The end of the school year is approaching; therefore, many parents around the country are debating the placement issue for the next school year. It’s a very important decision because if it’s not the appropriate placement, your child could either fall behind or will not be challenged enough. As concerned parents, we hope that we’ve made the correct decision for our child. The question is; did we have all the necessary information to make an informed decision?
Once again, time to go back to the beginning. Assessments are an essential component of updating a child’s present levels of performance. The first thing required in any Individualized Education Program (IEP) is “a statement of the child’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance.” If you look closely at the language there are actually two parts that need to be analyzed, “academic achievement” and “functional performance”. Since neither of these terms are defined this created questions that were discussed in the Federal Register page 46662:
Comment: A few commenters stated that § 300.320(a)(1) requires an IEP to include a statement of the child’s present levels of academic achievement, and recommended that the regulations define ‘‘academic achievement.’’
Discussion: ‘‘Academic achievement’’ generally refers to a child’s performance in academic areas (e.g., reading or language arts, math, science, and history). We believe the definition could vary depending on a child’s circumstance or situation, and therefore, we do not believe a definition of ‘‘academic achievement’’ should be included in these regulations.
Comment: Some commenters recommended that the regulations clarify that not every child requires a functional performance statement or functional annual goals. Some commenters stated that requiring functional assessments for all children places an unnecessary burden on an LEA, does not add value for every child, and creates a potential for increased litigation. One commenter recommended that § 300.320(a)(1), regarding the child’s present levels of performance, and § 300.320(a)(2), regarding measurable annual goals, clarify that functional performance and functional goals should be included in a child’s IEP only if determined appropriate by the child’s IEP Team.
Discussion: We cannot make the changes requested by the commenters. Section 614(d)(1)(A)(i)(I) of the Act requires an IEP to include a statement of the child’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance.
As you can see without updating both parts of the present levels of performances and knowing a child’s strengths and weaknesses, it’s impossible to make an informed decision about the appropriate placement. If you make a decision about placement before you have current data on your child, you might place your child in an environment that’s either too quick or slow paced.
For example, if your child is currently in a Special Day Class and you would like to begin mainstreaming them next year. I would recommend updating your child’s psycho-educational assessment to base your decision on. I mention this because sometimes report cards can be deceiving and do not tell the complete picture regarding a child’s true strengths and weaknesses. If a child is mainstreamed before they are ready, they can experience stress and anxiety if they cannot keep up and fall behind.
The other side of the coin is when a child is placed in an environment that might be considered too low-functioning. When this occurs, the child is not receiving an education that will allow them to work to their full potential. Many children who have a disability such as Autism, ADHD or SLD, are mainstreamed.
Once again, I stress the need to make sure all the necessary assessments have been performed prior to making a decision about your child’s placement. You cannot have a productive IEP meeting with your school district about the appropriate placement for your child until you have all the facts to base your decision on. The key is to keep an open mind about placement until that time so that you can place your child in the appropriate learning environment.