Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Declassification: When a Student No Longer Qualifies for Special Ed. Services

A reader on my Facebook page asked: "How [do you] ease the anxiety teachers may feel when students are doing well and you are recommending that the student be dismissed from special education?"

Dismissal, or declassification, from special education can be a tenuous celebration. The student has made adequate progress where support services are no longer needed, yay! But, what if the student starts to really struggle without those services, boo?

Typically, declassification reevaluations in my building are initiated by the teacher or speech/language pathologist (for kiddos who receive speech only). The direct service provider knows best how the student is functioning day-to-day in the classroom and can make the determination better than myself or the team alone. If a case comes up where as a Committee on Special Education (CSE) team we feel that services are no longer warranted, we start gathering oodles of information: standardized assessment data, classroom scores and curriculum based measurement data, attendance and report card grades, state-wide test scores, parent input and concerns, teacher interview and report, etc. We need to cover all bases to see how the student is functioning within the classroom. The key thing for school psychologists to consider when conducting any reevaluation is: does the student continue to meet the criteria that once qualified them under a certain special education classification?

If we make the decision that declassification is appropriate, we can choose a few different final outcomes. (it's important to remember that a kiddo's testing accommodations will follow them throughout their schooling and they can always access them if they choose) Some students we may choose to declassify "with support services" for a given period of time. For instance, if we are reevaluating for declassification mid-year, we can choose to continue to give the kiddo support services for the remainder of that school year, having them terminate for September. This would allow a sort of adjustment period. Another option would be to declassify from special education but refer for a 504 Accommodation Plan, which provides educational supports (program modifications, testing accommodations, formalized Functional Behavioral Assessments/Behavioral Intervention Plans) under general education. These options are both good for teachers and parents who may be unsure or uncomfortable with declassification because they allow the student a transition period.

The team may also recommend that a student no longer needs any services, and thus doesn't receive any further special education supports aside from testing accommodations, as mentioned above. If there is any uneasiness with this, we refer back to the data gathered--we don't make declass decisions lightly and without lots of supporting information. We also may recommend that a student receive tutoring with an adult or staff member in the building to reinforce skills, or suggest other ideas that can be done within the classroom (i.e. peer tutoring, flashcards, small group work, etc). Sometimes it helps assuage any fears when the teacher or parent remembers that the student will still have supports and help available to them, even if it isn't under special education.

How does your building or district handle special education declassifications? Do you have suggestions on how best to support teachers and ease their anxiety about it?

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  1. Can you clarify re testing accommodations? I practice in WA and have no idea what you are talking about - maybe there are differences in state laws?

    1. Absolutely! When I say testing accommodations, I mean things that were modified in the student's Individualized Education Plan to even the playing field when the student takes a test. These usually include: extended time, tests read, separate location, listening section repeated more than standard number of times, waive spelling/paragraphing requirements, scribe, etc. Does that help?

    2. Yes - I'm just surprised these accommodations follow the student when they have been exited! Do you know what the rational is? If there is no longer an adverse impact I wonder why there is a need for accommodations.

    3. Here are a couple excerpts I've found from NY state special education law. Nothing regarding specific rationale, though--sorry on that!

      "For students who have been declassified by the CSE/CPSE, the CSE/CPSE may determine that the student continues to need the testing accommodations previously documented in the IEP. If such a determination is made by the CSE/CPSE and documented in the IEP that recommends declassification, the testing accommodations must continue to be consistently provided to the student for the remainder of his or her public high school education unless:
      --it is revised or eliminated by a building level team; or
      --the student achieves a regular high school diploma; or
      --the student ages out at 21 years old."

      "For students who are declassified by the CSE, the need for specific testing accommodations must be documented in the final IEP in order for these accommodations to continue to be provided until the completion of the student’s high school education. If in subsequent years, it is determined that these accommodations are no longer appropriate or need to be changed, revisions may be made by a building level team."

      "Is there a time limit for a student who has been declassified to be eligible for continuing testing accommodations?

      No. The CSE/CPSE can recommend continued testing accommodations for a student who is declassified for any time period and indicate these recommendations in their last IEP."

  2. I too was wondering about the testing accommodations. Not so much what they are, but how they can still follow a student when they have been found no longer eligible for special educations services. Here in MA, if a student is not eligible for sped services they are not eligible for special education accommodations.

    1. I'm always interested when I hear how different special education law is in other states. Yes, in NY, students who are declassified from special education services are always eligible to access their testings accommodations while they are still in school (including college). All the student needs is the last Individualized Education Plan (IEP) that lists their accommodations at the time of declassification.

  3. My child started Early Intervention at 22 months. He continued through Special Ed pre-school and Special Ed Kindergarten and 1st grade. He began 2nd grade in a Special Ed self-contained classroom. He was quickly removed and placed in a general education classroom without any support services. He was never given any testing accommodations. I immediately started to notice that he was struggling and I kept complaining to his teacher. He particularly had trouble with writing and has recently been diagnosed with dysgraphia. The CSE declassified him in the middle of the school year with no testing and no final IEP. He fell through the cracks in 3rd grade, still with no support system. My point of view was ignored by the teacher. He is now almost at the end of 4th grade and he is floundering, unable to complete any writing assignment. His self-esteem is destroyed and he is now in therapy. I had him tested by St. John's University where he was diagnosed with dysgraphia and anxiety disorder. The school district wants to re-test him and I don't see why. I don't know whether to allow this. Shouldn't they listen to the recommendations of St. John's? At this point I do not know what to ask for to ensure that he can obtain some degree of academic success, especially in writing as this is affecting all subject areas. I also feel that the district was negligent in the way they declassified my grandson, especially after reading your very informative article. Because they denied him any support through 2nd, 3rd and now 4th grade, he is very far behind academically. Do you have any ideas as to what I should ask for from the district in this situation??


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