resolution system that experience shows are sorely needed: a more balanced “access to justice” and swift and final decisions (at least for a while). Both of these improvements would be of material benefit to the person who is supposed to be the focus of the process: the child." (p.362) The author considers the potential drawbacks of mediation and due process hearings, before turning to a discussion of arbitration's apparent fitness. The article closes with a thoughtful and circumspect admonition that this proposed addition would require trial and testing.

Avoiding Procedural Errors in Individualized Education Program Development This article reviews five common procedural errors in IEP development: - Not Including Students' Parents in the IEP Process - Predetermining a Student's IEP Services or Placement - Determining Placement Before Programming - Not Fielding an Appropriate IEP Team - Failing to Implement the IEP as Written The article includes a table of Procedural Do's and Don't's, as well as three worksheets to ensure that meetings are planned and conducted appropriately.

“Appropriate” Decisions Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act This article offers analysis and recommendations concerning impartial hearing officers' (IHOs) decisions under IDEA, specifically in FAPE cases. [Excerpt from introduction] "The article consists of three successive parts. The first part provides observations and recommendations concerning the prevailing norms for the legal defensibility of the IHO’s written decision. The second part addresses the FAPE standards in terms of a three-step framework for decision-making. The final part canvasses the primary remedies—tuition reimbursement and compensatory education—other than prospective injunctive relief." (p.245) [Conclusion] "Appropriate IHO decisions under the IDEA borrow from best practices in administrative adjudication more generally but also add the specialized features of the IDEA statutory and regulatory framework and the extensive case law. This outline of observations and recommendations focuses on these specialized additions, with due customization for the variance attributable to differences among (1) state special education laws in terms of their added requirements, and (2) judicial jurisdictions in terms of their particular interpretations." (p.260)

All Areas of Suspected Disability Abstract: The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires school districts to assess children “in all areas of suspected disability.” It further provides that each child’s individualized education program (IEP) must contain measurable annual goals designed to “meet each of the child’s...educational needs that result from the child’s disability,” and a statement of special education and related services that will be provided for the child “to advance appropriately toward attaining annual goals.” Courts have strictly enforced these requirements in the last several years, remedying violations of IDEA when school districts fail to assess in all areas of suspected disability or do not establish goals and services to meet each of the child’s needs resulting from the disability. This Article offers three interpretations of this recent development. First, what the courts are doing may represent an effort to enforce provisions of IDEA that stand apart from the limited reading that a 1982 Supreme Court case placed on the requirement in the statute to provide a free, appropriate public education. Second, the development may signify a different way of looking at special education obligations under the law, one well adapted to the ever-increasing importance attached to providing services in settings that are less restrictive and maintain the greatest inclusion of students with disabilities with non-disabled students. Third, the cases might simply be a reaction to cutbacks on evaluations and services that school districts have imposed because of financial strains brought about by the Great Recession. This Article will not try to declare which of these interpretations is the correct one, and in fact all three may be true. But the Article will conclude that enforcement of these provisions furthers the underlying purposes Congress had in enacting IDEA.

Special Education Hearing Officers: Balance and Bias Abstract The use of a simple 50%-50% box score of decisions for parents and districts, respectively, is a false measure of the impartiality of hearing officers under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This analysis canvasses relevant structural factors that the stakeholders, the mass media, and the professional literature have failed to recognize both generally and systematically. These factors include IDEA amendments, regulatory revisions, Supreme Court decisions, lower court precedents, and state system changes that cumulatively suggest that a more nuanced view is both appropriate and necessary.

Adjudicative Remedies for Denials of FAPE under the IDEA This article analyzes cases in which courts or hearing officers have found that a child has been denied free and appropriate public education. The two most commonly-ordered remedies were reimbursement of tuition, and compensatory education. The author engages six questions: (1) What is the relative frequency of the various types of FAPE violations? (2) What is the relative frequency of the various IDEA remedies? (3) For the most frequent remedies, does the distribution differ markedly between IHO/RO and court decisions? (4) Do certain states have a particular propensity for the most frequent remedies? (5) What has been the adjudicative disposition, or outcomes, of these predominant remedies? (6) Does any other, more qualitative trend emerge as notable?

The School-Family Partnership Training Program [Abstract ] The School Family Partnership Training Program was an innovative program created and implemented out of a desire to assist schools and families to connect with one another. The program was implemented over a six-week period with one and one-half hour combined sessions for families of a local urban elementary school. The goal of the program was to increase the level of involvement of families of children with disabilities, as well as assist them in building effective home-school partnerships. It was a program that helped children with exceptional needs achieve higher levels of school success through the involvement of their families in the school. Data resulting from this program showed that the program significantly impacted the participants. Through participation in the program, families redefined their roles in the education of their children and explored multiple possibilities for family involvement.

Six Tips for Successful IEP Meetings This article highlights the essential elements of successful IEP meetings. Under the umbrella of communication are six elements: pre-meeting planning, meeting facilitator, meeting agenda, ground rules, essential knowledge, and limit jargon. [Conclusion] "Effective open communication techniques can place IEP team members on productive meetings, which in turn produce holistic IEPs that fully address the student's needs. When IEP team members communicate well, the IEP becomes a useful tool for guiding instruction and monitoring progress (i.e., assessment). The tips and strategies provided in this article can help foster a positive team atmosphere that provides a foundation for successful IEP meetings."

A CADRE Webinar~Part C Dispute Resolution: Customizable Hearing Officer Training Resources This webinar features a set of 4 customizable hearing officer training modules developed by CADRE, in partnership with 6 Part C Lead Agencies and several national experts.

Building parent trust in the special education setting: educators and parents of students with special needs must work together to change school culture and move from conflict to collaboration [Excerpt] "If trust is born in strong relationships, then first encounters are critical. Parents of students with disabilities undergo a great deal of stress and come to us--the educational professionals--for help with vital specialized tasks, including assessment, placement, progress monitoring, and maintenance of their child's ongoing needs. Often, parents arrive at our school door-steps with apprehension. Some parents are seeking a cure. Some don't believe their child has a disability. Some parents are angry with themselves or even the system itself and look to us for answers. Special education is a framework where the very foundation is built on adversarial relations--where parents hire attorneys and advocates to fight against districts. We need to lead the way in changing this culture and move from conflict to collaboration. Collaboration between schools and parents is the foremost approach to accurate educational planning and rests primarily on two principles of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act: parent participation and procedural due process. IDEA requires parents to be included in the educational process."

Latina Mothers' Views of a Parent-to-Parent Support Group in the Special Education System Abstract: Parent-professional partnership literature continues to emphasize the importance of including the parent voice. Spanish-speaking families are often excluded from such studies because of the language barrier. This article presents a qualitative interview study of eight Latina mothers of children with severe disabilities. All participants were members of a parent-to-parent support group available through a local community board. Data analysis revealed that the mothers identified three major benefits of the parent-to-parent support group, including (a) feeling like a family, (b) having a source of information, and (c) receiving emotional support. Findings indicated that information and assistance the parents were missing from the school system were offered through their group. Implications for educational providers and future research will be presented and discussed.

The existence of trust in the relationship of parents and district administration in the placement process of 3- to 8-year-old students with autism Abstract: Purpose: The purpose of this study was to identify the degree to which trust-building variables exist between public school districts and parents of 3- to 8-year-old children with autism during the initial placement process in the perception of special education administration. Additional purposes of the study were to identify barriers and strategies used to establish trust in this relationship. Methodology: This study is a descriptive study using both quantitative and qualitative methods of data collection and data analysis. Experienced special education directors were those who met specific criteria. Both quantitative and qualitative data were collected in a semistructured interview that included a survey and exploratory interview questions. Findings: The findings of this study were as follow: (a) the existence of trust is critical in these initial relationships of the placement process; (b) school districts are not part of the initial interventions with autistic children and their parents; (c) trust is perceived by administration as occasional or sometimes in existence in relationships, communication, and problem solving; (d) conflict must be used as a learning tool; and (e) staff can improve their practice if provided opportunities for deliberate teaching and learning in the area of problem solving. Conclusions: To prevent special education litigation and improve the levels of trust, school districts must (a) understand the environmental dynamics of a multi-agency process, (b) make time and teaching of process a priority, and (c) examine and utilize methods of joint problem solving. Recommendations: Future studies could (a) examine ways to better collaborate with early intervention agencies and medical communities, (b) be conducted on the use of and success of facilitated IEP team meetings, and (c) examine proactive methods of using problem solving, conflict, and constructive criticism as a learning tool for staff.

A Posture of Reciprocity: A Practical Approach to Collaboration Between Professionals and Parents of Culturally Diverse Backgrounds Abstract: The current emphasis on developing culturally responsive services for families of children with disabilities from culturally diverse backgrounds informs the need for professional self-awareness whereby professionals learn to recognize not only the cultural specificity of personal values and beliefs but also of their professional practice. We describe an approach, the posture of reciprocity, that enables professionals to acquire this level of cultural awareness. Examples to illustrate applications of the posture are provided.

Postsecondary Transition Under IDEA 2004: A Legal Update Abstract Postsecondary transition planning for students with disabilities first entered the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1990. The required provisions for transition planning were updated with the amendments to IDEA in 1997 and its reauthorization in 2004. Since IDEA 2004 took effect in July 2005, 11 court cases have been decided related to postsecondary transition planning. This article summarizes recent litigation in transition and discuss practice implications.

Compliance and Practices in Transition Planning: A Review of Individualized Education Program Documents Abstract: This study examined the extent to which transition components of students’ Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) were compliant with IDEIA 2004; the extent to which transition components provided evidence of best practices; the association among disability, ethnicity, compliance, and practices; and the relationship between compliance and best practices. The sample included African American, European American, and Hispanic students with developmental, emotional, and learning disabilities. Low levels of full compliance were found in these IEPs. Approximately half of the substantiated transition practices were found in the IEPs. Disability and ethnicity were associated with the probability of an IEP being compliant and/or having evidence of best practices. A statistically significant positive correlation was found between compliance and practices.

Community and Connection in Inclusive Early-Childhood Education : A Participatory Action Research Investigation This article presents findings from a participatory action research project at an early-childhood center. The findings lead to recommendations for inclusive early-childhood environments, gathered within three categories: The Meaning of Membership - Establish intentional rituals and routines each day. - Make the time to connect. - Be intentional and consistent about creating opportunities to connect. The Essence of Collaboration - Establish written protocols to successfully support all children. - Schedule adequate time to plan and reflect. - Ensure diverse perspectives at meetings. Understanding of Difference Within the Context of Community - Put into action a solid commitment to foster deep learning about differences—not just mere exposure to them. - Reaffirm the beauty and significance of all forms of diversity. - Create smooth transitions when children move from one classroom to another.

A Framework for Providing Culturally Responsive Early Intervention Services [Abstract] The purpose of this article is to provide a framework that offers a way for early intervention (EI) service providers to better meet the needs of the culturally diverse children and families they serve. This framework was created to organize existing research and literature on cultural responsiveness in a way that fit the unique context of EI. The framework draws from multiple fields of study, including early childhood, multicultural, and special education, as well as psychology and speech-language pathology, and synthesizes knowledge and best practices into four guiding principles: (1) Examining One's Own Culture; (2) Acquiring Knowledge of Family Cultures; (3) Building Culturally Responsive Practices; and (4) Reflecting and Evaluating Practices. Each principle ties together correspondent themes and ideas from multiple fields, and suggests knowledge and best practices that can be utilized to increase one's cultural responsiveness when working with families.

It’s Not the “What,” It’s the “How”: Four Key Behaviors for Authentic Leadership in Early Intervention This article discusses four key behaviors that are intrinsic to natural, “authentic” leadership, including: 1) exercising influence to reach shared goals, 2) engaging in continuous learning, 3) building and nurturing relationships, and 4) modeling behaviors desired of others. The behaviors highlighted are both unique and “inextricably linked,” and though presented through an early intervention lens, are applicable across a broad spectrum of settings and situations, as evidenced by the authors’ cited sources.

Using Interagency Collaboration to Support Family-Centered Transition Practices [Excerpt: conclusion] "All families and children experience transitions as they move through the educational system. Transitioning between service delivery systems such as EI and ECSE can be particularly stressful for families and children with disabilities (Lovett & Haring, 2003). The transition framework described by Rous and colleagues (2007) reminds us to focus our transition efforts on the interactions and relationships among all levels of the child’s ecological system (e.g., child, family, provider, program, and community) to promote the child’s successful transition. The family-centered practice approach encourages professionals to empower families to use their natural social supports to address both the child’s and the family’s needs (Dunst, Trivette, & Deal, 1994a; Hanson & Lynch, 2004). Demographics of today’s families indicate that a large proportion of children spend time in out-of-home care while both parents work (Children’s Defense Fund, 2003). Community child care centers may be overlooked as appropriate settings for EI and ECSE services delivery. However, when EI and ECSE agencies partner with community child care centers, they have an opportunity to build on existing family supports while minimizing transition issues at age 3 years. The vignettes presented in this article illustrated ways in which an EI agency, an LEA, and community child care centers could collaborate to promote family-centered transition practices that result in seamless, stress-free transitions for children and families." (p.28)

Empowering Families During the Early Intervention Planning Process [Excerpt: conclusion] "Parents need to be empowered to be active members in the early intervention process as parental participation benefits the child and is related to increased child achievement. Satisfaction is achieved when parents are active and are equal members of the early intervention team. Professionals play an important role in helping parents have a positive early intervention experience. Preparation prior to the early intervention team meeting increases a parent’s confidence in being a strong advocate for their child. Parents are experts on their child and should be treated as such. Structuring the meeting to include a comfortable environment, facilitating equal participation, and following an agenda can ensure that child-focused objectives are met. Parents may personalize the meetings by using photographs, scrapbooks, portfolios, brochures, or electronic presentations. Increasing parent involvement in the early intervention process is key to successful outcomes for each child with disabilities." (p.56)

Working Together: Building Improved Communication is a collection of CADRE resources designed to support effective collaboration between parents, schools, and early childhood programs.

Specific Learning Disability and Its Newest Definition: Which Is Comprehensive? and Which Is Insufficient? [abstract] The American Psychiatric Association’s proposed definition of specific learning disability (“specific learning disorder”) for the DSM-5 reflects current thinking and best practice in learning disabilities. It continues the core conceptualization of learning disability (LD) as well as proposes identification criteria to supplant the discredited aptitude–achievement discrepancy formula. Improvements can be found along with long-standing and new controversies about the nature of LD. The proposed definition both provides a model of a currently acceptable definition and reflects critical issues in the operationalization of LD that the field continues to neglect.

The Effects of Educational Policy and Local Context on Special Education Students’ Experiences of School Removal and Transition [abstract] This article examines school removals and transitions among nine special education students. First, the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the local school discipline policy and special education contexts are discussed. Next, drawing from participants’ narrative accounts, the ways in which policy mandates and contextual conditions shaped their individual experiences are examined. Findings reveal the significance of IDEA and the profound impact of educational policies on students having academic and disciplinary difficulties. I argue for further examinations of the “on-the-ground” effects of educational policies and for students and their families to have more power in school accountability. [excerpt from Implications section] "Researchers and policy makers should address any ways in which IDEA and/or its implementation lead to excessive, unwarranted, or even questionable exclusionary discipline practices. Furthermore, with the current emphasis on graduation rates, it would be timely for policy makers and school district personnel to more closely examine school discipline policy. In zero-tolerance cases, IDEA defers to local school discipline policy which typically mandates expulsion. However, research shows that conditions beyond young people’s control—in both schools and communities—can greatly contribute to why some engage in activities that can lead to expulsion (Payne & Brown, 2010). Although serious infractions must be met with decisive responses, cutting troubled young people off from educational opportunity is unconscionable. These youth are among those most in need of the stability and future opportunities that formal education can offer." (p.838)

Impartial Hearings under the IDEA: Legal Issues and Answers [introduction] This Question and Answer document is specific to impartial hearing officers (IHOs) and the impartial hearings that they conduct under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). It does not cover the IHO’s remedial authority, which is the subject of separate comprehensive coverage. The sources are limited to the pertinent IDEA legislation and regulations, court decisions and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education’s (OSEP) policy letters that the author’s research has revealed. Thus, the answers are subject to revision or qualification based on 1) applicable state laws; 2) additional legal sources beyond those cited; and 3) independent interpretation of the cited and additional pertinent legal sources. The items are organized into various subject categories within two successive broad groups—hearing officer issues and hearing/decision issues. Note: this reflects the contemporary state of relevant laws and regulations as of December 31, 2012.

The “New” Section 504: Student Issues in the Wake of the ADAAA [abstract] School leaders are familiar with the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, but they also need to be legally literate about Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. This need is particularly pressing in the wake of significant recent changes in Section 504 as a result of the Americans With Disabilities Amendments Act. This case illustrates the eligibility and entitlement of a student with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder under Section 504 before and after these amendments. Would you be able to take the legally correct course of action if you were Amy Davidson? Do you have legally current and defensible answers to the discussion questions?

Strategies for Addressing the Disproportionate Representation of Diverse Students With Autism Spectrum Disorder [excerpt] "...[T]his article [presents] culturally responsive practices that demonstrate how teachers can (a) increase their knowledge of ASD in the context of students’ diverse languages and cultures; (b) partner with families to share understanding of ASD symptomatology and assist diverse families in accessing needed services and resources; and (c) implement best-practices multicultural teaching and assessment strategies in the classroom for all students, with particular implications for diverse students with ASD. These “how to” strategies can assist professionals in lessening the negative impact of disproportionate representation for diverse populations, specifically, for diverse students with ASD."(p. 168) The article discusses and illustrates culturally-responsive strategies, including questions teachers can pose regarding ASD and culture. The authors also address strategies to build family-school connections with diverse families of students with ASD.

Sustaining Programs of School, Family, and Community Partnerships A Qualitative Longitudinal Study of Two Districts [abstract] This study draws from four years of qualitative case study data to describe how programmatic and district factors interacted to affect reform sustainability in two school districts—one urban and the other suburban. These districts have been implementing a reform developed by the National Network of Partnership Schools (NNPS) for over a decade. NNPS assists schools, districts, and state departments of education to develop comprehensive programs of school, family, and community partnerships. Findings suggest that reform characteristics, specifically the evidence base, costs, and flexibility of the NNPS reform, and district leadership, specifically district leaders’ reform knowledge, professional influence, and reform focus converged to explain, in part, the case districts’ success in sustaining the reform. Implications of these findings for reform developers and leaders are discussed.

Challenges in Interpreting Accountability Results for Schools’ Facilitation of Parent Involvement Under IDEA [abstract] Parents’ involvement in their child’s education has been an important tenet of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Under the special education accountability system that went into effect in 2005, states have been required to report annually to the federal government on the percentage of parents with a child receiving special education services who report that schools facilitated parent involvement. This study investigated the variability of states’ reported results owing to states’ different choices with regard to items, metrics, and standards used to calculate their percentage on the indicator. Findings indicated that the application of different methodologies could result in reported percentages that vary by as much as 40 percentage points. It is argued that when reported results do not mean the same thing across states, the accountability system may fail in its mission to provide stakeholders with clear information to evaluate program performance and guide improvement efforts. doi: 1044207312461947 published online Nov 2012; forthcoming in print as of Jan 2013

States' Accountability and Progress in Serving Young Children With Disabilities [abstract] Since the 2004 reauthorization of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), there has been a growing focus on improving the quality of programs for children with disabilities and measuring the results/outcomes of those programs. Across the country, IDEA Part C Programs for Infants and Toddlers and IDEA Part B, Section 619 Preschool Programs have been developing, implementing, and improving their accountability systems, and in spite of significant fiscal limitations, the states have produced meaningful data demonstrating both program improvement and positive outcomes for the children and families being served. This article uses trend data reported by the states over the past 4 years to provide a national picture of the progress they have made, the challenges they have faced, and the improvement strategies they have undertaken. The lessons they have learned are relevant to the broader early childhood community. A discussion about implications for the future is included.

Identification of Learning Disabilities Implications of Proposed DSM-5 Criteria for School-Based Assessment [abstract] This article examines the recommended eligibility determination for learning disabilities (LD) in both the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act and the proposed changes in diagnostic criteria in the DSM-5. The focus is on the inclusion of the criterion of responsiveness to intervention (RTI) and the implications for practice of school psychologists and general and special education teachers. The research base on RTI for diagnostic purposes is examined, and considerations of changing roles for clinicians and school-based practitioners are discussed.

Comorbidity of LD and ADHD: Implications of DSM-5 for Assessment and Treatment [abstract] Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and learning disability (LD) can co-occur for a significant minority of children with each disorder. A total of 17 studies (2001–2011) examining ADHD-LD comorbidity were reviewed, revealing a higher mean comorbidity rate (45.1%) than has been obtained previously. Higher comorbidity may be the result of including students with writing disorders, not just reading and/or math disabilities. Proposed DSM-5 criteria for both disorders will likely affect comorbidity rates; however, it is unclear whether such rates will increase or decrease. Regardless of the specific impact of DSM revisions, academic skill and/or performance deficits should be assessed for students with ADHD as part of screening, comprehensive evaluation, and treatment monitoring. Comprehensive intervention services for students with comorbid ADHD and LD will require empirically supported treatment strategies that address both disorders and that are implemented across school and home settings.

IEP/IFSP Facilitation: Practical Insights and Programmatic Considerations This document briefly summarizes practical insights and promising practices for IEP/IFSP facilitation, collected from a broad review of facilitation and special education literature. Among the highlight are strategies that can be used prior to and during a meeting as well as considerations for those designing and managing facilitation programs.

A Comprehensive Comparison of the IDEA and Section 504/ADA This document provides a comparison of the student-related similarities and differences between IDEA and two related acts, Section 504 of Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Comparisons are provided in tabular format, with the three acts across the top and various criteria listed down the side of each. Criteria are grouped by nature: groups include Administering Agency, Institutional Requirements, Student Identification, Procedural Safeguards, Discipline, Enforcement, and Litigation.

Tuition and Related Reimbursement under the IDEA: A Decisional Checklist [Excerpt, p.786] "This checklist provides, in flowchart–like form, the criteria for reimbursement of tuition and related expenses under the IDEA along with the applicable statutory, regulatory, and case law citations." The checklist identifies three steps, with specific questions to determine the possibility of reimbursement: A. Preliminary equities step B. Appropriateness step C. Final equities step

Impartial Hearings for Public School Students under Section 504: A State-by-State Survey [Excerpt, p.3] The purposes of this article are (a) to canvass the Section 504 legislation, regulations, and OCR interpretations specific to impartial hearings; and (b) to determine, via a national survey, the current practices of the state education agencies (SEAs) for the 50 states and the District of Columbia (D.C.) in terms of meeting the Section 504 requirement for an impartial hearing for the two identified categories of Section 504–eligible students. Part I of this article provides an introductory overview of the major sources of confusion—one based on the overlap with the IDEA and the other based on the limited coverage in the literature—concerning impartial hearings under Section 504. As a focused legal framework, Part II summarizes the Section 504 legislation, regulations, and OCR interpretations specific to impartial hearings. As the central section, Part III presents the methodology and findings of a survey of the current practices, including state laws and policies, of the 51 SEAs (including D.C.) for Section 504 hearings. Finally, Part IV provides a concluding discussion recommending that states review and revise these practices in light of the OCR interpretations, relevant case law, and other pertinent considerations." [Excerpt from concluding Discussion, p.16] "In sum, impartial hearings under Section 504 merit much more attention in both the professional literature and in state policymaking. Although no single solution is necessarily applicable to all states, careful consideration is clearly warranted. In general, adopting a state law or at least official policy would appear to be in the public interest. The process of such adoption should include concerted and systematic attention to (a) the differences between double–covered and Section 504 –only students, (b) the courts' interpretation of the IDEA exhaustion provision for the particular jurisdiction, and (c) the competing interests, including available resources and applicable values, for the jurisdiction. Finally, SEAs need to include local stakeholders in terms of both parents and district personnel in both the development and dissemination of the policies for impartial hearings under Section 504 so that disputes about eligibility, FAPE, and other such claims are subject to effective resolution rather than costly compounding."

Learning together with parents of children with disabilities: Bringing parent-professional partnership education to a new level "This article reviews a new approach taken by one teacher education program, through which parents of students with disabilities are engaged as part of a teacher education course on parental involvement for students with disabilities. Comparing this course to other, primarily text-based versions of teacher preparation classes, the authors explore the advantages of making families a part of teacher education. The article includes important considerations for universities preparing new educators, as well as districts or schools looking for induction strategies to improve family engagement." doi: 10.1177/088840640803100106 [Summary from Harvard Family Research Project, _Family Engagement and Children with Disabilities: A Resource Guide for Educators and Parents_]

Working With American Indian Students and Families: Disabilities, Issues, and Interventions [Abstract] Although most American Indian students are educated in the public school system, there is limited literature regarding (a) how general and special educators can effectively meet the unique educational needs of these students or (b) what strategies educators can use while working with their families. Additionally, there are limited resources available regarding how American Indians view special education, disability issues, and the relationship between school and family. The worldview of American Indians differs from mainstream America, which has led to the overrepresentation of American Indian students in special education programs. This article provides culturally responsive research-based practices to help foster school and family relationships and improve the educational outcomes of American Indian students.

Predictors of parents perception toward the IEP meeting UMI Number: 3507702 [Abstract] "In the field of educational leadership, as well as special education, parental participation is paramount given that federal law has mandated that schools provide and show evidence that they foster parental participation. This quantitative, non-experimental study examined the relationship between level of education, marital status, socioeconomic status, parents' experience in special education, and student's disability category and their parents' perception of the individual education plan (IEP) meeting. The theoretical framework of this study encompassed the history of special education with a timeline of the evolution of federal and state leadership roles, laws, and litigation from 1958 to the present. Specific to this study was the provision of parental rights and participation in the individual education planning (IEP) process. The participants for this study consist of parents/guardians of students receiving special education services k-12. The survey instrument used in this study targeted various demographics. The study consisting of 51 respondents revealed a negative perception of the IEP meeting from those parents that reported being married and with 5 or more years of experience in special education. Through the identification and examination of specific demographic factors, school districts (urban, suburban, rural), and building levels (elementary, middle, high school) will be able to improve upon breaking down negative barriers that may impede an equal parent-professional partnership."

Family Engagement and Children with Disabilities: A Resource Guide for Educators and Parents This resource guide presents an annotated bibliography on partnerships between families and schools. From p.3: "This annotated bibliography describes resources that can help parents and educators facilitate a comfortable and supportive partnership in the interest of successful outcomes for children with disabilities. The research reports, journal articles, and examples of best practices and practical tools included in this guide suggest methods of developing positive, timely, and productive collaboration between schools and families so that they can work together to ensure better services for students in their care. The resources in this guide are grouped into the following categories, which reflect common areas of focus that concern families and educators while striving to meet the needs of children with disabilities: * Families as advocates * Family roles in assessment and intervention * Families as partners in student learning

A New Multicultural Population: Creating Effective Partnerships With Multiracial Families [Abstract] Multiracial families make up the fastest growing demographic in the United States. Approximately 9% of the U.S. population is multiracial, and it is estimated that the numbers will climb to 21% by 2050. With this increasing population, educators have a new responsibility to meet the needs of these families. Education must begin to form partnerships with families to increase the social and academic achievement of children from multiracial backgrounds. The purpose of this article is to (a) identify the uniqueness of multiracial students and families, (b) provide recommendations regarding improving multiracial family partnerships, and (c) offer best practices and strategies for working effectively with multiracial children and youth in schools.

Involving parents of students with special needs: 25 ready to use strategies This book offers twenty-five strategies through which schools can encourage and support parents' involvement. The author groups these strategies in chapters 2-7 by communication medium (in-person, telephone, written) while chapter 8 emphasizes home-based activities. The closing two chapters move from challenges and obstacles to the value of planning. [From publisher's website] "In this teacher-friendly resource, Jill C. Dardig provides 25 ready-to-use techniques for involving parents in the education of their children. Both general and special education teachers in Grades PreK–12 can use these strategies to reach the parents of students with a wide range of learning needs, including cognitive, emotional/behavioral, social, sensory, and physical disabilities, as well as the parents of typically developing students. Involving Parents of Students With Special Needs anticipates the challenges to parent involvement and provides step-by-step directions, sample materials, and tips for - Using letters, telephone, email, newsletters, and progress reports to communicate with parents - Conducting successful parent conferences and in-person meetings - Connecting parents with needed resources - Helping parents teach their children at home - Dealing with home/school conflict situations - Preparing a parent involvement action plan This practical guide helps teachers and parents work together to give students with special needs the necessary support to succeed in school."

Labeling effects on special education and general education teachers in both student attributions and conflict resolution UMI Number: 1512313 [Abstract] "Understanding how labels and prior training affect teachers of students with a disability is a step towards creating effective educational environments. There were two goals of the study. The first aim was to examine how teacher training (special education versus general education training) and labeling of students (either as having a label of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or having no label) affected teachers' memory for specific attributes of a hypothetical student. Furthermore, the secondary aim was to identify whether teacher training and label type influence how the teachers would respond in a student-initiated conflict. Depending on the type of memory attribute, hindering or facilitative, special education and general education recalled a different amount of information in the labeling conditions. Intrusion errors revealed that participants tended to remember more hindering items. General education teachers tended to endorse more mediation approach overall when compared to Special Education Teachers. Findings of this study inform educators' current knowledge regarding disability training, including the role of field-based training, the use of labels and how teachers' training may affect how they handle classroom conflict with students with a disability."

Collaborating for our children’s future: Mediation of special education disputes This article reviews the emergence of mediation in special education disputes, situating it within a continuum of dispute resolution processes. The authors discuss the trends toward collaboration in federal legislation from 1975's Education for All Handicapped Children Act through IDEA's introduction in 1990 and subsequent reauthorizations. The articles closes with a look to the future, including the expansion of facilitated IEPs and IFSPs.

Examining the Impact of Special Education Dispute Resolution in Pennsylvania UMI Number: 3510696 [Excerpts from abstract] "If a disagreement arises between parents and their school district, either party may request a special education due process hearing. However, several alternate options are available and encouraged for parties to consider for resolution of conflicts prior to the court proceeding. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to examine the rationale used by parents or school officials when electing to file formal due process complaints in conjunction with or instead of attempting to resolve disputes using the available alternate dispute resolution options available in Pennsylvania. The researcher also explored the manner in which disputes were resolved and the methods employed to rebuild the parent/school relationship. Data was collected through surveys of family members and school officials who participated in dispute resolution in Pennsylvania during fiscal year 2008-2009. Triangulation was achieved by reviewing the findings of ninety-nine hearings held during that fiscal year. Analysis of responses was organized into themes resulting in the identification of common themes across groups of participants. Those themes included (1) Lack of communication, (2) Non-discriminatory evaluation, and (3) Training and knowledge. Results indicate that open and on-going communication is an area where both groups agree that work needs to continue so that the parent-school partnership is strengthened. A second common theme was the need for a clearly defined and timely provision for non-discriminatory evaluation to determine a child's eligibility for services so those services can be implemented without delay. Finally, on-going training for families and school personnel was expressed as a desire by all participant groups. This training should be focused on the state and federal legislation related to special education, research-based programs and services, conflict resolution and developing a family and school partnership."

Biculturization: Developing culturally responsive approaches to family participation This article describes biculturization as an effective process for planning an IEP or an intervention. They illustrate the process through a merger of the McGill Action PLanning System (MAPS) with an indigenous Hawaiian social work process known as 'Ohana Conferencing. [from p.132] "Biculturalization consists of merging a Western or mainstream collaborative planning process with practices that are familiar to individuals from different cultures... consists of five steps: • identify the important values in the ethnic culture which can be used in the merged approach; • choose a Western approach with a theoretical framework and values that are compatible to the ethnic cultural values of participants; • analyze an indigenous approach familiar to the ethnic participants in order to determine what can be reinforced and integrated into the Western approach; • develop a framework and approach that integrates the values and techniques of the ethnic culture and the indigenous and Western approaches; and • apply the Western intervention by explaining the approach and how it reinforces cultural values and indigenous approaches."

Examining the Impact of Early Intervention, Parent Involvement and Family Characteristics on Preschool Special Education Student Outcomes over Time UMI Number: 3495232 [Excerpts from abstract] "The study included secondary data analysis to examine the impact of several factors, including the Early Intervention program, demographic factors and potential mediating factors on preschool special education student outcomes. The Pre-elementary Education Longitudinal Study was utilized to answer the following research questions: 1) What is the effect of Part C Early Intervention on the pre-academic achievement of preschool special education students? 2) What factors are related to parent involvement? 3) What is the relationship of parent involvement to the pre-academic achievement of preschool special education students? Linear Mixed Models were used to test the long term effects of Early Intervention and parent involvement on student outcomes and the effect of Early Intervention on parent involvement. Although Early Intervention did not predict parent involvement, results indicated that the program had a positive significant impact on cognitive student outcomes. Children who received EI were more likely to score higher on the cognitive tests..." "Implications are that early intervention is effective in increasing cognitive development levels which can lead to positive school outcomes such as higher grade point averages and graduation rates in the future. Since parent involvement appeared to be an important factor in improving student achievement, it was suggested that policies such as IDEA encourage interventionists to work collaboratively with families to help children reach their full potential."

Part B Federal Regulations The Part B federal regulations were published in the Federal Register on August 14, 2006, and December 1, 2008.

IDEA Legal, Regulatory and Guidance Resources This page contains links to IDEA legal, regulatory and guidance resources.

Disability and the Education System [Summary in journal] Aron and Loprest trace the evolution of the special education system in the United States from its origins in the civil rights movement of the mid-twentieth century. They note the dual character of federal legislation, which both guarantees eligible children with disabilities the right to a “free, appropriate public education in the least restrictive setting” and establishes a federal funding program to help meet this goal. They then review the types of services and accommodations these children receive from infancy through young adulthood. The special education system has given children with disabilities much greater access to public education, established an infrastructure for educating them, helped with the earlier identi?cation of disabilities, and promoted greater inclusion of these children alongside their nondisabled peers. Despite these advances, many problems remain, including the over- and under-identi?cation of certain subgroups of students, delays in identifying and serving students, and bureaucratic, regulatory, and ?nancial barriers that complicate the program for everyone involved. More important, the authors show that special education students still lag behind their nondisabled peers in educational achievements, are often held to lower expectations, are less likely to take the full academic curriculum in high school, and are more likely to drop out of school. Only limited evidence is available on the effectiveness of speci?c special education services or on how to improve student achievement for this important subgroup of students. Improving the system will require better ways of understanding and measuring both ends of the special education continuum, namely, what services special education children need and receive, and what academic outcomes these students achieve. Without stronger evidence linking these two aspects of the system, Aron and Loprest argue, researchers will be unable to gauge the ef?cacy of the services now being delivered or to formulate effective reforms to the system as a whole.

Handbook of Leadership and Administration for Special Education [From publisher's website] This book brings together for the first time research informing leadership practice in special education from preschool through transition into post-secondary settings. It provides comprehensive coverage of 1) disability policy 2) leadership knowledge, 3) school reform, and 4) effective educational leadership practices. Broader in scope than previous books, it provides in-depth analysis by prominent scholars from across the disciplines of both general and special education leadership. Coverage includes historical roots, policy and legal perspectives, and content supporting collaborative and instructional leadership that support the administration of special education. [Contents] I. The Context and Development of Leadership for Special Education 1. Leadership for Student Performance in an Era of Accountability Martha L. Thurlow, Rachel F. Quenemoen, and Sheryl S. Lazarus 2. Conceptual and Historical Foundations of Special Education Administration Barbara Pazey and James R. Yates 3. Expanding the Leadership Framework: An Alternate View of Professional Standards Mary Lynn Boscardin and Carl Lashley 4. Developing Educational Leaders for the Realities of Special Education in the 21st Century Jean B. Crockett II. Leadership, Policy and School Reform 5. Special Education Law for Leaders and Administrators of Special Education Mitchell L. Yell, Susan S. Thomas, and Antonis Katsiyannis 6. Financing Education for Children with Special Needs Preston Green, Bruce Baker, and Matthew J. Ramsey 7. Special Education and School Choice: A Special Leadership Challenge Julie Mead and Preston Green 8. Disability, Difference, and Justice: Strong Democratic Leadership for Undemocratic Times Thomas Skrtic III. Collaborative Leadership for Special Education in Multicultural Contexts 9. System-wide Leadership for Culturally-Responsive Education Elizabeth Kosleski and Jennifer J. Huber 10. Inclusive School Reform: Distributed Leadership across the Change Process Bonnie Billingsley 11. Collaborative Decision-Making in Multicultural Contexts John Hoover, Amy Eppolito, Janette Klingner, and Leonard Baca 12. Leadership and Collaboration in Home-School Partnerships Beth Harry 13. Building Trust and Responding to Conflict in Special Education Barbara J. Lake and Art Stewart IV: Instructional Leadership and the Evaluation of Educational Outcomes Section 14. Leading to Improve Teacher Effectiveness: Implications for Practice, Reform, Research, and Policy Donald Deshler and Jake Cornett 15. Teacher Quality and Effectiveness in an Era of Accountability: Challenges and Solutions in Special Education? Mary Brownell, Bonnie S. Billingsley, James McLeskey, and Paul Sindelar 16. Leadership and Instruction: Evidence-based Practices in Special Education Bryan G. Cook and Garnett J. Smith 17. School Leadership and School-wide Positive Behavior Support George Sugai, Breda V. O’Keeffe, Robert H. Horner, and Timothy J. Lewis 18. Responsive Instructional Leadership for Early Intervention Patricia Snyder, Crystal D. Crowe, and Robert Crow 19. Leadership for Transition to Postsecondary Settings David W. Test, Valerie L. Mazzotti, and April L. Mustian V: Challenges for Educational Leaders Section 20. Challenges for Leaders in the Not-so-New Era of Standards Margaret J. McLaughlin, Amy F. Smith, and Tracy G. Wilkinson

Federal Policy on Disproportionality in Special Education: Is it Moving us Forward? [Abstract] Monitoring requirements in the 1997 amendments to and 2004 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) acknowledged the existence and extent of racial/ethnic disproportionality in special education, especially when, in 2004, Congress designated this concern among the top three priority areas for monitoring and enforcement of the law. However, federal interpretations of the 2004 requirements have created confusion at the State (SEA) and Local Education Agency (LEA) levels. This article analyzes data from state Annual Performance Reports to assess the progress made in identifying disproportionality. Though high levels of disproportionality remain, an increasing number of states are finding no LEAs with disproportionality when it must be shown that the disproportionality was caused by inappropriate identification. The analyses provided suggest that federal interpretations of IDEA 2004 have not been effective in addressing disproportionate representation in special education. Recommendations for improving policy to remedy this serious problem are provided. [Recommendations section] "Systemic Remedies for Systemic Failure OSEP must take definitive steps to provide uniformity in identifying and reporting disproportionality by the states, eliminating inconsistencies in policies and assuring alignment of Congressional intent in the IDEA that states and districts address all “inappropriate” contributing factors and take meaningful action toward prevention. To that end, a practical method for local data collection and interpretation of data in annual public reporting down to the district level is needed. Comprehensive intervention programs are advised to address interactions of student characteristics, teacher capabilities and attitudes, and unanalyzed sources of structural inequity and racial stereotype. Schools should implement culturally responsive approaches to improve academic and behavioral outcomes in general and to reduce measured inequity. The OSEP mandate for the collection, monitoring, and reporting of disaggregated data (as per the IDEA) should be continued. Recommendations for Policy The following policy recommendations are offered to improve methods for identifying and the disproportionate representation of minority students in special education identification, more restrictive placements, and school discipline." [Eleven policy recommendations are offered.]

Litigation and Students With Disabilities: A Persistent Concern This article reviews recent litigation related to students with disabilities; it presents themes as well as five tables summarizing the facts and decisions in specific cases gathered by topic (see abstract for list). [Abstract] Special education litigation remains a volatile area with significant practice implications. A review of the 2010 case law in the Special Educator identified discipline (manifestation determination, seclusion and restraints, harassment), evaluation/RTI, and postsecondary transition as specific areas of concern. School administrators should keep abreast of these developments to ensure that the rights of students with disabilities are observed, educational benefits are attained, and potential liability is minimized.

Click here to go to top of page

Website maintained and hosted
by Resourceful Internet Solutions,
home of