Special Education MediationState Model Inter-American Summit on Conflict Resolution Education Cleveland, Ohio, USA Delaware March 14, 2007 Presented by Fran Fletcher and Kathy Wian University of Delaware’s Conflict Resolution Program
About Delaware TOTAL POPULATION @ 900,000 White 75% - Black 20% - Other 5% City of Wilmington 70,000► New Castle County 520,000► Kent County 140,000► Sussex County 170,000► 2040 Square Miles
Delaware Student Statistics 19 school districts 192 public schools 14 charter schools and a variety of public and private programs More than 120,000 public education students *51% have a learning disability (9,897) *11% have a cognitive impairment (2,193) *10% have another health impairment (1,934)
Conflict Resolution Program Established 1994 University of Delaware Self-sustaining office Provide dispute resolution services throughout DE • Education • State and Local Government • Nonprofits
CRP First Steps • Conducted a statewide needs assessment re: dispute resolution in education • Offered customized dispute resolution trainings, facilitated problem solving, mediation, strategic planning and organizational development. • DOE first customers
The Collaboration University of Delaware’s Conflict Resolution Program and Delaware Department of Education’s Exceptional Children’s Team
SPARC Special Education Partnership for the Amicable Resolution of Conflict
SPARC The project supports addressing conflicts at the lowest possible level and build the capacity of parents and school personnel to address and resolve conflicts as they arise.
Delaware Hearing Statistics* Number of hearings requested & number of requests that were fully adjudicated: 2004-2005 - 32 requests, 8 decisions 2005-2006 - 11 requests, 4 decisions 2006-now - 17 requests, 2 decisions What happened to the rest? • Mediation • Negotiated settlements • Voluntary or involuntary dismissals *Delaware Department of Education Statistics
Free Mediation Voluntary Open to all Requests Mediation Overview
Mediator Qualifications • Complete the 18-hour SPARC basic mediation training or its equivalent from a qualified trainer. • Complete the six-hour SPARC special education law workshop for hearing officers offered by DOE or an equivalent. • Participate in six hours of instruction, annually, in mediation and/or special education law.
Mediator Qualifications • Demonstrate knowledge in the laws and regulations relating to the provisions of special education and related services. • Demonstrate effective mediation techniques with observation and feedback with an emphasis on facilitative process techniques and remain a neutral third party. • Must not hold primary employment with a local or state education agency.
Mediation Evaluation 1996-2006 Actual Mediation Evaluation Results Responses = 151 • Did this mediation result in an agreement between you and the other party? Yes (125) No ( 20 ) Somewhat ( 1 ) No Answer ( 5 ) • Overall, how satisfied were you with the results of mediation? Very Satisfied (19) Satisfied (114) Neutral (7) Dissatisfied (5) Very Dissatisfied (1) Not Sure (3) No Response (2) • Based on this experience, would you contact CRP and request mediation services for future special education disputes? Yes (122) No ( 2 ) Don’t Know ( 1 ) Maybe ( 1 ) No Response ( 25 )
Research 2000 “Enhancing the Collaborative Capacity of Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) in Delaware Schools”
Research Methodology • Hired external consultant to work with CRP • Focus group data from past SPARC training efforts • Survey data from Special Education Supervisors • Additional 6 months of school assessments in five school districts • Observational and participant feedback data from IEP meetings
Technical Expertise Purpose/Goals of Meeting Neutral, Encouraging Language Student History/Performance Non-Verbals Relationship/Trust Use of the IEP Form Special Issues Conflicts/Impasse Questioning, Active Listening/Communication Greetings/Introductions Materials/Preparation Pace Participants Annual Goals/Objectives Post-Meeting Follow Up Action Planning Consensus Building/Decision Making Team Roles Room set up & Seating Mtg Debrief/Reflection/Eval A/V Resources Brainstorming Participation Formats IEP Meeting Observation
Research Findings While requests for due process & mediation are minimal, anecdotal evidence from schools, families & family advocates suggests that collaboration remains elusive in special education.
Research Findings Limitations to collaboration in the IEP process present themselves throughout the perceived legalistic quality of required forms & safeguards, abbreviated IEP meetings, attendance by general & special education teachers who are not brought into the process & meeting facilitators untrained in basic collaborative processes.
Research Findings Limitations are further exacerbated when families & advocates are distrustful of the people & processes involved with IEPs or simply uncomfortable with the process.
Ten Realistic Ways to Build Collaboration in Individualized Education Program (IEP) Meetings Training and coaching provided through the Special Education Partnership for the Amicable Resolution of Conflict (SPARC) a program of the Conflict Resolution Program in cooperation with the Delaware Department of Education
Introduction to the Mediation Process Facilitation 101 Your Conflict Management Style Where do These Parents Come From? Resolving Difficult Dynamics and Conflict in IEPs Are You Hearing Me? Brainstorming and Problem Solving? Decision Making and Action Planning A/V and the IEP IEP Coaching Nine Training Session Options
Why would a room full of educated, caring professionals, who come together to focus on the welfare of a child, need a facilitator?
Resolving at the Lowest Level IEP Facilitation Resolution Meeting Due Process Keeping the Team Intact
And, last but not least…. someone to manage the event.
May / May Not be an IEP Team Member
And the Facilitator is…. External? Internal? Advantages Neutral to the outcome Fresh set of eyes Addresses power imbalances Manages “bad” behavior and high emotion Advantages Knows team members Knows system Anticipates problems & resolve before meeting begins Disadvantages Role confusion/expectation No follow-up No control over participants or the system Disadvantages Knows team members Knows system You are an employee
Additional Advantages of Using an External Facilitator • Neutral Perspective • Ask “stupid” questions • Not tied to outcome • Agenda is inclusive • No dual roles • Power Imbalances • Deal with emotions • Full participation • Address “bad behavior” • Advantages to “taking the heat”
The External IEP Meeting Facilitator ~IS NOT~ • A member of the team, therefore, does not, suggest, impose or participate in team decisions or solutions • A legal expert • An advocate • An arbitrator
Teams May Request a Facilitator When… • History • Communication • Requested • Apprehension • Focus • Multiple meetings
IEP Facilitator Primary responsibility is to the process of the meeting rather than the content or outcome.
Processdeals with… Communication Problem solving Participation Agenda items Gaining agreement Relationships Understanding Timing Contentdeals with… Evaluation Assessments Legal rights/the law Opinions Records Data Ideas Information Processvs.Content
Facilitator Qualities EXCELLENT COMMUNICATION SKILLS FACILITATIVE “LEADERSHIP” STYLE PATIENT AND COMPOSED OBJECTIVE AND NEUTRAL
Buy-in achieved Effective IEP is created Trust is Built Communication improves Cooperative participation occurs A fair and consistent process Benefits Sustained IEP
Mediation vs. IEP Meeting Facilitation • The differences are… • The similarities are…
University of Delaware Overview Per Year 2000-01 2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-
University of Delaware Impact on DP & Mediation 2000-01 2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-
School District Repeat Requests Understanding Role Realistic Time Frame Asking for Assistance School Requests Parent Repeat Requests Understanding Role Realistic Time Frame Asking for Assistance Parent Requests Challenges • Wait for Crisis • Team Preparation • Supporting All • Can’t Change • Follow Up
IEP Meeting Facilitation Evaluations 2000-2005 Actual IEP Meeting Facilitation Evaluation Results Responses = 85 Goals of the meeting Poor 1= ( 2 ) 2= ( 6 ) 3= ( 11 ) 4=( 27 ) 5 = ( 39 ) Good (Conflicting; unclear; (Clear, shared by all, diverse, unacceptable) endorsed with enthusiasm) Content of the meeting Poor 1= ( 5 ) 2= ( 9 ) 3= ( 16 ) 4= ( 26 ) 5= ( 29 )Good (Not instructional; I did not (I learned a lot; was learn much; not informative; informative; I’ll be able to content; to use the content; content too much process; not appropriate to our needs) enough content) Relationship among meeting participants Poor 1= ( 6 ) 2= ( 9 ) 3= ( 22 ) 4= ( 23 ) 5= ( 25 ) Good (My relationship with them is the (Our relationship is much same as before; I feel antagonistic improved; I trust them more toward many of them; I don’t than I did prior to the session; trust them; there is little I feel I got to know & under- potential for a future relationship) stand many of them better; there is a good potential for the future)
Next Logical Step Training school and district personnel to run more effective IEP meetings.
Intended Outcome: Trained personnel would become “in-house” resource = share skills with team members = facilitate challenging meetings Outcome: Trained personnel did not have time to incorporate = no training occurred = limited time to travel between schools = changed jobs IEP Training
The New Hot Topic 10/50
Designing the System Volunteers DOE Parents $ Retired School Personnel Grants Districts Mediators Advocates
Lessons Learned • Clear Policies & Procedures • Intervening Agency • How to Fund Requests • Districts Have Financial Investment • Advocacy Groups • People Just Want To Be Heard
IDEIA 2004 Resolution Meeting: 1
Policy Supports & Challenges Informal Policy Supports • DOE Staff and Director Formal Supports • IDEA • NCLB Challenges • New Federal and State Mandates
Thank You Conflict Resolution Program University of Delaware 177 Graham Hall Newark, DE 19716 Website: www.ipa.udel.edu/crp Fran Fletcher Kathy Wian 302-831-6812 302-831-2927 FranF@udel.eduKWian@udel.edu