Special Education Process
The special education process can seem overwhelming to a parent or guardian. The Tyrone Area School District believes that a collaborative partnership between the family, school, and outside agencies is critical in determining what services a child needs to be successful in school.
If a parent or a teacher has a concern about how a child/student is performing in school, the initial step is to ask for a meeting to discuss the concerns. People attending the meeting would include a combination of the parents, teacher(s) that are working with the child (homeroom, reading, or math), the school psychologist, guidance counselor, the building principal, special education coordinator, or any other staff that may work closely with the child. During this meeting, both the strengths and concerns for that child are discussed. Staff and families share academic and behavioral data to paint a picture of how the child is performing in the school environment. The team also discusses interventions that have been attempted and what has/has not been successful for that child.
Based on the information provided, a request for an evaluation may be made. At this point, a permission to evaluate will be presented to the parent within ten days. Once the parent has given consent, the school district can begin the evaluation process. The actual assessments used will vary depending on the age and needs of the child. Some examples of assessments are cognitive ability based, standardized measures of academic achievement, curriculum based assessments, social and emotional rating scales, measures of executive functioning and attention to task, parent input, teacher input and observations. The district will also ask for information from any other agency that might be involved with the child. All of this information is compiled into an Evaluation Report (ER) for the parent to review within sixty calendar days, not including summer break.
Qualification for special education is a two prong approach. First the child must have a disability that is recognized by the federal law known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Chapter 14 of the regulations governing special education in Pennsylvania. Those disabilities include: autism, deaf-blindness, emotional disturbance, hearing impairment (including deafness), mental retardation, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, other health impairment, specific learning disability, speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injury, or visual impairment (including blindness). The second prong is that the disability is impacting their educational performance. The child must demonstrate a need for specially designed instruction or in other words, something beyond the regular education curriculum, in order to progress academically. A child can not be considered a "child with a disability" just because he or she speaks a language other than English and does not speak or understand English well. In addition, a child may not be identified as having a disability if they are deemed to have not been provided adequate instruction in math or reading.
If it has been determined that a child qualifies for services, then an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting will be held within thirty calendar days from the release of the evaluation report. Parents will have at least ten days to review their ER prior to this meeting, unless they choose to waive this right. The members of the IEP meeting include many of the same people as the initial meeting but may also involve additional specialists such as speech and language or occupational/physical therapies, if the child has needs in those areas. The purpose of this meeting is to create a plan that details the child’s strengths and needs. Furthermore, this plan sets goals for the child and includes accommodations that are necessary for that child to be successful in school. This becomes the legal contract between the family and the school.
Once an IEP has been created, the school must begin implementing it within ten days. An IEP lasts for a year, but the IEP team may choose to come together at any point in order to make modifications to the existing plan. Students need to be reevaluated every two or three years depending on their disability category. However, parents can choose to waive the reevaluation if they feel that it is unnecessary.
The special education process involves collaboration from all people who know the child, particularly the parents. Together they provide input and data to determine if services are needed and what type are necessary to allow the student to be successful in school. If you have any questions or would like to talk with a member of the special education department, please contact one of the people below depending on your child’s grade level:
Mrs. Julie Rice, Early Intervention and Elementary School Special Education Coordinator, 684-1342 ext. 2701 or
Mrs. Jessica Anderson, Middle School and High School Special Education Coordinator, 684-4240 ext. 3706.