Paperwork Reduction/Individualized Education Programs (IEPs)
What IDEA '04 Says | Paperwork Reduction | Modifications to IEPs | Implications for ASHA Members | What ASHA is Doing | What Members Should Do | Resources
What IDEA '04 Says
In recent ASHA surveys, paperwork has consistently emerged as a top concern for school-based members. ASHA lobbied aggressively Congress to reduce the paperwork burden in the reauthorization of IDEA for related services providers including speech-language pathologists and audiologists. Two major changes related to paperwork requirements - paperwork reduction and modifications to IEPs - are included in the IDEA'04 legislation.
Under the new IDEA law, P.L.108-446, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education may grant waivers of statutory or regulatory requirements under Part B, other than civil rights requirements, for up to 15 States and a maximum of four years, based on State proposals to reduce excessive paperwork and non-instructional time burdens that do not assist in improving educational and functional results for children with disabilities. This waiver program is not intended to affect the right of a child with a disability to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) or permit a State or local education agency (LEA) to waive specified procedural safeguards. In addition to any federal requirement, the State's waiver application shall include a list of any state-level requirements “that the State proposes to waive or change, in whole or part, to carry out a waiver”.
The bill also requires the Secretary of Education to “publish and disseminate”, no later than the date regulations are published, models of the following:
- Individualized Education Program (IEP) forms;
- Individualized Family Services Plan (IFSP) form;
- notice of procedural safeguards; and
- prior written notices.
Reference: P.L.108-446, Title I, Part A, Section 609, and Part B, Section 617, paragraph (e)
Modifications to IEPs
The new law provides that nothing in IDEA regarding IEPs shall be construed to require additional information in an IEP beyond what is explicitly required. This is an attempt by Congress to clearly delineate what is an explicit federal requirement apart from additional IEP requirements that States and local school districts may add. The desired outcome is a shorter IEP.
Under the new provisions LEAs are encouraged to consolidate IEP meetings and re-evaluation meetings. Options are given for parents and LEAs to agree to participate in IEP team and placement meetings via means such as video conferences and conference calls. Another option for parents and LEAs is that they may amend or modify the child's current IEP without having to convene an IEP meeting by working through a responsible teacher or service provider.
In addition, IDEA'04 states that members of the IEP team may be excused from an IEP meeting: (1) if no modifications are being made to that member's area of curriculum or service; or (2) when a relevant modification is made, if the member provides input prior to the meeting. The parent and the LEA must agree to the member's being excused.
IDEA'04 allows the Secretary of Education to accept proposals from fifteen states to, “allow parents and [LEAs] the…option of developing a comprehensive multi-year IEP, not to exceed 3 years, that is designed to coincide with the natural transition points for the child.” Each state that submits a proposal for multi-year IEPs must include: assurances that the development of a multi-year IEP is optional for parents; and that the parent is required to provide informed consent before an IEP is developed. Further, each state application must include the following elements as part of the multi-year IEP proposal:
- Measurable goals that coincide with natural transition points of the child;
- Measurable annual goals;
- A description of the process for review and revision of each multi-year IEP including:
- IEP Team review at natural transition points;
- An annual review, as appropriate, to enable the child to continue to meet the measurable goals;
- A more thorough review of the IEP if the child is not making sufficient progress towards meeting those goals; and
- How a parent can request a multi-year IEP rather than or subsequent to an annual review.
The law establishes a definition for ‘natural transition points' to mean, “those periods that are close in time to the transition of a child with a disability from preschool to elementary grades, from elementary grades to middle or junior high school grades, from middle or junior high school grades to secondary school grades, and from secondary school grades to post-secondary activities, but in no case a period longer than 3 years.”
In addition, the new bill eliminates mandatory benchmarks and short-term objectives for children with disabilities, except for those children who take alternate assessments aligned to alternate achievement standards. Quarterly reports will now serve as periodic progress reports.
Reference: P.L.108-446, Title I, Part B, Section 614, paragraph (d)
ASHA staff expect that the Secretary will wait until final regulations are published on the new law before requesting states to submit waiver applications. Proposed regulations can be expected to be released sometime in early 2005 with final regulations issued sometime later in 2005 or early 2006.
IDEA'04 requires that in 2006, in its annual report to Congress, the Secretary of Education include information related to the effectiveness of such waivers, including any specific recommendations for their broader implementation. The law specifically directs the Secretary to make recommendations for broadening the waivers in “reducing the paperwork burden on teachers, principals, administrators, and related services providers,” including school-based speech-language pathologists and audiologists. It is unclear if Congress' intent is for the Secretary to extend the fifteen state waivers for additional years, to expand the waiver program beyond the original fifteen states, or both.
Implications for ASHA Members
The reduction of paperwork, the model forms, and the modifications to IEPs should result in less of a burden to school-based members in terms of time-consuming administrative tasks and meeting time. The intent is for a decrease in non-instructional tasks that do not directly benefit the child's performance. This should free up staff time for instructional tasks and related activities that improve the student's educational and functional performance.
Many lengthy IEPs currently are the result of state and local requirements that have been added to federal requirements. 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 or practice that may be modified or eliminated through advocacy efforts.
The law fails to indicate whether or not the excused IEP team member should be informed of the excusal or can accept or reject the excusal. ASHA members can expect the U.S. Department of Education to clarify this during the regulatory process. Although this change in legislation may assist in freeing up time for school-based members, it may also excuse speech-language pathologists or audiologists from participating in a meeting where they could provide valuable insight, especially in cases where language-related curriculum goals are being addressed.
While IDEA '04 does not require short term objectives for all children as part of the IEP, the SLP should continue to identify short term goals in order to monitor progress towards long term goals. As we strive towards improved evidence-based practice in our profession, it is clear that we need to maintain documentation of treatment effectiveness.
What ASHA is Doing
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 invited representatives from national organizations as well as the disability community at state and local levels including 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. The group developed a list of recommendations on paperwork reduction and IEP modifications that will be disseminated to state education departments as guidance for applying for the waivers and will be forwarded to the Department of Education.
What Members Should Do
ASHA members can work directly with their State Departments of Education or through their state speech-language-hearing associations to encourage their Departments of Education to apply for the paperwork reduction waiver or the IEP waiver. Member input is important to guide states in developing reasonable and effective paperwork changes that will benefit members as well as children with speech-language disorders and their families. One example of paperwork reduction that members have found to have streamlined the IEP paperwork process is the use of a one-page speech only IEP. Such model IEPs and other paperwork forms can be found in the ASHA resource Lighten Your Load: Strategies to Reduce Paperwork for School-Based SLPs. Members should also be alert to any potential problems as outlined above when providing input to state education departments.
ASHA has developed a number of resources to address paperwork issues, IDEA requirements at the federal, state and local level, and strategies to advocate for change at the state and local level.
Available on the ASHA website: Advocating for Higher Salaries and Extra Benefits from Your Local School District