Special Education/Change of placement

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Question
My daughter is on an IEP.  The school is moving her from a small group language arts setting (intervention specialist and her aid) to a co taught (large) classroom for 6th grade language arts (intervention specialist present, and her aid).  I mentioned that this is a change of placement, and the district disagrees with me.  Could you please tell me if this represents a change of placement?
Thank you.

Answer
Dear Lisa,

Thank you so much for writing to me and for a somewhat complex question. If my answer needs a follow up, please feel free to follow up with me.

I am wondering what services, and what settings are now listed in your daughter's IEP.  Placement from my non-attorney understanding, is made of two prongs: 1-services, and 2-location of services/setting.

If the current 5th grade small group language arts class with the intervention specialist and aide is a special education classroom, outside or removed from the general/regular class setting, and the school district proposes to place your daughter in a 6th grade general/regular class, I would say that is a change of placement.

However, if the fifth grade small class just happens to be small, but all the students or most students do not have disabilities, that could be said to be a general education classroom.  On your daughter's IEP, the service would include the hours for the intervention specialist and aide, but the setting would be the general  education setting.  In that case, it is the same setting just a different class size.

Generally, I like to think of the issue of 'restrictiveness' in terms of how different the classroom looks compared with the general education/regular classroom.  If the small group is three students, for example, that is not very comparable to a regular classroom size, even if your daughter is with two kids without disabilities.  

But also, some may argue that even a general education very small classroom to a large classroom is a less restrictive environment, because most general classrooms are not very small.  But that is more of a legal gray area that may need an attorney consult.  If you are interested in doing that, look up someone close to you at COPAA.org.  

Lastly, did you get a prior written notice, the written notice that the school district has to provide you when it makes a change or makes a decision with which you don't agree?  Here's a brief paper on prior written notice.  http://idea.ed.gov/download/modelform2_Prior_Written_Notice.pdf

If you did, then the school district may have indicated it did change placement or rejected your request for a continued small classroom for language arts.  You should be able to see its justification for the decision, which could help you if you decide to dispute the decision.

I really hope that this answer was helpful to you.  Again, please feel free to follow up, and again, thank you so much for writing to me.  I wish you all the best as you advocate for your exceptional child's education!

Special Education

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Michelle R. Davis, M. Ed.

Expertise

I can answer questions about disability definitions and criteria for services, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 2004, No Child Left Behind, 504 plans, how to craft an IEP that drives the appropriate services, school placement, dispute options, and least restrictive environment. I worked in the public school system as a special educator and am now in private consulting practice where we assist parents as they navigate the special education process. I have expertise in all educational disabilities except blind/visual impairments and deaf/hard of hearing. This includes ADHD and other health impairments, medical conditions, dyslexia and learning disabilities, Autism, emotional disabilities, language processing problems, and interfering behaviors.

Experience

10 years as special educator and administrator in public school system; Director of ABCs for Life Success since 1998; Expert services such as analysis and testimony; Author: Special Needs Advocacy Resource Book: What you can do now to advocate for your exceptional child's education; Special Needs Advocacy Training Institute; internet radio show Teach Your Children Well: Hot Topics in Education; author School Success for Kids with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders released March 2010 (Prufrock Press).

Education/Credentials
Masters in Special Education with Emphasis on Inclusive Education (Johns Hopkins University); B.S.in Special Education (James Madison University); Conduct training for Universities, public and private schools, parent groups. Adjunct professor current George Washington University and prior George Mason University.

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