5 Things to Know About Free Appropriate Public Education and Special Education

Do you have a child with autism or a learning disability and you are concerned about their education? Does your child with Dyslexia struggle with their academics even though they are receiving special education services? Free Appropriate Public Education is a right for all children receiving special education services. This article will discuss 5 things that you will need to know about FAPE, to help your child receive it.

1. The legal definition of FAPE is: special education and related services that are designed to meet the child’s unique needs, gives meaningful benefit, and has been given at no charge to the parents. Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) includes and Individual Education Plan that is designed to meet the child’s unique educational needs and gives meaningful benefit.

2. The Supreme Court Case that gave us this definition of FAPE is Board of Education Vs. Rowley 458 US 176 in 1982. You may be able to use this case in the future if you have a dispute with your school district over FAPE.

3. In the Rowley Case the justices determined that there are two areas that must be met to determine if a child with a disability is receiving FAPE:

A. Procedural Requirements: Did the district follow the correct procedural requirements and provisions in developing the child’s IEP?

B. Will the IEP developed by the school district give the child meaningful educational benefit.

If either one of these is not done by the school district, then it means that the child is not receiving a free appropriate public education.

4. IDEA 2004 states that a procedural violation must rise to the level of substantive violation, to constitute a lack of FAPE. In other words the procedural violation must be a major violation, in order to be a violation of FAPE. Some hearing officers and courts have found that parents being denied the ability of being an equal participant in their child’s IEP, is a substantive violation which is a denial of FAPE.

5. A new recent court case N.R. vs. Kingwood Township the court states that the IEP must allow the child: significant learning and give meaningful benefit. Use this definition to determine if your child’s IEP is going to allow them significant learning and give meaningful benefit.

By understanding what Free Appropriate Public Education is and having knowledge of court cases you will be able to help your child receive a Free Appropriate Public Education.

The Nation’s Public Education Report Card A.K.A. The Emperor’s New Clothes

Do you believe that in the course of 33 years, an improvement of anywhere of 1.5% to 4% on public education average reading scores is significantly different? The experts (?) at National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) believe this to be true and state it on their website.

Between 1971 and 2004, nine year olds reading performance on a scale of 1 to 500 grew from 208 to 219 an increase of 4% while 13 year olds reading performance jumped 4 entire points on that same scale from 255 to 259. To learn about the dismal performance of 17-year-olds who did not grow at all – 0% growth from 285 to 285 over 33 years, requires further reading beyond the first page. After reading about these experts patting themselves on the back, I was reminded of the childhood story, The Emperor’s New Clothes by Hans Christian Andersen

If you are not familiar with this story, an emperor hires two weavers to weave and sew for him some new clothes. Unfortunately, all the weavers do is to pretend to weave and take the emperor’s money. As the weaving continues, the emperor sends in his trusted advisors to check on the progress. Even though they can’t see anything, the trusted advisors don’t want to appear stupid and agree that the cloth is the most beautiful that they have ever seen. The day comes for the Emperor to showcase his new clothes and as he walks through the town, the voice of a young child cries out: “The Emperor is naked. He isn’t wearing any clothes.”

The weavers in today’s education arena are those individuals who take taxpayer’s dollars and continue to deliver invisible results while the Emperor is organizations such as NCES that promote insignificant results as significant. And, we, the taxpayers are the young children who say, “Hey, the results aren’t there.”

To put public education performance in the proper content, let’s use the analogy of a business. What business with 3 separate departments could survive with 0%, 1.5% or 4% growth over the course of 33 years? What financial institution would advertise that this business is making significant growth and is a good place to invest your dollars? Public education likes to echo the phrase “Education is not business.” However, many school corporations have multi-million dollars budgets. This is BIG BUSINESS and growing bigger every year with less than acceptable results.

Presuming a business could stay in business with annual growth of 1% per year, over the course of 33 years, the business would grow 33%. In reviewing the data from the most recent report card, some African minority students (age 9 readers) did actually grow 17% and progressed from 170 to 200. Thirteen-year-old black students gained 22 points from 222 to 244 for an increase of 10%. For seventeen-year-olds black students, their progress was similar from 239 to 264 or 10%. However, a review of the Levels indicates that any student under 300 lacks the skill set to understand complicated information. Given that today’s business world where these young people are going to work is all about knowledge and to secure knowledge demands the ability to not only understand complicated information (Level 300), but to learn from specialized reading materials such as technical reading as identified in Level 350, the U.S. potential workforce is in serious trouble.

By researching the dollars spent per student in 1971-72, the expenditure was $4,479 in 2001 dollars and this almost doubled by 2003 to $8,019 per student. And yet, during that same time frame with all the dollars being spent and not invested, performance was honestly dismal, flat and insignificant when we thoroughly read the Nation’s Report Card. And yet, public educators continue to wonder why competition from charter schools and private schools have increased on one hand and then on the other have the audacity to ask for even more money. What is wrong with this picture? With all the dollars being invested in each child and with flat scores, requesting more money seems a bit ludicrous unless of course your are a weaver weaving invisible clothing.

Until, educators and politicians realize that performance has more to do with internal beliefs specific to learning and that meeting the needs of the customers those being the students, parents and taxpayers comes before their own needs, public education in America will continue to be the Emperor in his new clothes paid for by your tax dollars.

P.S. Did you wonder like me why the scale is to 500, but the level descriptions are only to 350? I am sure the experts have a significant explanation.

Copyright 2005(c) Leanne Hoagland-Smith, http://www.processspecialist.com

This article may be freely published. Permission to publish this article, electronically or in print, as long as the bylines are included, with a live link, and the article is not changed in any way (grammatical corrections accepted).

Public Education Can Save Our Country

Public education is broken. I wanted to grab your attention with something much more impactful. But the way I see it, what has more impact than the absolute and simple truth? Our public education system is broken and it has been for a long time.

Some of us believe it is the responsibility of our elected officials. Others think our communities can fix it. Parental involvement is the answer for many. “If only we had more funding” is another cry. They are all right.

Of course, the debate continues about No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Remember, this is the measure which was passed in January 2002 during the Bush Administration. It requires states test all students in certain subjects every year to be sure they are prepared for college. I don’t believe the problem is entirely about NCLB; it’s about public education in general. However, this initiative has had such an impact, mentioning one practically begs a mention of the other.

NCLB was supposed to fill in the gaps of public education. It was likely intended to do just as it says…leave no child behind. The goal is admirable, but the execution has a detrimental effect on how children are taught. We tried to solve the problem with one sweeping measure. There is no one answer and no one entity with the complete solution.

The reason I see the problem of public education in the United States as a national issue, and not an individual, family, group, regional, or even state issue, is very simple. Let me use myself as an example. I am not an educator or a student. I do not have a child in the public school system, or any school system. But I am a citizen of this country and have a vested interest in its present well-being and hope for its future. So, it is my problem. It is our problem.

We all know the future of this country and our place in the world depends on our children. How they fare and compete on the world’s stage depends on their access to quality education. That is why I am so afraid.

We are not preparing our children to compete. We are not teaching them to think. We are not teaching them to react. We are not teaching them to create. We are not teaching them at all. We are preparing them for tests. We are filling them with facts, having them regurgitate them at the appropriate time, in the appropriate format to attain the appropriate score.

Creativity, individuality, and inventiveness are practically discouraged. If a child shows too much individuality in the way she learns, acts, or interacts, she is considered inappropriate. She is relegated to a special class, isolated, or even worse, medicated.

We live in an age of entrepreneurs and innovators. The time has passed when we stay on a job at a factory for 25-30 years or even in a corporate cubicle for that long. We are not training our children to be innovative in the workplace, or to build businesses like the type built by the entrepreneurs and solopreneurs that are the backbone of my own industry, virtual business assistance.

The Public Education Network’s (PEN) National Survey of Public Opinion lists 10 key findings in its Survey of Public Opinion about our responsibility for our educational system. Top among those were:

1. Education continues to be a top national priority, even in the midst of war and concern about the economy, joblessness, and healthcare.

2. Americans want funding for public education protected from budget cuts, and they want to see more public investment in education.

3. The jury is still out on No Child Left Behind. [1]

What does this tell us about what we need to do to fix our broken system?

We have to stop making education a mere campaign promise and make it a policy priority for our elected officials. Any official who does not fulfill his promises to improve public education, especially our national officials, should not be re-elected.

Realize quality education comes at a cost. We must be willing to pay our teachers a competitive wage so that we can attract the best and brightest…or provide tax and other benefits to supplement their salaries. Be open to studying tenure and pay for performance as options for teachers. Even if these are not the best or only options for improvement, let’s at least consider them and be open to new, inventive options.

Consider a moratorium on NCLB, nationally, or on the state or local levels. This measure affects too many of our children to continue with so many unsure of the long-term consequences. If a moratorium is not practical, at least reconsider the amount of funding for the program so that schools are able to place more focus on traditional or creative teaching methods as well.

The results of the 2008 National Poll and the Civic Index for Quality Public Education conducted by the PEN shows that over 63 per cent of us do not think public officials are held accountable for the status of public education. Four in 10, nationally, and over one third of local respondents think our schools are declining. [2]

We have an election coming up on November 2, 2010. Let’s not forget education when we go to the polls. We can save the future of our country.

[1] 2004 NATIONAL SURVEY OF PUBLIC OPINION Learn. Vote. Act. The Public’s Responsibility for Public Education

[2] Public Education Network, Community Accountability for Quality Schools, Results of the 2008 National Poll and the Civic Indexor Quality Public Education