Learn Your Special Education Laws, Special Education Rights, and Share IEP Goal Ideas

Jan 01
Avatar of Doug Goldberg

by Doug Goldberg

I need your help.  Phew, I said it, I feel much better now.  I’ve been staring at these Special Education Statistics below for an hour and I keep coming to the same conclusion.  You see, statistics are like men, they tell you whatever you want to hear.  The School Districts look at these statistics and tell you that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) must be working because there are very few Due Process filings each year.  The statistics show that less than 1% of the Students served under IDEA file for Due Process each year.  I on the other hand look at these statistics and they tell me a completely different story.

School Year Number of Students Served under IDEA Total Number of Due Process Hearing Requests Total Number Resolved without a Due Process Hearing

Total Number that went through a Due Process Hearing 

2007 – 2008 6,600,000 14,616 11,398 3,218
2006 – 2007 6,700,000 16,349 11,812 4,537

 

School Year

Percentage of Students who didn’t file for Due Process 

Percentage of Students who did file for Due Process

Percentage of Due Process Filings Resolved prior to Hearing

Total Number that went through a Due Process Hearing

2007 – 2008

99.78%

00.22%

78%

22%

2006 – 2007

99.76%

00.24%

73%

27%

The data from the charts above can be found at http://www.ideadata.org/PartBData.asp

When I look at these statistics, add in my experiences and of course my biases I see a different story.  I see numbers that show too many parents that are not educating themselves on their rights.  I strongly believe many School Districts use the “Law of Attrition”.  Attrition is defined as 1) a reduction of numbers, or 2) a wearing down or weakening of resistance, especially as a result of continuous pressure.  Both of these definitions fit really well.  If the School Districts know that less than 1% of parents will file for Due Process they are not motivated to offer the appropriate services in the IEP meeting.  The School District can wait and negotiate with those parents that actually file for Due Process.  My theory is backed by the statistics shown above that most Due Process filings are resolved prior to going to a hearing.  Approximately, 75% of Due Process filings, on average, were resolved prior to reaching a hearing over the two year period shown above.  If my theory wasn’t correct I think you would see a much lower percentage of Due Process filings that are resolved without going to a hearing.

This is why I need your help.  I already explained that statistics can tell you whatever you want to hear and that I have my own personal biases.  I would like to hear what everyone else thinks these statistics mean and together maybe we can crack the special education statistics code.

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9 Responses to “Cracking the Special Education Statistics Code”

  1. If memory serves me correctly, even if you go through a due process, your chances of winning are essentially nil, so parents waste a lot of time, money, and energy on a process which rarely involves a good outcome for their family. Until this changes, these statistics will only change in the number of parents who are persistent enough to deal with the intimidation from the system. I had a disagreement once, but was trained by PEATC, and knew I had a good chance of winning the argument. When this happens, the system will back down. Parents need training and support.

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  2. Actually, the fact that 75% of Due Process complaints get worked out prior to a hearing implies that the Parents do get more services when they file. I do not have the stats on how the other 25% turn out that actually go to a hearing. If anyone has that I’d love to see it.

    I have filed for due process 4 times for my son and reached a settlement agreement everytime prior to a hearing.

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  3. That’s great, Doug. The last time I read statistics on family success in due process in my state, it was schools win their cases 90% of the time. It is a great deal of effort to go through for families, no matter what the outcome.

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  4. Actually, there is that little requirement in the IDEA that a resolution session be scheduled within 15 days of filing a due process hearing- that may be why so many cases are resolved in due process. It isn’t so much that parents aren’t willing to go to due process, it’s that alternative dispute resolution CAN work. Also, I know here in MI, admin law judges keep very close track of those resolution sessions, and require agreements be written and submitted before dismissal.

    Having said that- let’s face it: Special Ed should NOT be an adversarial process because it can seriously delay fape. Holding a student in ‘stay put’ (which is usually OUTSIDE the school environment) is NOT helpful, and parents almost have to be prophets in order to file to keep the student IN classrooms.

    So stats can be massaged- but I think the real story here is that only two-tenths of one percent of students IEP’s had due process cases filed for 2007-08… However.. is that the same number of IEP’s that were reported as ‘out of compliance’ across the board in that time period? Probably not… and each out of compliance IEP *could* have been looked at as a possible state complaint and/or due process hearing matter. Also, I’m wondering how many PTI’s are willing to look at the number of IEP’s out of compliance and file due process complaints against the State Departments of Education based on that number?

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  5. What I am hearing is that this trend you are observing is making you feel even less productive and/or helpful in meeting the needs of the students and their families. Perhaps you should look more towards advocacy for students and families. Seriously!

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  6. As noted by one commentator the resolution process can resolve some issues. In addition a number of conflicts are resolved at mediation when both parties can be helped by an effective mediator to see the need to find common ground.

    At the same time taking a different approach to the statistics, it just might be that there are relatively few Due Process proceedings, not because parents are unaware of their rights, but rather because most districts and parents do work well together. Just a wild guest there, but I have a hunch it presents a more accurate picture of the relationship of the vast majority of parents and school districts.

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  7. We have to educate the parents. The teachers may have limited resources but the parents need to get involved. A successful student has an updated IEP and the resources the team recommended. Due process is a wake up call in an area where teachers have gotten away with doing very little for way too long. Educate the parents and everyone wins.

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  8. Mr. Shlala,
    It’s true that a good relationship between parent and district can alter the statistics greatly on the outcome of the childs program. I thank you for the one time meeting I had with you a couple of years ago when you attended my sons IEP @ TCI. I thanked you for not making changes in my sons program that was working well for him. You said to me, “If I would have made any change to his program, I wouldn’t be doing my job. He is exactly where he needs to be.” I sincerely hope you put that in his file when you left MP, as you told me you would before you left district. I still can’t Thank You enough for doing YOUR JOB!!!

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    • Virginia,

      Thank you for the kind comment. I am not sure everyone would be praiseworthy of my efforts. I only hope that what I have done throughout my career is to put the child first. Sometimes that means being at odds with a parent and sometime with the school district. When you see a program work, like the one your child was in one does not tinker with it. I hope he is still doing well. Best wishes to both of you.

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