Information Update Bulletin 02.06

Print Version

August 2002

TO:District Administrators, CESA Administrators, CCDEB Administrators, Directors of Special Education and Pupil Services, and Other Interested Parties
FROM:Carolyn Stanford Taylor, Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy
SUBJECT:Procedures for Student Placements and Evaluations at the Schools Operated by the Wisconsin Educational Services Program for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and the Wisconsin Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired

I. BACKGROUND

This bulletin is a revision of the Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy Information Update Bulletin 99.05 and is intended to replace that bulletin. The purpose of this bulletin is to explain the procedures local education agencies (LEAs) must follow in seeking placements and evaluations of their students at the schools operated by the Wisconsin Educational Services Program for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (WESPDHH) and the Wisconsin Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired (WCBVI). The WESPDHH operates the Wisconsin School for the Deaf (WSD), and the WCBVI operates the Wisconsin School for the Visually Handicapped (WSVH). The procedures in this bulletin include those specified in state and federal special education law, and procedures for including state school staff in the evaluation, individualized education program (IEP) development, and placement determination processes. The bulletin also explains procedures to ensure that appropriate documentation is provided to the state schools.

II. PLACEMENT AT THE STATE SCHOOLS

Components of an Educational Placement

A student's educational placement includes three components:

  1. The educational services set out in the student's IEP.

  2. The educational environment in which the IEP services will be implemented, e.g., regular classroom, resource room, or separate classroom. This information is included in the services section of the IEP as the "location" of the service.

  3. The site, i.e., the school or facility, selected to implement the IEP. This information is included in the placement notice.

Procedures for Determining Placement

The following are the procedures that must be followed when making placement determinations for students with hearing or vision disabilities. The procedures are those found in state statute and federal regulations, and include additional Department of Public Instruction procedures required when initial or continuing placement of a student at either state school is being considered. A request for enrollment of a student at a state school will not be considered until the IEP and placement determinations have been completed. A copy of the student's IEP and placement notice must accompany the request for enrollment.

  1. The placement determinations, including the educational environment(s) in which the student will be taught, and the site where the IEP will be implemented, are made by the IEP team. When placement of a student at a state school is being considered, at least one representative of the state school must participate as a member of the student's IEP team in the development of the IEP and the determination of the student's placement. State school IEP team participants are selected by state school management. When initiating an IEP team meeting, LEAs should contact the state school to obtain the names and titles of the state school IEP team participants to ensure their names are included in the IEP meeting notice. If the state school IEP team participant(s) cannot participate in the IEP team meeting at the site where the meeting is held, participation in the meeting shall occur by other means such as teleconference or videoconference. To arrange for participation of state school representatives in the IEP process, contact the WESPDHH or WCBVI director. Contact information is found at the end of this bulletin.

  2. The state school team participant must have an opportunity to review the student's pupil records including evaluation data prior to the IEP team meeting. The LEA should send a copy of the records to the WESPDHH or WCBVI director two weeks prior to the IEP team meeting.

  3. In addition to the state school representative, the IEP team must include: the student's parent; an LEA representative authorized to commit district resources who also has knowledge of the regular curriculum; a special education teacher who is or will be responsible for implementing the student's IEP; and if the student is or may be participating in the regular education environment, a regular education teacher who is or may be responsible for implementing the student's IEP.

  4. The placement determination is based on the student's IEP. The IEP must address the student's individually identified special education needs, and cannot be developed based on the availability of programs and resources at a specific placement site. A state school is not an appropriate placement if the student's IEP cannot be fully implemented there.

  5. The student must be placed in the school (s)he would attend if not disabled unless the IEP requires a different placement site. The IEP must include an explanation of why the student cannot be educated in the school (s)he would attend if not disabled.

  6. If a different placement site is required to implement the IEP, the site must be as close as possible to the student's home where the IEP can be implemented.

  7. The placement decision must be made in conformity with the least restrictive environment (LRE) provisions in the law at 34CFR 300.550 and 300.551. These provisions are discussed below.

  8. Prior to the completion of the placement determination it is suggested that a representative of the LEA and the student's parents or guardian visit the school.

  9. Subject to department policies, dormitory living arrangements are provided to state school students who are unable to travel to and from the state school on a daily basis. Since a student's ability to attend a state school may be dependent upon living in a state school dormitory, it is important for the IEP team considering placement of a student at a state school to understand all circumstances and conditions that would influence the student's success in the dormitory. Therefore, the IEP team should discuss relevant family, medical, social, and emotional history and needs that would influence a successful dormitory experience for the student.

  10. If the IEP team determines that a state school is the proper placement for a student, the state school representative must agree with that determination before the student is enrolled at the state school. If the state school representative does not agree, the LEA may adjourn the IEP team meeting and convene another meeting to continue the placement determination discussion. The additional meeting must include the state school representative, and could include new participants or additional information about the student including new evaluation information if needed. The LEA may not provide the student's parent with a placement notice that specifies the state school as the placement until the state school representative agrees the state school is the proper placement for the student.

  11. When the IEP team determines that a state school is the proper placement for a student, the IEP team must still consider whether the student can participate in curricular activities in the regular education environment; for example, in a LEA near the state school. Participation of a regular education teacher on the IEP team is critical in making that determination.

  12. For students already enrolled in a state school, the LEA must ensure that the child's placement is determined at least annually by the student's IEP team, including the student's state school teacher. Additional state school representatives may participate as IEP team members in the placement determination process if determined necessary by state school management.

LRE Considerations In The Placement Process

The LRE provisions in the law at 34 CFR 300.550 and 300.551 require that special classes, separate schooling, or other removal from the regular educational environment and the general curriculum occur only when the nature or severity of a student's disability is such that education in regular classes in the general curriculum with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily. The preference expressed in the law is that, to the extent appropriate, students with disabilities be educated in the general curriculum with non-disabled peers in the regular education environment. Because such programming may not be appropriate for every student, a range of programming options known as a continuum of alternative educational placements must be available. The placement continuum includes instruction in regular classes, special classes, and special schools. Participation in the general curriculum is determined by the student's IEP team based on the student's needs and abilities, and may occur in any educational environment. Students placed in special education environments may participate in the general education curriculum, and students placed in the regular education environment may participate in a curriculum that is not the general education curriculum. During the IEP development process, the IEP team must specify in the student's IEP the educational environment(s) where the special education services will be provided, and the extent to which the student will participate in the general curriculum. These environment and curriculum decisions, as well as the decision concerning the site where services will be provided, are made based on the LRE principles in the law.

The schools operated by the WESPDHH and WCBVI provide Wisconsin LEAs one point on the continuum of alternate educational placements for students with hearing and vision disabilities who cannot be appropriately served in their home districts or in other settings close to their homes. The education needs of most students with sensory disabilities can be met in their LEAs of residence or in other LEAs close to their homes. For those whose needs cannot be met in the residence or neighboring LEA, placement at another point on the placement continuum may be required. A state school may be the appropriate placement for many of these students. However, the state school may not be the proper placement option for individual students with hearing or vision disabilities who cannot be served in their residence LEA or neighboring LEA. For example, the state schools are not hospitals or residential treatment facilities for providing mental health or psychiatric treatment for students.

In determining a placement for a student with a hearing or vision disability, the IEP team must begin by considering educating the student in the regular classroom, in the general education curriculum, and in the school (s)he would attend if not disabled. The determination of the extent to which the student will participate in the regular education classroom and general curriculum must be based upon the student's abilities and needs as determined by the student's IEP team. In developing an IEP for any student, the IEP team must consider the student's comprehensive needs. For students who are blind or visually impaired, the IEP team must also consider the student's need for instruction in Braille and the use of Braille, orientation and mobility needs, and the need for assistive technology devices and services. In developing an IEP for a student who is deaf or hard of hearing, the IEP team must also consider the student's language and communication needs including opportunities for direct communication with peers and professional personnel in the student's language and communication mode, opportunities for direct instruction in the student's language and communication mode, and the student's need for assistive technology devices and services. A student's IEP must satisfactorily address the needs identified in the evaluation and IEP development processes. Special education evaluations of all students must include assessments in all areas related to the student's disabilities or suspected disabilities. Evaluations must be sufficiently comprehensive to identify all of the student's special education and related service needs. The department has published guides for the evaluation of students with or suspected of having a disability. These evaluation guides, including guides concerning hearing and vision disabilities, can be found on the department's web site at: http://sped.dpi.wi.gov/sped_eligibility. Once on this web page, go to the desired disability category page listed under "Eligibility Criteria Resources" and select the evaluation guide link. [NOTE: web address updated 4/3/06.]

Before removing the student from the regular education environment, the IEP team must consider whether the student's IEP, including the provisions concerning participation in the general curriculum, can be successfully implemented in that setting with the use of supplementary aids and services. If the student's IEP cannot be satisfactorily implemented full time in the regular education environment with the use of supplementary aids and services, the IEP team must consider an option on the placement continuum that is less than full time in the regular education environment. The district moves to consideration of placements that are progressively more removed from the regular education environment only if the student's IEP cannot be successfully implemented in a placement option less removed with the use of supplementary aids and services. Selection of the environment least removed from the regular education environment where the IEP can be implemented is part of a proper placement determination. The selection of the school or facility where the IEP will be implemented completes the placement determination process. In order to satisfy the LRE requirements, the school or facility selected to implement the IEP must either be the school the child would attend if not disabled, or the school that is close as possible to that location. Decisions concerning a student's participation in the general curriculum are documented in the department's forms system on form I -11. Decisions concerning the educational environment(s) (regular classroom, resource room, separate class) are documented in the department's sample form system on form # I-14. Decisions concerning the school or facility where the IEP will be implemented are documented on departmental forms I-16 or I-17.

For students being placed at either state school, the IEP team must consider whether the student can participate some of the time in regular education classes at an LEA near the state school. If an LEA near the state school agrees to accept the student, exclusion from such participation can only occur if the student's education needs cannot be met there even with the use of supplementary aids and services. Part-time placements in an LEA made in conjunction with state school placements must be described in the student's IEP and placement notice. The IEP must also include any related services, supplementary aids and services, or program modifications and supports that are necessary for the student to participate in the LEA. In such instances, tuition is paid to the attending LEA by the resident LEA. The tuition will include the costs to provide transportation for the child to and from the attending LEA and for any related services or supplementary aids and services included in the IEP that are necessary for the student's participation there. Finally, any placement option that is proposed by an IEP team participant including frequency, location, or duration or site of services that is rejected must be documented in the IEP or placement notice including the reasons why the option was rejected.

III. EVALUATIONS AT THE STATE SCHOOLS

With the approval of the WESPDHH or WCBVI director, an LEA may send a student to a state school as part of a special education evaluation or reevaluation. Evaluation services can be provided at either state school at no cost to students' parents, and at no cost to the LEA other than transportation. In addition, subject to department policies, a student may reside at a state school dormitory at no cost during the course of the evaluation. If residency in the dormitory is being requested during the evaluation process, the LEA's request for the evaluation should include information concerning relevant family, medical, social, and emotional history and needs that would influence a successful dormitory experience. Requests for evaluations at a state school should be made using the attached form PI-2390 (new-8/02), Request for Special Education Evaluation, and sent to the appropriate director. The request must include a copy of the student's pupil records, identify the specific evaluation information needed, and explain why the evaluation cannot be successfully completed in the student's LEA with the assistance of the WESPDHH or WCBVI outreach team.

The following are the procedures for conducting state school evaluations for students attending LEAs and for students enrolled at a state school. Information is also included concerning evaluation assistance provided onsite in LEAs by staff members of the state school outreach programs.

Notice and Consent Requirements for Evaluations

Prior to conducting an evaluation, the LEA must provide the parent with a written notice of the evaluation in accordance with s.115.782(1)(a) and 115.792 of the Wisconsin Statutes. If state school or outreach staff are participating in an evaluation, the LEA must also provide a copy of the evaluation notice to the appropriate outreach or WESPDH/WCBVI director before state school or outreach staff may participate, including participation in the review of a student's existing evaluation data. When an evaluation includes the administration of tests or other evaluation materials, the notice must also describe the evaluation procedures to be conducted, who will administer the evaluation procedures and their qualifications to evaluate, and include the timeline for the evaluation. The LEA must also obtain the parent's consent in accordance with s.115.782(1)(b) or (4)(b) WI. Statutes. If state school or outreach staff will participate in the administration of tests or other evaluation materials, the LEA must also provide a copy of the evaluation notice and parental consent to the appropriate outreach or WESPDHH/WCBVI director before state school or outreach staff may participate.

General Procedures for State School Evaluations of Students Attending Their LEAs

The following are general guidelines to be followed when requesting and initiating an evaluation at either state school of a student attending an LEA.

  1. The request must include a description of the specific evaluation information needed and why it cannot be obtained locally with the assistance of the WESPDHH or WCBVI outreach team.

  2. The request must be accompanied by a copy of the student's pupil records.

  3. If residency in the dormitory is being requested during the evaluation process, the LEA's request should also include information concerning relevant family, medical, social, and emotional history and needs that would influence a successful dormitory experience. The student must be at least five years of age to be considered for an evaluation at the state school that will require dormitory accommodations, and two years-nine months of age to be considered for a day school evaluation.

  4. The student must be a Wisconsin resident.

  5. The student must have a suspected or identified hearing or vision disability.

  6. The LEA is responsible for ensuring the evaluation is conducted consistent with special education law.

  7. A regular and special education teacher of the student should be members of the IEP team conducting the evaluation. State school staff who participate in the IEP team are selected by state school management. The LEA must also insure that a representative of the LEA who meets the requirements in 34 CFR 300.344(a)(4) participates in the evaluation.

  8. The LEA must send a copy of the evaluation notice to the state school before state school staff will participate in the reevaluation.

  9. The LEA must send a copy of the parent's consent for additional testing before state school staff will participate in the administration of tests or other evaluation materials.

State School Evaluation Periods of 10 Days or Fewer

An LEA may send a student who is being evaluated by an IEP team and has not yet been determined to be a student with a vision and/or hearing disability, to a state school for 10 or fewer consecutive school days without developing an IEP or determining a placement for the student. An LEA may send a student with a disability participating in an IEP Team reevaluation to a state school for 10 or fewer consecutive school days without reviewing and revising the student's current IEP or changing the student's placement.

State School Evaluation and Reevaluation Periods Exceeding 10 Consecutive School Days

When extended evaluation and reevaluation periods of greater than 10 days at a state school are needed to determine a student's need for special education or fully define his/her special education and related service needs, the procedures below must be followed in addition to the general procedures detailed above.

  1. If the student attending an LEA is being evaluated for the first time and does not have an IEP, the LEA must, prior to the beginning of the evaluation at the state school, conduct a meeting to develop an interim IEP based on existing evaluation information on the student. If the student attending an LEA is being evaluated as part of a reevaluation, the LEA must, prior to the beginning of the evaluation at the state school, conduct a meeting to review and revise the student's IEP. The LEA should ensure that the student's parents are involved throughout the process of developing or reviewing and revising the interim IEP. A representative of the state school must participate in the IEP development and review processes. The IEP must establish the conditions for the (re)evaluation and the date of initiation and duration of the evaluation period, not to exceed 45 calendar days.

  2. Following the development of the interim IEP or revision of an existing IEP, and prior to the beginning of the evaluation, the LEA must develop a placement notice in accordance with s.115.787(3)(e), Wis. Stats. that identifies the state school as the student's interim placement. If the student is being evaluated for the first time, the LEA must obtain parental consent for the interim placement.

  3. Prior to the end of the extended evaluation period, the LEA must conduct an IEP team meeting to complete the evaluation process, develop a new IEP, and determine an interim placement that implements the student's IEP.

Reevaluation of Students Enrolled at a State School

The following are procedures to be followed for reevaluations of students enrolled at a state school:

  1. The LEA must ensure that reevaluations are initiated at least every three years, if conditions warrant, or if requested by the student's teacher or parent.

  2. The LEA is responsible for ensuring the evaluation is conducted consistent with special education law.

  3. The student's state school teacher and other state school staff selected by state school management will participate on the IEP team in the reevaluation.

  4. A representative of the LEA who meets the requirements at 34 CFR 300.344(a)(4) must participate in the IEP team reevaluation of the student.

  5. If the student is or may be participating in the regular education environment, at least one regular education teacher of the child must participate in the IEP team reevaluation of the student.

  6. The LEA must send a copy of the evaluation notice to the state school before state school staff will participate in the reevaluation.

  7. The LEA must send a copy of the parent's consent for additional testing before state school staff will participate in the administration of tests or other evaluation materials.

Outreach Team Support for Locally Conducted Evaluations

To arrange assistance from WESPDHH and WCBVI with locally conducted special education evaluations of students with or suspected of having a hearing or vision disability, please contact the WESPDHH or WCBVI Outreach Team. Contact information is found below.

Alex Slappey, Director, WESPDHH
309 W. Walworth Ave., Delavan, WI 53115
Phone/FAX:262-728-7120; 262-728-7160
alex.slappey@dpi.wi.gov
    Mark Riccobono, Director, WCBVI
1700 W. State St., Janesville, WI 53546
Phone/FAX: 608.758.6196/597-758-6116
mark.ricobono@wcbvi.k12.wi.us
Outreach Services Director, WESPDHH
309 W. Walworth Ave., Delavan, WI 53115
Phone/FAX:1-877-973-3323/262-728-7160
    Stacy Grandt, Outreach Services Director,
WCBVI 1700 W. State St., Janesville, WI 53546
Phone/FAX: 608-758-6145/608-758-6116
stacy.grandt@wcbvi.k12.wi.us

Questions regarding this bulletin can be directed to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy, 125 South Webster Street, 4th Floor, P.O. Box 7841, Madison, Wisconsin, 53707-7841; or by calling 608-266-1781.

For questions about this information, contact dpisped@dpi.wi.gov (608) 266-1781