Are You Out of Compliance in Your SPED Classroom?

by Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed., MLIS

teacher time

At some time or another, it seems inevitable that you will be out of compliance in your classroom. This happens in especially bad economic times. Cities and towns become incapable of raising tax revenues to cover all costs and everything suffers. The number one reason you might have compliance issues is in maintaining a certain number of students in your care at any given time.

As referrals and approvals come in, administrators must find a suitable placement for a child. Sometimes there’s just no room at the inn, so they assign the child to your classroom until another solution becomes available.

There are some things you can do to try to start solving these problems, at least in your own domain, but first you need to understand the law.

I have a special fondness for Wrightslaw online. It’s a site that has every possible SPED law spelled out and explained in plain English. It also points people to other resources that may help solve problems with staying in compliance of IDEA, Public Law 94-142 laws. It links to advocacy groups, attorneys who specialize in this complex corner of the law, and provides access to advocacy and Special Education Law libraries (to-die-for resources).

I could spend weeks reading all the articles and papers on this site and never truly have a complete understanding of the laws for our special education students. I recommend surveying this site; it has a good search engine if you have specific questions about how to stay in compliance in your classroom.

girl classroomThe numbers of students in your care is pretty basic. All the regulations adhere to a basic premise that we are providing the LRE (Least Restrictive Environment) for special ed. students. There is a legal definition of this concept, but we all know what it means. We need to include SPED students as much as possible in classrooms for all children. Students are no longer shuttled into a separate self-contained room or school and forgotten. There are still self-contained classes, but the rules around placement are very strict and must be followed to the letter.

When I am out of compliance in student count, the first thing I do is look at the class list in its totality. Can I prioritize my class list? This sounds barbaric, but there are always students who may have been in SPED classrooms too long and it is in their best interests to have their IEPs changed with parent input. Graduating (phasing) a student out of SPED services is hard to do, so be prepared for a fight. People (parents) become happy with extra care situations for their children. I always work with district SPED officials and my school principal. I can be a squeaky wheel, and if I keep at it, students can be phased out of my classrooms. Call IEP meetings and review each situation thoroughly to try to keep your room in compliance.

In a resource room, you cannot exceed five students per instructor. There are also rules for paraprofessionals; can a child be assigned a personal aide (through the IEP and team meeting process)? We are all aware of situations when keeping it to five students is just not feasible and the student count in resource rooms swells to try to absorb the overflow. There can be acceptable temporary arrangements. Self-contained classrooms are generally eight students with a full time teacher and one paraprofessional.

You are probably questioning my numbers. Actually, so am I. As I tried to research this issue, I came across different guidelines in different states. The best description of these rules can be found on Wrightslaw:

Is There a Legal Definition of Self Contained Classroom?

There is no legal definition of “self-contained classroom” in the federal statute.

It is suggested that you defer to your state special education offices for guidance.

We all know a classroom that is out of compliance. We know what it looks like, how it’s not functioning and that we should do something about it when we can.

Some resources to help us all stay up to date:

NCLB No Child Left Behind

IDEA 2004 (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act)

NASET – National Association of Special Ed Teachers

Teachervision – practical everyday things to use in your classroom.

Special Education Guide

Let us know if you have a class out of compliance and the plans you are developing to fix it.


Grant Name: Family Service Community Grants

Funded By: Autism Speaks

Description: Autism Speaks seeks to directly support the innovative work of autism service providers in local communities across the United States. The focus of our Family Services Community Grants is three-fold: to promote autism services that enhance the lives of those affected by autism; to expand the capacity to effectively serve this growing community; and to enhance the field of service providers.

Program Areas: After-School, Arts, Community Involvement/Volunteerism, Disabilities, Early Childhood, Family Services, General Education, Health/PE, Library, Math, Reading, Safe/Drug Free Schools, Science/Environmental, Social Studies, Special Education, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), Technology, Vocational

Eligibility: Public School, Private School, Other

Proposal Deadline: 3/25/2015

Annual Total Amount: $5,000.00 – $25,000.00

Telephone: 917-475-5059

E-mail: sselkin@autismspeaks.org

Website: Autism Speaks

Availability: All States

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Autism Speaks Promotion a Success!

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects over 2 million individuals in the U.S. and tens of millions worldwide. Statistics suggest that this number has increased 10 to 17 percent annually in recent years. There is no established explanation for this ongoing increase, although improved diagnosis and environmental influences are two reasons often considered.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identify approximately 1 in 88 American children as having ASD to some degree; about 1 out of every 54 boys and 1 in 252 girls are diagnosed with ASD. This represents a ten-fold increase over the last 40 years.

The Autism Speaks® foundation was established in February 2005 by the grandparents of a child with autism. Bob and Suzanne Wright, with the help of their friend Bernie Marcus’ $25 million donation, launched the organization. Dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments for autism, as well as a potential cure, Autism Speaks® has grown into the world’s leading autism organization. It has increased the awareness of ASD greatly and provides countless resources to individuals with autism and their families.

For the last two years, Achievement Products® has partnered with Autism Speaks® to donate 10% of our Holiday Gift Guide sales. We are delighted to announce that for the 2013 holiday shopping season, we were able to raise and donate $3,573.98. We could not have done this without all of our loyal customers and we thank each and every one of you for helping make this donation possible. Let’s keep it up, and we look forward to our annual Autism Awareness promotion in April, when we will again be partnering with Autism Speaks® to provide another donation.

Thank you again for all of your purchases during the 2013 holiday season. You helped Achievement Products® contribute to an important, worthwhile cause!

Please follow this link to learn how you can give an individual contribution:

Shop Now for Holiday Gifts and 10% of Your Purchase Will Be Donated!

For the last two years, Achievement Products® has partnered with the Autism Speaks® foundation to donate 10% on select items purchased during the month of April to this important organization. We are happy to announce that we will be doing the same thing this fall!

Our customers now have the opportunity to contribute to Autism Speaks® with all purchases made from the Achievement Products® Gift Guide through December 15, 2013. With each order, 10% of the purchase price will go toward funding research for the causes, treatments and the prevention of autism. Autism Speaks®, also dedicated to finding a cure for autism, is the world’s leading autism organization and through their efforts have greatly increased the general public’s awareness of autism spectrum disorders. The foundation truly is an unlimited resource for those with autism and their families.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects over 2 million individuals in the United States and tens of millions worldwide. Around 1 in 88 American children are identified as being on the autism spectrum, which is a ten-fold increase over the last 40 years.

If you’d like to help, shop the Gift Guide between now and December 15! 10% of your purchase from the Gift Guide will be donated to Autism Speaks®! We can’t do this without you!

Summer Thoughts

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We still run most American schools on an agrarian calendar. It’s great for teachers and administrators to have a break. It’s great for above-average students. It is not-so-great for many at-risk and disabled students. As most of us align to Common Core State Standards, we are updating our special education curriculum maps and IEP’s. This is a professional development exercise that is perfect for the summer months. If we are in sessions with our colleagues, it’s a good idea to share some thoughts on keeping our special needs kids on track.

Where above-average students might grow from 1.2 to 1.4 years in math and reading in a 9-month school year and lose only .2 to .3 years of growth over the summer, weaker students who grow.7 or .8 of a year in math and reading can lose up to half of that gain over the summer. Year-round school and summer school is one way to prevent backsliding for weaker students. As a former library media specialist, I like keeping the school library open all summer and having reading camps. Ideally, these fun times are for all students, but there’s nothing wrong with having a special session for special kids. Reading lists can be prepared with input from your colleagues in the regular classroom, providing guidance on standards they are targeting.

For your reading lists, pick titles that have potential for field trips as follow-up activities. Look to your public library for grade level offerings in local history. In my town (Marblehead, MA), I was pleased to see a small flock of kids walking around our Fort Sewall recently. It has a wonderful Revolutionary War story, and students seem to be engaged by conversations about the U.S.S. Constitution. The Cincinnati library has a wonderful list of fiction books regarding the Revolutionary War. Your local librarian will be helpful, too. When you take the kids to the library, use the opportunity to make sure they all have library cards to encourage future visits!

Unfortunately, not all schools provide these programs throughout the summer for those students who need it. If we want special needs students to stay on-track, or even to get ahead during the summer, either parents or some dedicated teachers can make plans for at-risk and learning-disabled students.

Fortunately, some excellent online curricula are available. On our Revolutionary War theme, there’s the Guide to the American Revolution list of relevant sites for information and entertainment. Some other reading and field trip pairings can be found at Field Trips and Other Adventures.

Teachers should make student reading levels very clear to parents, and even provide individualized book lists for each student’s summer reading. Parents can be encouraged to choose additional books to read to their children. Summer needn’t be boring or a grind. Just reading for pleasure is enough for some. When kids see parents reading, it provides a solid message that reading is a daily activity for everyone.

As you’re planning for grants, notice how many of the sources are interested in funding STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) projects. Funding realities remind us that we will not see year-round school schedules any time soon. However, do I hear a call for a grant? This is an ideal summer project for teachers who are grant-savvy. Foundations and corporations in particular are often eager to support summer programming.

Tie your program to academic achievement and you have a fundable, possibly unbeatable combination. Because these sources of funds are often dedicated to supporting the communities where they are located, the search for one can be challenging. The MySchoolGrant℠ database will help you find national and local sources of funds for after-school programs.

If you work with children affected by autism, I highly recommend that you research Autism Speaks as a source of potential funding.

Autism Speaks. Autism Speaks seeks to directly support the innovative work of autism service providers in local communities across the United States. The focus of their Family Services Community Grants is three-fold: to promote autism services that enhance the lives of those affected by autism, to expand the capacity to effectively serve this growing community and to enhance the field of service providers.

States: All states
Average Amount: $5,000 – $25,000
Telephone: 917-475-5059
Email: sselkin@autismspeaks.org
Website: http://www.autismspeaks.org
Eligibility: Public School, Private School, Other
Program Funded: After-School, Arts, Community Involvement, Volunteerism, Disabilities, Early Childhood, Family Services, General Education, Healthe/PE, Library, Math, Reading, Safe/Drug Free Schools, Science/Environmental, Social Studies, Special Education, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), Technology, Vocational
Deadline to Apply: 3/25/2014

Autism Speaks Promotion a Resounding Success!

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects over 2 million individuals in the U.S. and tens of millions worldwide. Statistics suggest that this number has increased 10 to 17 percent annually in recent years. There is no established explanation for this ongoing increase, although improved diagnosis and environmental influences are two reasons often considered.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identify around 1 in 88 American children as having Autism Spectrum Disorder to some degree; about 1 out of every 54 boys and 1 in 252 girls are diagnosed with ASD. This is a ten-fold increase over the last 40 years.

The Autism Speaks® foundation was established in February 2005 by the grandparents of a child with autism. Bob and Suzanne Wright, with the help of their friend Bernie Marcus’ $25 million donation, launched the organization. Dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism, Autism Speaks® has grown into the world’s leading autism organization. It has increased the awareness of autism spectrum disorders greatly and is an unlimited resource to individuals with autism and their families.

For the last two years Achievement Products® has partnered with Autism Speaks® to donate 10% of our April (Autism Awareness Month) sales on select items. We are delighted to announce that this year we will be donating $3,948.21, a 57% increase from last year. We could not have done this without all of our loyal customers and we thank each and every one of you for helping make this donation possible. Let’s keep it up and hopefully in April 2014 we will see another increase in donations.

Thank you again for all of your purchases during the month of April. You helped Achievement Products® contribute to an important, worthwhile cause!

Please follow the link below to learn how you can give:

Ways to Give