Proposed Changes to the NJ Special Education Regulations

The proposed special education regulations contain changes that, if implemented, would greatly limit parental participation in the IEP process and negatively impact the timely provision of appropriate services for students with disabilities. We families of special education students desperately need your help to raise awareness of these proposed special education regulations and stop them from being approve.  Can we count on you? 
 
 
The following is the link to the NJEA Stakeholders "talking points" -
http://njea.org/njea-media/pdf/SpecialEdTeleconference_Talking_Points.pdf?1367582972368

Below, I have pasted a summary developed by Renay Zamloot (Non-Attorney Education Advocate) and her colleague, Martha Brecher, to provide information on areas not covered by the document referenced above. Number 8 is no longer valid, as the state eliminated this one in its latest proposal.


We are providing the following “talking points” for you to consider when generating your public testimonies. 

1. N.J.A.C. 6A:14-2.5(C)1 – This section has been completely eliminated in the State’s proposal. This is the section that explains the process for requesting an independent evaluation in an area not assessed as part of an initial evaluation or reevaluation. Rather than simply eliminate the provision, the regulation should make clear that a parent can request an independent evaluation in an area not previously assessed by the district and that the district does not have the right to conduct its own evaluation prior to considering the parental request.

2. N.J.A.C. 6A:14-3.2(a) - The proposal under this section would allow for "teachers, and any other licensed staff member with appropriate knowledge about special education requirements, services and programs available for students with disabilities" to serve as Case Managers on Child Study Teams. This is a bad idea because teachers and other staff members have responsibilities that may interfere with their ability to effectively manage a child's case and could interfere with their other roles and responsibilities within the school district. 

3. N.J.A.C. 6A:14-3.5(a), 6A: 14-3.6(c) & 6A:14-3.8(f) - The proposal under these sections would allow school districts to provide parents with evaluation reports and documentation of eligibility at least 5 calendar days prior to the meeting instead of the current 10 days in advance. This is a bad idea because 5 calendar days would not afford parents sufficient time to review and understand the evaluation results and would greatly restrict their ability to consult with school district employees who prepared the evaluation reports and other professionals if necessary. Additionally, part of the 5 calendar days could fall on a weekend, further restricting a parent's ability to contact these professionals. Finally, many parents would have no other choice but to stop the process after the eligibility determination meeting and request another meeting to develop the IEP to allow them sufficient time to obtain the information they require to participate in the IEP process as equal members of the decision making team. This would require additional meetings of IEP Teams, an unintended, but easily foreseen consequence of these rule changes.

4. N.J.A.C. 6A:14-3.7(d) - The State proposes to modify the regulation permitting the amendment of an IEP without an IEP meeting by adopting the federal regulation’s language. Nonetheless, this regulation should continue to require the written consent of the parent and notice to parents of the right to refuse to consent to the amendment. Additionally, the regulation should continue to contain the timeframe within which the district must provide the amendment to parents.

5. N.J.A.C. 6A:14-3.7(e)13 - The proposal under this section would eliminate the need for a "person responsible to serve as a liaison to postsecondary resources and make referrals to the resources as appropriate" to participate in the IEP meeting of a student of transition age (age 16 or younger, if determined appropriate by the IEP team). This is inconsistent with another NJ statute that requires that all school districts with grades nine through 12 designate at least one staff member to serve as a “disability services resource for parents.” That staff member “must be able to demonstrate competency in the various services available through State agencies that serve persons with disabilities, and…be able to assist parents and students in navigating the adult disability system and in preparing for a smooth transition from the school system to State adult disability services.” These services are critical to the purposes of IDEA, as well: to prepare students with disabilities for independent living, postsecondary education, and employment.
 
6. N.J.A.C 6A: 3.8(e) - The proposal would change the reevaluation timeframe from 60 days to 90 days. This is a bad idea because it would delay the development of an appropriate IEP and the provision of services for an additional 30 days. The 60 day period was a compromise period reached during the last reauthorization, as school districts were taking unlimited amounts of time to re-evaluate students. Assuming that a district maintains a “tickler file” that identifies the necessary due dates for these re-evaluations, there is no reason to extend the timeframe for another month, and the DOE has not offered any rationale other than school district convenience. 

7. N.J.A.C. 6A:14-4.1(g) - The proposal under this section would increase the evaluation timeframe for students transferring from one NJ school district to another NJ school district or from an out-of-state district from 30 days of the date the student enrolls in the new district to within 90 days of the date the student enrolls in the new district. This is a bad idea because it will delay the delivery of appropriate services for a transferring student for almost 1/3 of the school year. While another part of the regulation requires the district to provide “comparable services” during the evaluation period, often there are no “comparable services,” so students are asked to remain at home or are placed inappropriately until the district completes evaluations.
 
8. N.J.A.C. 6A:14-7.6(c) – The proposal under this section would require only teachers and paraprofessionals dealing with special education students in public schools to be “highly qualified” under federal and state law. Therefore, students place in private schools by their public school districts via the IEP process, would not necessarily receive instruction by teachers deemed highly qualified. There is no rationale for distinguishing the requirements for instructors paid for by tax dollars. Teachers of students with disabilities should be highly qualified regardless of whether they teach in public (including charter and special service) or private schools.

9. N.J.A.C. 6A: 14-3.3(3) – The proposal under this section would eliminate the presence of the full Child Study Team at Identification and Evaluation Planning Meetings and instead would require only one member of the Child Study Team to represent the full team at
these meetings. This is a bad idea because it encourages Child Study Teams to pre-determine outcomes before a formal meeting with a parent and potentially creates a situation where one team member unilaterally makes all decisions for the team. And, if 
the parent is dissatisfied with the result, this practice is likely to increase formal dispute resolution with districts. 

NOTE: NJAC 6A: 14-3.8 (Re-evaluations) – The Department of Education proposes amendments to this regulation that exceed the Transformation Task Force’s recommendations and to make “grammatical improvements,” But there is a glaring change that should be made to bring our code into conformity with federal law. 

Under federal law, re-evaluations are to be performed every 3 years (or sooner if requested), to determine both whether a student continues to be a child with a disability and, if so, to identify the student’s educational needs. Our Code, however, just describes the purpose of re-evaluations as “to determinate whether the student continues to be a student with a disability.” As a consequence, the Code simply does not address the requirement that the triennial re-evaluation is to be conducted to determine a student’s educational needs and does not so inform parents. Appropriate conforming amendments to the regulation should be made. 

NOTE: NJAC 6A: 14-3.7(e)2 (Individualized education program) - The Department of Education proposes changes to this part of the regulation to say that the IEP should include a statement of measurable annual academic and functional goals “related to the CCSS (the common core state standards that are replacing NJ’s core curriculum content standards).” Unfortunately, the re-wording of the regulation, intended to make it more grammatically clear and to accommodate NJ’s shift to new core standards, continues to distort the federal requirement that the IEP contain “a statement of measureable annual goals, including academic and functional goals designed to…(A) meet the child’s needs that result from [his/her] disability to enable the child to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum; and (B) meet each of the child’s other educational needs that result from the … disability. “ The “related to” language used in the NJ Code has caused endless confusion among educators, who believe that this requires inclusion in the IEP of goals from a goal bank of dozens of core content standards, rather than developing goals tied to the child’s deficits to enable him or her to access the core standards. As a consequence, this key provision of the IEP is breached in many districts in the State, and the Department has acknowledged that it has given up training districts how to comply. Rather than continue to live with a poorly drafted rule, why not rely upon the federal regulation for guidance in this area, as the Department suggests in so many other instances?