Special Education Monitoring Alert Issued by Arizona Department of Education

ADE/ESS, Program Support and Monitoring is issuing two monitoring alerts that describe changes to Arizona’s special education monitoring system for the 2016—2017 school year. Please be sure to read both alerts carefully, as they outline important and timely updates to the monitoring process and required postsecondary transition components.

For additional information about Examining Practices and the monitoring process, please contact your assigned program support and monitoring specialist.

For additional information on postsecondary transition components, please see the ADE/ESS Secondary Transition webpage. This webpage contains many resources related to transition compliance components, but also provides transition resources for each component, as well as regional training opportunities for the 2016—2017 school year.


OSEP Clarifies Critical Requirements in Part B of IDEA that apply to Virtual Schools

 In 2011, the US Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) funded The Center for Online Learning and Students with Disabilities (Center) to research how online learning can be made more accessible. The Center also identifies promising practices for K-12 children with disabilities by investigating approaches that address variations in student learning styles within the range of online learning options.

 OSEP has received a number of questions from stakeholders, including State and school personnel and advocacy organizations, regarding the provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to children with disabilities attending public virtual schools. Therefore, OSEP issued this letter to clarify some of the critical requirements in Part B of IDEA that apply to virtual schools.

 The US Department of Education (USDOE) has determined that this letter is significant guidance under the Office of Management and Budget’s Final Bulletin for Agency Good Guidance Practices, 72 Fed. Reg. 3432 (2007). Significant guidance is non-binding and does not create or impose new legal requirements. The USDOE issued this letter to provide SEAs, LEAs and other public agencies with information to assist them in meeting their obligations under the IDEA and implementing regulations (34 CFR–part 300). This guidance also provides members of the public with information about their rights under the law and regulations.


Appropriate Behavioral Supports for all Students

In light of research about the detrimental impacts of disciplinary removals, including short-term disciplinary removals, the US Department of Education (ED) issued a Dear Colleague letter providing guidance to clarify that schools, charter schools, and educational programs in juvenile correctional facilities must provide appropriate behavioral supports to children with disabilities who require such supports in order to receive FAPE and placement in the least restrictive environment (LRE).  As a practical matter, providing appropriate behavioral supports helps to ensure that children with disabilities are best able to access and benefit from instruction. 

The IDEA authorizes school personnel to implement a short-term disciplinary removal from the current placement, such as an out-of-school suspension, for a child with a disability who violates a code of student conduct.  34 CFR §300.530(b)(1). The Department strongly supports child and school safety, and this letter is not intended to limit the appropriate use of disciplinary removals that are necessary to protect children. Rather, the letter is a part of the Department’s broader work to encourage school environments that are safe, supportive, and conducive to teaching and learning, where educators actively prevent the need for short-term disciplinary removals by effectively supporting and responding to behavior.


Addressing Needs of Children with Disabilities Who Reside in Nursing Homes

The US Department of Education (ED) has issued a Dear Colleague letter regarding the responsibilities of States, school districts, and other public agencies in addressing the special educational needs of children with disabilities who reside in nursing homes. Although numbers of these students is small, their medically complex conditions present unique challenges. In addition, because these children live away from their families, and may enter nursing homes from a hospital or through a child welfare or health agency, they may not always be known to responsible educational authorities or be receiving appropriate educational services.

States are required under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA or Part B) to make available to all children with disabilities a free appropriate public education (FAPE), which emphasizes special education and related services that, among other things, are designed to meet the unique needs of each child, including those children residing in nursing homes.


Educational Needs of Students with Disabilities Who Are in Correctional Facilities

The US Departments of Education (ED) has disseminated a Dear Colleagues letter stating the fact that a student has been charged with or convicted of a crime does not diminish his or her substantive rights or the procedural safeguards and remedies provided under the IDEA to students with disabilities and their parents. This letter also provides information regarding technical assistance and other relevant resources to enhance students’ reintegration into the school setting or participation in programs.

This letter is organized into three main areas. The first summarizes the key points in the letter. The second addresses States’ and SEAs’ responsibilities to students with disabilities in correctional facilities. The third addresses the responsibilities of public agencies, including LEAs, and correctional facilities that operate as LEAs, and noneducational public agencies that are responsible for providing education to students with disabilities in correctional facilities to carry out IDEA requirements. Because the responsibilities of these entities in certain areas overlap, some matters are discussed more than once.


USDOE Issues Guidance and Solicits Ideas on Implementing IEP Goals at Students’ Enrolled Grade Levels

The US Department of Education (ED) has disseminated a Dear Colleague letter emphasizing that NCLB and IDEA regulations require students’ IEP goals to be aligned with curriculum from the grade level the child is enrolled in so that students with disabilities have meaningful access to state academic content standards (guidance-on-fape-11-17-2015.pdf). The overall focus of the requirements is to prepare students with disabilities for further education, employment, and independent living.

The letter also requests your comments so that better implementation of the requirements can occur (both in all special education populations and with English language learners). ED is interested in examples of models of alignment of IEP goals with state content standards that are working well at the state and local levels. If you are interested in commenting, please e-mail your comments to [email protected] or write to US Department of Education, 550 12th Street SW, PCP Room 5139, Washington, DC 20202-2600.


OSERS Policy Clarifying Terms Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, and Dysgraphia In IDEA

The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services (OSERS) has received communications from stakeholders, including parents, advocacy groups, and national disability organizations, who believe that state and local educational agencies (SEAs and LEAs) are reluctant to reference or use dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia in evaluations, eligibility determinations, or in developing the individualized education program (IEP) under the IDEA

This policy guidance letter clarifies that there is nothing in the IDEA that would prohibit the use of the terms dyslexia, dyscalculia and dysgraphia in IDEA evaluation, eligibility determinations, or IEP documents.


2016 IDEA Basic Entitlement Allocations Reasons for Decrease

The 2016 IDEA Basic Entitlement Application is available in the Arizona Department of Education Grants Management system and the 2016 IDEA Basic Entitlement Allocations are posted on the ESS website at http://www.azed.gov/special-education/funding/. Individual local education agencies (LEAs) may see a decrease in their allocations. There are multiple reasons why this could have occurred.

  • The IDEA grant to Arizona did not increase; therefore, the allocation amount to distribute to all eligible LEAs remained the same as FY 2015.
  • During 2015, approximately 145 charter schools submitted the IDEA Charter School Expansion Act (CSEA) application, in which they identified special education eligible students enrolling in their charter during 2015. Within that application, they reported the district/charter from which the student withdrew. Each of these students was moved from the prior LEA to the new/expanding charter in the base special education counts for each of these prior district/charters and the new/expanding charter.
  • Individual LEAs may have had a decrease in their 10/1/14 enrollment and poverty counts as compared to counts reported 10/1/13.
  • Districts may have had a decrease in the reported number of parentally placed private school or home schooled students within their district boundaries reported 10/1/14 as compared to the reported counts on 10/1/13. This would affect the total enrollment used in the formula.
  • There was an increase in the number of Arizona LEAs eligible for IDEA funds due to new non-profit charter schools opening during the 2014/2015 school year.
  • The increases in the total special education base count, total enrollment, and students living in poverty resulted in the funds being spread further among eligible LEAs.


2016 IDEA Basic Entitlement Application

The Arizona Department of Education/Exceptional Student Service division is pleased to announce the release of the 2016 IDEA Basic Entitlement application. The purpose of these funds is to assist in assuring that all children with disabilities, aged 3 through 21, have available to them a free appropriate public education (FAPE) which emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs. A LEA may use the funds under Part B for the excess costs of providing special education and related services. It is strongly recommended that you download the 2016 IDEA Basic Application Download and worksheets prior to the final online application submission. You may confirm your FY 2016 allocation by viewing the 2016 IDEA Basic Entitlement Allocations at http://www.azed.gov/special-education/funding.


Dear Colleague Letter related to IDEA Dispute Resolution.

Some public agencies may be filing due process complaints concerning the same issue that is the subject of an ongoing State complaint resolution, ostensibly to delay the State complaint process and force parents to participate in, or ignore at considerable risk, due process complaints and hearings. As noted in the Dear Colleague Letter, this moves parents into a more adversarial and costly dispute resolution process and is not in the best interest of children. Note that this letter clarifies existing requirements relative to the IDEA provisions for State complaints and due process, and does not change the requirements or add additional burden.