Saturday, February 9, 2008

Denise Arland Comments to State Board

To members of the State Board of Education:

Thank you for the opportunity to provide this written input on the revisions to Article 7, as I am home with my child who is ill. While I had hoped to appear before you today to share these comments, I hope that you will allow a proxy to deliver my message to you for consideration.

I support the position paper as presented to you today by Family Voices, and I wanted to highlight a few areas which are vitally important not only to myself but to families in my community who participate in monthly parent support meetings.

First, I believe that the provision which addresses instructional curricula, materials, equipment, and assistive technology devices and services must also address the accessibility of assessment materials, including standardized testing materials and the ISTEP. It is critical that students have access to technologies which support and enhance their learning. It follows that if students require such technology for learning, they also require it to demonstrate their learning through assessment. When assessments are not available in the technology students use to learn, they are forced to demonstrate knowledge in a way that is contrary to their daily experience. Often this requires students to use a scribe for testing, and in the case of ISTEP, they must take time away from classroom instruction to learn how to dictate to a scribe in such a way that complies with the very specific, and cumbersome, ISTEP scribing procedures. Clearly this is not the best use of instructional time, nor does it give the student his best opportunity to demonstrate learning on assessments. Including assessments in the language regarding accessible formats will ensure students the best chance for success in the assessment process.

The second area I would like to address is change of placement. Educational placement means more to families than just the continuum of placement options outlined in Article 7. The very specific details of a student’s experience, including the location of schools and classes as well as the length, frequency and duration of services are all critical components of placement to family. These are often points of lengthy consideration and discussion for families at the case conference committee meeting. Changing any of these pieces of a student’s experience without parental consent would be a significant event to families and has potential to fracture the parent school partnership which we want the IEP process to foster. I encourage you to support a “change of placement” definition that includes any change in location, length, frequency or duration of services specified in a student’s individual education plan(IEP) unless the change is contained in the currently agreed-upon IEP.

Finally, I want to express support for the creation of a Prior Written Notice guidance document to be available to schools and families to increase both understanding and implementation of prior written notice. I frequently have conversations with families who express concerns about changes being proposed by the school or changes being proposed by families which are rejected by schools. I have never, in the twelve years I have been assisting families, found a family who received prior written notice that addressed the proposed change. The experience of families who actually know and understand prior written notice is that their schools are unfamiliar with it and do not understand what the parent is requesting when they ask for prior written notice to address their issue. As this appears to be a very misunderstood and underutilized procedural safeguard, I strongly encourage the creation of the recommended guidance document.

Thank you again for the opportunity to address you today. I look forward to following the progress of Article 7 provisions as the process continues.

Sincerely,


Denise Arland
Parent of four children who access special education services

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