IEP Support & Services
The special education process in Houston ISD typically begins after a student has received support in the general education classroom through the Intervention Assistance Team (IAT). The student needing additional academic or behavioral support in order to succeed in the general education environment may benefit from general education intervention procedures of the IAT process. If after a reasonable period of interventions, the IAT suspects a significant learning problem that cannot be addressed by academic and behavioral interventions, a referral is made for an evaluation to determine if the student qualifies as a student with a disability and needs special education and related services. The special education process begins:
Special Education Process – Brief Overview
If the student is suspected of having a disability a parent, legal guardian, teacher, or other professional involved in the care or education of the student may refer the student to special education. The District will gather information to decide if the student should be evaluated or tested for special education eligibility.
There are certain activities under the IDEA that cannot take place unless the District obtains parental consent. The District representative must fully inform parents of all the information needed, including a description of the proposed activity, so they are able to make good decisions regarding their child’s educational program. The information parents receive must be in their native language or other mode of communication. If there are records to be released, the District must list the records and to whom they will be released.
When a parent gives consent, it means that he or she understands and agrees in writing for the District to carry out the activity for which consent is sought. It is important that the parents understand that the consent is voluntary and may be revoked at any time prior to the activity taking place. However, if the parents revoke consent for an activity, it must be in writing and is not retroactive.
Notice of Rights
During the referral process and at other significant decision-making steps after the referral, the District must provide parents written information notifying them of the actions the District wants to take or is refusing to take regarding the student’s education. Parents must also receive notice of their rights as a parent and where they can obtain additional information about the activities the District proposes or refuses to do.
For instance, if the District does not think the student needs to be evaluated for special education, they must give the parents written notice that tells them why they want to make that decision and what the parents can do if they disagree.
Once parental consent is given for the evaluation, the District will conduct a full and initial individual evaluation (FIE) for a student who has not received special education in the past or a full and individual evaluation (FIE) for a student who has received special education. The evaluation will help a team of people, called an ARD/IEP committee, to determine if the student has a disability and needs special education services. The student must be evaluated in all areas of suspected disability. The student, between the ages of 3 through 21, must meet the criteria for one or more of the disability categories as identified in the federal or state guidelines.
The District must complete the evaluation process within 60 calendar days from the date the District receives written parental consent for initial testing. When the evaluation is completed, the District will contact the parents to schedule a meeting to discuss the results of the evaluation.
This meeting should be held within 30 calendar days of the completion of the evaluation.
The District must also give the parents written notice of the meeting at least five (5) school days before the meeting.
The ARD/IEP Committee and Meeting
At the first meeting after the evaluation, a team will decide whether the student is eligible to receive special education services. The parents must be a part of that decision even if the student does not qualify for special education services. However, when a student does meet eligibility requirements, parents must provide written consent to initiate or begin special education and related services.
This team of is called the admission, review, dismissal/individualized education program (ARD/IEP) committee. The ARD/IEP committee meets at least once a year to develop the student’s individualized education program (IEP) and determine if the student is making adequate progress toward meeting annual goals. The parents are important members of the student’s ARD/IEP committee which includes the student (when appropriate), an evaluation representative (if evaluation results are being discussed), a campus administrator (principal or assistant principal), a special education teacher or representative, and a general education teacher. Other support personnel that provide services to the student (speech pathologist, occupational therapist, physical therapist) may also be a part of the ARD/IEP committee.
Any ARD/IEP committee member, including the parents and student, may request an ARD/IEP committee meeting to discuss educational concerns such as placement, IEP goals and objectives, and the extent of services being provided to the student.
The individualized education program (IEP) is a written plan designed specifically for the student. It is an agreement between the District and parents on how the student will be educated.
The IEP must be reviewed at least annually. The most important function of the ARD/IEP committee is the development of the IEP. The parents’ participation and input is important because parents know the student better than anyone else.
In the development of the IEP, the ARD/IEP committee must consider other factors that may help the student educationally such as extended school year (ESY) services, behavioral supports, communication needs, and related services. Students with autism, significant cognitive and physical challenges, or medical or psychological services in order to access the curriculum may require additional services and supports as determined by the ARD/IEP committee.
After the ARD/IEP Meeting
Parents are provided a copy of the IEP document at the conclusion of the ARD/IEP meeting. Parents will also receive progress reports at least as often as the District provides progress updates to all parents.
Teachers and service providers are provided copies of the relevant portions of the IEP, in some cases the entire document, to help them provide the most appropriate program for the student, as described in the IEP.