Percentages of Students with Disabilities in Out-of-District Placements Increasing – Professional Development Resources

In the currently available Annual Performance Report (APR) of district 2012-13 data, Connecticut reported that 7.3 percent of all students with disabilities (Indicator 5C) have been placed out of district.  Some districts are below the state target in the APR, which is currently set at 6 percent but many districts out place students with disabilities at twice the rate of the state target.  34 CFR Section 300.114 requires that “separate schooling or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only if the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.”  Each district’s data regarding Indicator 5C is available on the local education agency APR, which can be found at: http://sdeportal.ct.gov/Cedar/WEB/ResearchandReports/AnnualPerformanceReport.aspx.

In response to the rising rate of statewide out-of-district placements, the Connecticut State Department of Education in collaboration with the State Education Resource Center (SERC) is offering districts an opportunity to examine practices to best support students in the least restrictive environment (LRE).  The following training sessions are currently being offered through SERC as statewide professional learning opportunities:

  • Aligning IEPs to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities K-Grade 12;
  • Progress for Students with Moderate to Severe Disabilities: Accessing and Aligning with the CCSS;
  • Prevention and Intervention for Students in Need of Tier II and Tier III Behavioral Support Strategies; and
  • Supporting Students’ Behavioral and Mental Health Needs.

Details of the professional development learning opportunities may be viewed at http://ctserc.org/catalog.

Districts interested in specific in-district technical assistance related to Indicator 5C, may contact Bill Bannish, SERC educational consultant, at 860-632-1485 ext. 360 or at bannish@ctserc.org.

District administrators interested in participating in a stakeholder group that works on issues related to education in the LRE, please contact Rhonda Kempton at rhonda.kempton@ct.gov.

In addition, please continue to check the Bureau Bulletin for updates and additions to professional learning opportunities.

Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA) and the Individualized Education Program (IEP)

The spring 2014, administration of the Smarter Balanced Field Test may impact the IEPs of students receiving special education services due to the change in testing and appropriate testing accommodations.  Previous guidance sent out on December 11, 2013, described the process required to amend or revise a student’s IEP to reflect the change in statewide assessment.  This guidance also included a sample parent letter that a school district could adapt to inform parents about these significant changes.

Additional guidance documents are available with regard to updating/revising student IEPs to reflect a district’s selection of the statewide assessment for the 2013-14 academic year and obtaining appropriate accommodations.  SBA/IEP Frequently Asked Questions and a chart detailing the forms that need to be completed for each statewide assessment by grade are provided as resources for school districts.  In addition, a copy of the sample parent letter for students taking the SBA and a modified version of the sample parent letter for students only taking the CAPT Science Test, have been made available.  These letters can be modified by school districts to inform parents of the change in the statewide assessments and to explain the IEP amendment process.  All of the documents referenced above are posted on the Bureau of Special Education’s Web site under Smarter Balanced Assessment Resources at: http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/cwp/view.asp?a=2626&q=322680#CMT.

Finally, a copy of the SBA Consortium’s Frequently Asked Questions to accompany the SBA’s Usability, Accessibility and Accommodations Guidelines, has been posted on the Connecticut State Department of Education Student Assessment Web site at: http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/cwp/view.asp?a=2748&Q=335200&PM=1.

For additional information, please contact:

Joe Amenta joseph.amenta@ct.gov 860-713-6855 For questions regarding: SBA/accommodations
Janet Stuck janet.stuck@ct.gov 860-713-6837 For questions regarding: SBA/accommodations
Patricia Anderson patricia.anderson@ct.gov 860-713-6837 For questions regarding: IEP/special education
Gail Mangs gail.mangs@ct.gov 860-713-6938 For questions regarding: IEP/special education

Fiscal Year 2015 IDEA Grant Application

The Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) Grant Application for Connecticut’s school districts is now online.  The application can be located on the Connecticut State Department of Education’s (CSDE’s) Web site at http://www.sde.ct.gov, under the Special Education section, subsection Fiscal/RFPS/Grants or by going to: http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/pdf/rfp/rfa118_idea_2015.pdf.  There have been some additions to the grant, which are necessary to satisfy the federal government’s new requirements.

Although this upcoming fiscal years’ final dollar amounts have not been established by the United States Department of Education, school districts can file their application with preliminary dollar amounts based on their FY 2014 grant applications.

Any questions may be addressed by contacting Brian Cunnane, CSDE, IDEA Funds Manager at brian.cunnane@ct.gov or 860-713-6919.

2015 Paraeducator of the Year Program

The Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) and the School Paraprofessional Advisory Council have established the Anne Marie Murphy Paraeducator of the Year Program, to recognize the important role of the paraeducator in supporting student achievement.  Superintendents and school district administrators are invited to nominate one paraeducator who has demonstrated exceptional skill and dedication in the performance of his/her job.  Identification of the 2015 paraeducator of the year will be made at a ceremony held on November 6, 2014. The 2015 paraeducator will serve for the 2015 calendar year. In addition, each district paraeducator nominated for the 2015 paraeducator of the year award, will be individually recognized at the November ceremony.

The 2015 Anne Marie Murphy Paraeducator of the Year application packets must be received by the CSDE no later than June 6, 2014.  To review the full application packet with comprehensive instructions, please visit: www.ct.gov/sde/para-cali.

18 Schools Added to SRBI Grant; Openings Coming for Next School Year

The State Personnel Development Grant (SPDG) is in its third year of implementation.  There are 65 schools across the state participating and benefiting from the work of the SPDG grant.  The Connecticut State Department of Education, in partnership with the State Education Resource Center (SERC), will be seeking additional schools to participate in the opportunity afforded through the SPDG grant this spring.

The central focus of the SPDG grant is to facilitate the statewide implementation of Scientific Research-Based Interventions (SRBI).  This grant and its focus holds opportunities for schools to receive assistance in providing high-quality instruction and intervention for all students while improving educational outcomes specifically for students with disabilities, students of color and students acquiring English.  Interested schools are encouraged to consider participating in this grant funded opportunity.

For more grant related information, please visit http://spdg.ctserc.com/ or see the press release at the following link:

SPDG Press Release

IEP Facilitation / Facilitators

Individualized Education Program (IEP) Facilitation is a student-focused process in which a trained, neutral facilitator assists the IEP team in working collaboratively to reach consensus and develop an IEP that meets the needs of the student.  (In Connecticut, the IEP team is known as the planning and placement team or PPT.)  Most PPT meetings will not require a facilitator.  However, in those situations where parents and school district personnel have had difficulties communicating and reaching consensus, a trained facilitator can provide a process that results in an appropriate IEP by assisting the team to remain focused on the student and communicate effectively.

The Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE), Bureau of Special Education (BSE) has recognized the need for a process to assist PPTs that have (or may) experience conflict that disrupts the collaborative team process and hinders development of an appropriate IEP.  For that reason, when invited by the Center for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education (CADRE) to work with several other states in an IEP facilitation demonstration project, the BSE agreed to participate.

The attached documents provide further information about the IEP Facilitation including how facilitation may be requested, requirements around participation in the process, associated fees and the facilitators who have recently undergone training in this area and are available to provide this service to school districts.

If after reviewing the documents, you have further questions about the IEP Facilitation, please contact Gail Mangs at 860-713-6938 or gail.mangs@ct.gov, or Mary Jean Schierberl at 860-713-6943 or maryjean.schierberl@ct.gov (BSE); or Sally Esposito at 860-632-1485, ext. 379 or esposito@ctserc.org (SERC).

IEP Facilitation Request form

IEP Facilitation Participation Agreement

IEP Facilitation Frequently Asked Questions

IEP Facilitation and Facilitators

The Governor’s Coalition for Youth with Disabilities (GCYD) 2014 Scholarship Application

The Governor’s Coalition for Youth with Disabilities (GCYD) has announced the availability of their 2014 scholarship application.  Please note that the application process has changed from previous years.

The 2014 GCYD application must be submitted electronically via the GCYD Web site at www.gcyd.org. The deadline for scholarship applications (electronic and paper submissions) is Friday, January 10, 2014. 

The application cannot be saved once started, so students should plan to complete it in one sitting.  In order to do this, students must be prepared with the following:

  • contributions they have made to their school and/or their community;
  • any special honors, recognitions or awards they would like to mention; and
  • a personal essay that is 8000 characters or less in which the student must:
    • describe his or her disability in his/her own words; and
    • describe how the disability has impacted his/her life experiences and provide at least one example of how he/she managed that impact in order to overcome a challenge in each of the following groups/situations:
      • within his/her family environment,
      • while at school and/or work, and
      • among his/her peers and friends.
  • describe how he/she will use what has been learned from the experiences above as he/she moves forward through school and adulthood; and
  • discuss his/her intended major course of study or specific occupational skill that he/she would like to pursue in school.

Students will also need electronic versions of items in PDF format to upload when requested.  These items will need to be scanned, saved and ready to access at the time the student sits down to complete the application.  Those items include:

  • transcript (unofficial or official);
  • at least one signed letter of recommendation;
  • signed certification form; and
  • a picture that can be used in the program should the student be chosen for an award.

If a student needs to request a waiver for electronic submission and requires a paper application for purposes of meeting a disability accommodation, please e-mail the GCYD at gcydinfo@gmail.com.

Please address questions to Program Director Arlene Lugo, at gcydinfo@gmail.com or 860-424-4881.

Ensuring Access to Instructional Material for Students

The federal government instituted the National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC) and created a standard file format (National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard [NIMAS]) as part of a solution for districts to obtain materials in formats that their students can use. Although NIMAC texts are not available to every student who is struggling with reading, the updated Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) Web site NIMAS/NIMAC, provides the step-by-step instructions required of local districts on how to: work with textbook publishers to make file formats available for conversion; identify the student and necessary format type for the individual student; and provide contact information for the appropriate Accessible Media Producers (AMPs). Schools will need to set up an account in order to access NIMAS derived materials with the newly authorized users of Bookshare (http://www.bookshare.org – an online library of copyrighted content for people with qualifying print disabilities) and Learning Ally (www.learningally.org – a nonprofit organization that provides a library of accessible audiobooks using human narration for people who cannot effectively read standard print).

Printed textbooks and educational materials used in elementary and secondary schools must be made available in a timely manner, in formats (e.g. Braille, large print, audio, digital text) that can be used by all students in the classroom. There is a new Connecticut Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM) Web site at http://aim.serc.co/ that addresses the elements of AIM for trade books/novels, including the process for accessing the standard file format of NIMAS. The Web site is maintained by the State Education Resource Center. The site offers more information about the AIM decision-making process, explores frequently asked questions with resources, and lists active professional development (PD) and learning opportunities offered by agencies throughout Connecticut regarding AIM/NIMAS.

Once the material has been formatted into a version appropriate for the student, assistive technology (AT) is often the mechanism utilized to ensure appropriate access to the file format. The CSDE recently published AT Guidelines to enable school districts to make informed decisions about the AT considerations, implementation and evaluation for their students, factoring in administrative support and PD.

Leveraging Funds to Support Reforms

At a meeting of the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE) and the National Association of State Title I Directors (NASTID) Board Members held in August, representatives identified use of funds and “funding flexibilities” as a need for further conversations and technical assistance. The Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) and the Office of Special Education Programs are working together to clarify use of funds and identify funding flexibilities within the contexts of current laws.

On September 13, 2013, the United States Department of Education (USDOE), the OESE and the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, issued a memorandum to state directors regarding leveraging funds to support reforms, particularly in Title I schoolwide programs. Along with the memorandum, a USDOE resource document titled, Maximizing Flexibility in the Administration of Federal Grants – IDEA, Title I, Title II and Non-Federal Funds in Schoolwide Programs was included. This document is designed to identify, at a high level, examples of how these funds may be used by state education agencies and local education agencies to support college and career ready standards and assessments; state-developed differentiated recognition, accountability and support; effective instruction and leadership; and positive school climate.

To review the memorandum and the resource document, please visit the link below.

Leveraging Funds to Support Reforms memorandum and resource document