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Washington Special Education Law. Objectives. By the end of this section of the course you should: Understand the legal foundations for special education including relevant legislation, litigation, and vocabulary Understand the referral process Write a pre-referral

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Washington special education law l.jpg

Washington Special Education Law

Objectives l.jpg

By the end of this section of the course you should:

  • Understand the legal foundations for special education including relevant legislation, litigation, and vocabulary

  • Understand the referral process

  • Write a pre-referral

  • Begin to understand how students and families cope with learning disabilities and ADHD

  • Collect evidence of student performance in relation to GLEs

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Due Process



Nondiscriminatory evaluation

Zero reject


Person first language

Eligibility determination

Key Concepts / Vocabulary

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Purpose of Special Education - WAC392-172A

  • Ensure that all students eligible for Special Education have a free appropriate public education (FAPE) that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living.

  • Ensure student and parent rights are protected.

  • Assess and ensure the effectiveness of the IEP.

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Key Federal Court Decisions

  • Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954) - “separate but equal” (i.e., segregation by race) is not constitutional

  • Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Children v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (PARC), 1971 - “uneducable” or “untrainable” students can not be excluded from public education

  • Mills v. Board of Education (1972) - a) broadens the scope of PARC to included students with other disabilities, b) all children of school age should be provided with free and suitable public education, and c) no exclusion due to insufficient funds

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Hendrick Hudson Central School District Board of Education v. Rowley (1982)

The Supreme Court stated that services provided to the child must:

  • Be provided at public expense and under public supervision

  • Meet the state educational standards

  • Comply with the child’s IEP

  • Confer educational benefit

    IDEA does not require school districts to maximize a student’s potential

    The court posed two essential questions:

  • Did the school district follow all of the procedures in IDEA?

  • Is the IEP reasonably calculated to enable a child to receive educational benefit?

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The Big Three - Disability Legislation v. Rowley (1982)

  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) - 2004

  • Section 504 - Rehabilitation act of 1973

  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) - 1990

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Brief history of IDEA v. Rowley (1982)

  • Public Law 94-142, Education For All Handicapped Children Act (1975). This law was reauthorized and expanded as the “Individuals with Disabilities Education Act” (IDEA) in 1990.

  • Reauthorized again in 1997 & 2004

    (P.L. 108-446).

  • Federal regulations for 2004 reauthorization were released August 14, 2006.

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Major Tenants of IDEA v. Rowley (1982)

  • Applies to children ages 3 - 21

  • Zero reject - nonexclusionary education

  • FAPE - Free appropriate public education

  • LRE - Least restrictive environment

  • Nondiscriminatory evaluation

  • Due process

  • Transition planning

  • AYP - Adequate yearly progress

  • Advocacy

  • Confidentiality

  • Noncompliance - lawsuits

  • Person first language

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Who is eligible for services under IDEA? v. Rowley (1982)

Students who demonstrate the characteristics of any of the previous categories IF their disability adversely impacts educational performanceand requires specialized instruction.

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What if the disability does not affect academic achievement? v. Rowley (1982)

  • Students are NOT eligible for services under IDEA

  • They may receive services under Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act (1973)

  • Section 504 covers many more students than IDEA

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Students served under Section 504 v. Rowley (1982)

Students served under IDEA

Visual representation of school-aged populations

served under IDEA and Section 504

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Student Need v. Rowley (1982)

Not Eligible

Related Services

Consider IDEA

Adverse affect on educational performance?

IDEA Eligible

Consider 504

IEP Developed

Not Eligible

Disability substantially limits one or more major life activities

504 Protected

Reasonable Accommodations


Placement Options




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Major Tenants of Section 504 v. Rowley (1982)

  • Prevents discrimination by any organization receiving federal funds

  • Defines a handicapped person as “Any person who has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities”

  • Students served under IDEA are also eligible for 504

  • Both laws mandate FAPE

  • IDEA requires an individual education program (IEP) while 504 requires schools to demonstrate how services are being provided

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Major Tenants of ADA (1990) v. Rowley (1982)

  • Maximize the employment potential of individuals with disabilities.

  • Provide “reasonable accommodations” in the workplace.

  • Employers may not ask if an individual has a disability and may not discriminate against persons who have a disability.

  • Colleges and universities must provide appropriate modifications

  • Telecommunications must be accessible to individuals who are deaf

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Developmentally Delayed (age 3 - 8) v. Rowley (1982)

Emotional Behavioral Disability

Speech or language impairment

Orthopedically impairment

Other Health impaired

Specific learning disability

Mental retardation

Multiple disabilities

Hearing impairment / Deafness

Visually impairment / blindness

Deaf / blindness


Traumatic brain injury

Disability Categories in Washington

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Categorical Disability Distribution v. Rowley (1982)

U.S. Department of Education 2005

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Nondiscriminatory Evaluation v. Rowley (1982)

All Students



Some Students



Evaluation Procedures

Students in need of special

Education and related services

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IDEA Procedures v. Rowley (1982)

  • Pre-referral - consultation with instructional support team (IST)

  • Document current levels of student performance (academic, social, & behavioral)

  • Implement academic supports - document results

  • Referral (identification)

  • Notice of procedural safeguards & due process rights

  • Parental consent

  • Evaluation

  • Eligibility determination (within 35 school days of parental consent)

  • IEP development

  • Placement decision (LRE)

  • Annual review

  • Triennial reevaluation

  • Transition planning

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Pre-referral v. Rowley (1982)

  • Build a trust relationship with the student and parents

  • Document student’s academic, social, and behavioral performance levels using multiple quantitative and qualitative measures

  • Document strategies / accommodations that have been used with the student and their outcomes

  • Discuss the student with other teachers and the instructional support team (IST) - Document results

  • Meet with parents / guardians - Document conversations

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Writing a pre-referral v. Rowley (1982)

Activity - Take 20 minutes and write a referral for a student you have concerns about. Be sure to include the students current functional levels in terms of academic, social, and behavioral achievement. Remember that all of the members of the IST will see this document.

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Your pre-referral should include: v. Rowley (1982)

  • A statement that explicitly states your belief that the child can be successful.

  • A paragraph describing pertinent information about the child.

  • Information about the student’s current academic, social, & emotional / behavioral performance.

  • Quantitative (numbers-based) and qualitative (observations, interviews, and artifacts) evidence supporting your claims in #3.

  • Research-based instructional interventions that you have tried with the student and their outcomes.

  • Questions you would like addressed.

  • Refrain from diagnosing - report the facts in a nonbiased manner.

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Some Practical Tips v. Rowley (1982)

  • Keep all documentation confidential in a secure location.

  • Type and carefully proofread all written materials.

  • Document all conversations and make a photocopy of written correspondence.

  • Bring your notes, grades, and examples of the student’s work to the IST & IEP meetings.

  • Discuss your participation at the meeting with the special educator prior to the meeting.

  • Communicate regularly with parents - build relationships.

  • Implement and document how you are following the IEP.

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Referral & Evaluation v. Rowley (1982)

  • Someone refers the student for evaluation (usually the parent or teacher).

  • School has 25 school days from referral to decide if they will evaluate.

  • Parent must consent to evaluation.

  • School must complete initial evaluation within 35 school days of parental consent.

  • The evaluation must be unbiased, reliable, and provide meaningful information regarding the student’s strengths, weaknesses, and behavior.

  • Parent has the right to an independent evaluation at public expense.

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Evaluation Procedures v. Rowley (1982)

  • Review existing data on the student including classroom-based, local, state assessments, and classroom observations.

  • Use a variety of assessment tools and strategies to gather relevant functional, developmental, and academic information about the student.

  • Provide assessments in the student’s native language.

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IEP Development - Who’s involved? v. Rowley (1982)

  • The student (when appropriate).

  • Local educational agency (LEA) - who will oversee implementation of the child’s plan.

  • General classroom teachers (at least 1).

  • Special education teacher.

  • Therapist.

  • Parents.

  • Others at the discretion of the parents or LEA.

  • Evaluator if other than the special education teacher.

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Contents of the IEP v. Rowley (1982)

  • Child’s present levels of performance (e.g., educational, social, behavioral).

  • Specific measurable annual goals, objectives, expected levels of performance, timelines.

  • Information regarding the students placement and related services.

  • Modifications to the general education curriculum.

  • Dates & times for delivery of services.

  • Means to assess AYP.

  • Transition plan (16 and up).

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General Education (Gen Ed) Curriculum v. Rowley (1982)

Gen Ed w/ consultative services

Gen Ed & instruction & services

Gen Ed & resource room

Full time Sped classroom

Special school

Special facilities, day or residential

Continuum of Sped Services - LRE

Most Inclusive

Most intensive

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Accommodations Defined v. Rowley (1982)

  • Are intended to reduce or eliminate the effects of the student’s disability.

  • Do not reduce learning expectations.

  • Allow students to demonstrate knowledge and skills through a content area assessment and obtain valid scores

From: 2008 Accommodations Guidelines for Students

With disabilities - OSPI (p. 5)

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Types of Accommodations v. Rowley (1982)

  • Presentation - allow students to access information in ways other than through reading traditional print (e.g., text-to-speech software)

  • Response - allow students to a complete assessments in different ways (e.g., using a computer program that allows them to organize their thoughts visually)

  • Setting - Change the location and conditions (alternate room)

  • Time and schedule - increase available time or how the assessment is organized

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Modifications v. Rowley (1982)

  • Actually change what is assessed.

  • Validity and reliability of assessment results must be questioned.

  • Examples include adjusting test questions to reduce content demands and provide scaffolding for the student to identify each step that should be taken to solve the problem

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What should I do when a student is struggling in my class? v. Rowley (1982)

  • Start a confidential file on a secure computer.

  • Describe the student in a one paragraph narrative that concludes w/ your concerns.

  • Identify the student’s current levels of functional performance in each of the following domains: academic, social, emotional/behavioral - one paragraph overview from IST pre-referral.

  • Begin to create a database so that you can chart the student’s progress over time.

  • Identify and implement research-based instructional strategies.

  • Build a relationship with the parents.

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How to document student learning v. Rowley (1982)

  • Use the academic categories from the IEP.

  • Create three means of collecting evidence: 1) a portfolio system, 2) a spread sheet with graphing capabilities, and 3) a narrative that summarizes the student’s performance using quantitative and qualitative data.

    REMEMBER - The purpose of this documentation is to inform your instructional strategies and chart student growth over time and across interventions.

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Research-based Instruction v. Rowley (1982)

  • Involves the application of rigorous, systematic, and objective procedures to obtain reliable and valid knowledge relevant to educational activities.

  • Employs systematic empirical methods that draw on observation or experiment.

  • Includes rigorous data analysis.

  • Is evaluated using experimental or quasi-experimental designs

  • Has been accepted by a peer reviewed journal or approved by a panel of independent experts.

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Listening comprehension v. Rowley (1982)

Oral expression

Basic reading skills (alphabetic principle, decoding, phonemic awareness, fluency, semantics)

Reading comprehension

Basic writing skills (handwriting, spelling, grammar)

Written expression

Math computation

Math reasoning

Problem solving

Academic areas of focus

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Listening Comprehension v. Rowley (1982)

Sara is able to sustain her attention during group activities for 15 - 20 minutes. She follows three-step oral directions and is able to recall at least five story elements from orally read texts. She asks clarifying questions, provides feedback pertinent to the listening activity (e.g., I’ve seen my dog chase cats too!), and responds to verbal cues. Sara is meeting GLEs for listening comprehension and is a joy to have in class.

Sample Documentation

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Oral Expression v. Rowley (1982)

  • Sara adjusts her language based on the situation (e.g., when speaking with friends vs. adults). She initiates discussions and participates in group activities (e.g., brainstorming). She is able to articulate supporting details and organize information into logical sequences. She speaks clearly and distinctly using developmentally appropriate grammar, syntax, tone, and inflection.

Sample Documentation

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Basic Reading Skills v. Rowley (1982)

  • While Sara possesses strong listening comprehension and oral expression skills, she struggles with basic reading skills. For example, during a Pre-Primer Subject Word List screening using the Qualitative Reading Inventory- 4, Sara scored in the 60th percentile or frustration level. She was unable to automatically identify the words “children”, “other”, “animal”, “place”, “every”, “thing”, “write”, and “live”. Sara is often unable to read words containing complex letter patterns (e.g., -ought, -aught). She has difficulty decoding multi-syllabic words (i.e., two and three syllable). When prompted she is able to use prefixes and suffixes to determine the meaning of unfamiliar words 50% of the time.

Sample Documentation

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Using data to inform instruction v. Rowley (1982)

Sara’s Reading Performance


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You try it v. Rowley (1982)

  • In your grade level groups, split the academic categories among the group and document the student’s current levels of academic performance. Remember to use data to support your claims. Give examples when possible. Each of you will also need to create an artifact that demonstrates the data you are presenting.

    You can find the GLEs at:


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Helpful Websites v. Rowley (1982)

Tool kit on teaching and assessing students with disabilities


Washington State Special Education


IDEA 2004 News, Information and Resources


OSEP Sponsored Web Sites


Access Center Resources Main Page






National Research Center on Learning Disabilities


PBIS Website


PDA Center - Resources


§ Schoollaw.info: Case Law §


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