IDEA Complaint Decision 12-013

On March 22, 2012, the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the River Valley School District. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issue is whether the district, during the 2011-12 school year, provided required special education services utilizing properly licensed teacher staff.

Each school board must ensure every teacher, aide, or other professional staff holds a valid certificate, license, or permit issued by the department for the position which the individual is employed before engaging in duties of such a position. The district must ensure professional teaching responsibilities are carried out by a special education teacher, who is licensed by the department. A special education aide’s role is limited to working under the direct supervision of a licensed teacher to support the lesson plans of the teacher, provide technical assistance to the teacher, help with classroom control or management, and perform other duties as assigned.

The complainant asserts elementary students received special education services exclusively from a special education aide in reading, math, and language arts, and no appropriately licensed special education teacher provided services during the 2011-12 school year.

From September 2011 through January 2012, a special education middle school teacher was assigned to an elementary school for a total of 45 minutes per week. Instead of a licensed special education teacher, a licensed special education aide provided all instruction to the students. For the first weeks of the school year, there was very limited contact between the aide and the special education teacher due to the special education teacher’s other assignments. Thereafter, and until February 2012, the special education teacher met with the aide for no more than 45 minutes per week to discuss curriculum, student progress toward goals, and to enter student grades into the district’s system. During this time, the special education aide also ordered course materials, developed daily lesson plans, and designed instruction on a day-to-day basis to implement student individualized education plans (IEPs). The special education aide maintained a daily grade book for the students assigned to the special education program, and determined first quarter grades in conjunction with a regular education teacher, which concluded November 3, 2011. The special education teacher had no contact with any of the students, did not develop lessons plans, did not evaluate any of the services provided, or assess student learning.

From February 2012 to the date of this complaint, the amount of time the licensed special education teacher spent in the school increased. However, the special education services required in the students’ IEPs were still not provided by the licensed teacher. For one student, although the student’s IEP required daily special education instruction in several areas, the teacher worked with the student two and one-half hours per week, and the district delegated the rest of the instructional time to the aide. For another student, although the IEP also required daily special education instruction in several areas, the teacher worked with the student only one hour per week. The teacher did not have any contact with another student. The aide’s role went beyond supporting the lesson plans of the teacher, providing technical assistance to the teacher and helping with classroom control or management.

The district did not provide required special education services utilizing properly licensed teacher staff. Within 30 days from the date of this decision, the district must conduct an IEP team meeting for each student who did not receive special education services from properly licensed teacher staff, to determine the compensatory services required because of the failure to properly implement the students’ IEP. The district must submit to the department a copy of each student’s IEP documenting the compensatory services that will be provided. Within 30 days from the date of this decision, the district will also submit a corrective plan to ensure that special education services are properly provided by a licensed special education teacher and that a special education aide’s role is limited to working under the direct supervision of a licensed teacher to support the lesson plans of the teacher, provide technical assistance to the teacher, help with classroom control or management, and perform other duties as assigned.

During the complaint investigation, there was an indication that a similar special education services delivery model may be in place at other schools in the district. Within 30 days from the date of this decision, the district must submit a corrective action plan to review the delivery of special education services to ensure that students are provided required special education services by properly licensed teacher staff.

All noncompliance identified above must be corrected as soon as possible, but in no case more than one year from the date of this decision. This concludes our review of this complaint. You may contact Allison Markoski, Special Education Team, at (608) 266-3126 if you have any questions about this decision or for technical assistance.

//signed CST 5/17/2012
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support

Dec/amm

For questions about this information, contact Patricia Williams (608) 267-3720