Covid Considerations: Special Education Progress Monitoring Must Continue
As of December 3, 2020, 246 of New Jersey’s more than 600 school districts and charter schools have moved to all-remote instruction. Approximately 438 school districts continue to offer some form of hybrid (in-person and remote) programming. As discussed in prior AdvoKids blog articles, neither federal nor state special education requirements have been waived or suspended during virtual or hybrid instruction. Under current federal and state guidance, school districts must continue to implement a student’s IEP “to the greatest extent possible.” In many cases, however, the “greatest extent possible” still leaves a special education student without the level of support they truly need. Based on my recent discussions with countless teachers and parents, we all feel stuck in a COVID holding pattern, just doing our best until we can resume all-in-person instruction.
Of the many challenges facing teachers and parents right now, Advo-
Kids hears frequent questions about progress monitoring during remote instruction. One source of guidance on this issue is on the New Jersey Department of Education’s (NJ DOE) web page dedicated to “School Reopening Frequently Asked Questions.” The NJ DOE’s guidance is not law, per se, but it is important policy guidance. In the Frequently Asked Questions, the NJ DOE explains that monitoring student progress during hybrid and remote instruction must continue. While progress monitoring of IEP goals and objectives may look different now than in prior years, there are still many ways to continue to collect data on how a student is doing. IEP teams should maintain strong communication and detailed documentation about progress -- and update IEPs as needed to address regression or changes in a student’s current needs.
Here is what the NJ DOE guidance states, verbatim, about continued progress monitoring (pay particular attention to the second full paragraph):
"What is the role of the student’s IEP team prior to and during the period in which students are receiving instruction under the district’s remote and/or hybrid reopening plan?"
"IEP teams should review student data and student progress to determine whether critical skills were lost during the period (March 2020-June 2020) in which school buildings were ordered closed to in-person instruction. When reviewing student data/student progress, IEP teams should determine the need for additional services to address learning loss or the need to make up for services not provided when school buildings were closed. As districts are developing additional services or programs to address learning loss, IEP teams should ensure access to these programs for students with disabilities as appropriate.
During periods of all-remote instruction, IEP teams must continue to report on student progress towards IEP goals and objectives. IEP teams should consider using various methods of collecting student progress data, such as online assessments, remote/virtual student observations and curriculum-based assessments. IEP teams should also review data collected prior to the suspension of in-person instruction in March 2020 as well as data collected during remote instruction during the 2019-2020 school year (March–June 2020) to inform instructional planning and monitor progress for the 2020-2021 school year.
Instructional strategies and resources to support students with disabilities are available in the Resources: Continuity of Learning section of The Restart & Recovery Plan: The Road Back.
To assist educators and IEP teams with assessing students to give an early indication of the level of supports needed for the school year, the Department of Education has made available a suite of START STRONG snapshot assessments and related resources. To help support students with significant intellectual disabilities, the Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM) and the NJDOE are offering the use of DLM’s instructionally embedded (IE) assessments in the fall of 2020. These IE assessments may be used by educators to better understand their students’ instructional needs for the 2020-2021 school year. The IE assessments are aligned to essential elements on which the student’s 2020-2021 instruction will be based and can be used to gather baseline data and guide instruction. Use of the IE assessments is optional and has no impact on the required year-end, summative DLM assessment that is administered to students each spring.”
As discussed in our prior blog: “Progress Reporting: One Key to IEP Team Communication,” data-based progress reports, showing how a student is doing on their IEP goals and objectives, must be issued as often as regular report cards are issued to all students. The progress reports should reflect the expected level of achievement set on an IEP. If an IEP states that a student will achieve a goal in 4/5 trials, data showing this should be provided.
So, as worn-out as we all are from virtual instruction, pandemic teaching and parenting, we can support students best by continuing to collect progress data and reviewing it together. AdvoKids consultants are available to help with this and all aspects of the IEP process!
We welcome your comments, questions and concerns about this topic. Contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our office at 856-642-6445.
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This material is for educational purposes only; it does not provide legal advice. Please be advised that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and Advo-Kids or this author. This article should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.