New IDEA Law Brings Relief, Worry for School Clinicians Analyzing IDEA '04: Part 1 in a Series School Matters
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School Matters  |   February 01, 2005
New IDEA Law Brings Relief, Worry for School Clinicians
Author Notes
  • Susan Boswell, an assistant managing editor of The ASHA Leader, can be reached at sboswell@asha.org.
    Susan Boswell, an assistant managing editor of The ASHA Leader, can be reached at sboswell@asha.org.×
Article Information
School-Based Settings / Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / School Matters
School Matters   |   February 01, 2005
New IDEA Law Brings Relief, Worry for School Clinicians
The ASHA Leader, February 2005, Vol. 10, 1-25. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM1.10022005.1
The ASHA Leader, February 2005, Vol. 10, 1-25. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM1.10022005.1
With the ink dry on President Bush’s signature on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA’04), the U.S. Department of Education (ED) is now beginning to develop regulations for the new law. School-based members should pay close attention to developments in key provisions outlined in this article-personnel qualifications, paperwork reduction, and Individualized Education Program (IEP) modifications-as states and localities respond to the law.
ASHA made an extensive effort to ensure that members in school settings provided input into the Association’s priorities for the IDEA reauthorization. This effort paid off with outcomes such as paperwork reduction, model forms, and improvements in the IEP process. But Congress’ action on personnel qualifications was disappointing.
As regulations are developed, ASHA members will have the opportunity to provide input to the ED through a series of meetings around the country (see sidebar, p. 24). Proposed regulations are expected to be released soon and final regulations are expected in later this year or early 2006.
Qualified Providers
Under the old IDEA’97 standards for related services providers needed to meet the “highest requirement in the state” for a profession or discipline, although waivers were granted on an emergency, temporary, or provisional basis. This requirement linked state education agency personnel standards with standards established by other state agencies or regulatory bodies, such as state licensure boards.
The new law sweeps away the highest qualified provider requirement. Qualifications for related services personnel-including speech-language pathologists and audiologists-must now be consistent with any state-approved certification, licensing, or other comparable requirement for a specific professional discipline. States that now permit waivers on an emergency, temporary, or provisional basis can no longer grant them.
In response, states may swiftly modify personnel standards so that providers who meet emergency qualifications can be given a full credential. Other states that have attempted to lower personnel standards in the past may try to act quickly before the ED develops regulations that restrict their options. Still other states may take no action because they believe that high standards are in the best interest of students.
The ASHA Executive Board has approved a comprehensive plan to address these challenges to credentials needed for SLPs and audiologists to provide services in schools. The plan provides for a series of strategic initiatives to:
  • collect data and information related to personnel issues and develop advocacy resources

  • work with state associations to identify, outreach to and engage key stakeholders in advocacy efforts on these issues

  • collaborate with state associations to assist in providing resources needed to deal with threats to reduce state certification and licensure requirements

ASHA members should encourage local education agencies (LEAs) to continue to hire service providers with the same level of qualifications as they do now because this practice is in the best interest of students-especially in meeting Adequate Yearly Progress criteria for No Child Left Behind. IDEA’04 requires LEAs to take measurable steps to recruit, hire, and retain highly qualified personnel, and SLPs and state associations should closely monitor states and LEAs to make sure that they comply with this requirement, especially if state standards are lowered.
State actions will be influenced by a number of factors, including the extent of shortages of qualified providers; past actions by the state to raise or lower standards; and the political clout of state school administrators, school board associations, and teachers’ unions. A critical factor is the ability of state speech-language-hearing associations to monitor proposed legislative or regulatory actions and rally clinicians and parents to advocate for standards of quality.
Paperwork
Recent ASHA surveys showed that voluminous paperwork is of top concern for school-based members. New provisions in IDEA ‘04 may relieve some of the burden of paperwork and reduce the length of IEPs.
Relief from paperwork and non-instructional time burdens may come as part of an ED pilot program in up to 15 states for a maximum of four years. The pilot will grant waivers of statutory or regulatory requirements under Part B that do not affect civil rights requirements or procedural safeguards. In its annual report to Congress, the ED will provide information related to the effectiveness of such waivers, including any specific recommendations for broader implementation. The ED report is expected to be issued in 2006, after the waivers are granted, and may be published in 2007.
To reduce paperwork, ASHA recently collaborated with the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE) to co-host a meeting on the paperwork reduction and IEP waivers under IDEA’04. The meeting included special education administrators, related service providers, general education and special education teachers, parents, the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, and special education attorneys. A list of recommendations on paperwork reduction and IEP modifications was developed that will be disseminated to state education departments as guidance for applying for the waivers and will be forwarded to the ED.
The ED must also disseminate models of the following documents: IEP forms; Individualized Family Service Plan forms; notice of procedural safeguards; and prior written notices.
IEP Modifications
State and local requirements have lengthened many IEPs. To separate federal requirements for IEPs, IDEA’04 stipulates that nothing in IDEA regarding IEPs shall be construed to require additional information in an IEP beyond what is explicitly required. The model IEPs and IEP waivers should help members clarify those components that must be preserved due to federal mandates and those resulting from state or local policies that may be modified or eliminated through advocacy efforts.
IDEA’04 encourages LEAs to consolidate IEP meetings and re-evaluation meetings by providing the option for IEP team and placement meetings through videoconferences and conference calls, if parents and LEAs agree. Parents may also amend or modify the child’s current IEP without having to convene an IEP meeting by working through a responsible teacher or service provider. With approval from the parents and LEA, an IEP team member may be excused from the meeting if no modifications are being made to that area of curriculum or service, or if the member provides input prior to the meeting. Although this change may free up time for school-based members, SLPs or audiologists may be excused from participating in a meeting where they could provide valuable insight.
A separate ED pilot program will allow 15 states to develop multi-year IEPs for up to three years that coincide with the “natural transition points for the child,” such as the transition from elementary to junior high school. State proposals must provide assurances that the development of a multi-year IEP is optional for parents and obtain informed consent from parents before an IEP is developed, in addition to other specific requirements.
In addition, the new law eliminates mandatory benchmarks and short-term objectives for students with disabilities, except for those students who take alternate assessments aligned to alternate achievement standards. While short-term objectives are no longer required, SLPs should continue to identify short-term goals in order to monitor progress toward long-term goals and document treatment effectiveness.
Contributors to this article included Neil Snyder, Susan Karr, Kathleen Whitmire, Charlie Diggs, and Claudia Saad. For more information on IDEA ‘04, contact Neil Snyder, ASHA’s director of federal advocacy, by phone at 800-498-2071, ext. 4257, or by e-mail at nsnyder@asha.org.
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February 2005
Volume 10, Issue 2