Vermont progressing in special education reporting
Despite a 35 percent jump in the number of Vermont schools accurately reporting the after-high school plans of disabled students, more improvement is needed, according to a new rating released by the federal office that tracks state special education reporting.
The Federal Office of Special Education Programs reported that Vermont received approval ratings in 19 of 20 required indicators for school year 2010-2011 after reviewing Vermont’s “annual performance report,” or APR, sent from the state Department of Education in February.
The only area Vermont was found to be deficient was “transition plans,” or how some high schools report how they are preparing disabled students for life after school.
The indicators Vermont excelled in included reporting of graduation and dropout rates, testing results, parent feedback, timelines for eligibility and reporting where special needs students end up after they graduate high school.
In 2009, Vermont had 22 percent of schools accurately recording how they help students succeed in life after high school in detail, in their students’ Individual Education Plans or IEPs. IEPs are personalized academic requirements for special education students.
One year later, in 2010, that number jumped to 57 percent of schools. But despite that significant growth, the federal education office is looking for a 75 percent rate or better, according to the state’s Director of Special Education Alice Farrell.
Farrell said the federal rating doesn’t reflect the work happening in schools.
It could just mean some special education teachers and administrators in schools aren’t reporting every detail of how special education students are progressing toward goals.
A transition plan is likened to an “IEP within an IEP” — a very strict, detailed reporting of the progress of a special-needs student through grade levels approaching their senior year and beyond.
The information, which includes 18 written requirements, is embedded within a student’s IEP, a larger overall academic plan written by an IEP team at a school.
The IEP, and the transition plan within it, is then carried out by school staff.
An example of adequate transition plan recording was provided by Farrell.
If a student in the 10th grade wants to be a pilot, for example, school staff must record what the high school has done to assist the student in knowing about the career and what the best ways are for the student to access pilot training, according to Farrell.
The next year, the student might determine that he/she is better suited for a different job in aviation.
The variance from one year to the next must be recorded, as well as all the steps taken by school staff to inform the student.
Then, some kind of a transition is needed in 12th grade, to help that student make connections with vocational rehabilitation providers or other employment, Farrell said.
“While schools are well meaning, they may sometimes truncate those 18,” Farell said. “As monitors, we have to report them as not meeting the standards in the paperwork. The school may be very successful with those kids but the writing on the IEP may not meet the standards for a good transition plan.”
Farrell said the state education department, the federal department, the National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center and a state transition specialist are working together to help guide the remaining 35 percent of Vermont schools through the process of writing out all the transition goals for their students.
“It may be time consuming but they need to do that,” she said. “It shows that a good transition plan was written and they are having good outcomes. It has to balance on both sides.”
For more information, go to education.vermont.gov.
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