NJASA Special Education Committee Chair Beth Buoro
NJASA Committee Reviews
Special Education Code Changes
The NJASA Special Education Committee has been working on an overall goal of taking a more active role in impacting policy at the state level and developing partnerships with key New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) representatives.
Testimony was given at a New Jersey Legislature Senate Education Committee meeting last summer with regard to the Special Education Committee’s work. This meeting was attended by a wide range of stakeholders representing public and private special education schools, and parent advocacy groups.The Committee was pleased to have Dr. Peggy McDonald, NJDOE Director, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) attend its January 8th meeting this year. Dr. McDonald provided a comprehensive update on initiatives coming out of the OSEP in the following areas:
· Achieve NJ and scoring parameters for special education teachers
· Professional development (co-teaching, consultation models, general behavior strategies, and functional behavioral assessment/FBA)
· Alignment of OSEP resources with Regional Achievement Centers
· Legal assistance from OSEP
· Least restrictive environment as an area of emphasisThe Committee submitted a response to the New Jersey State Board of Education regarding the recommended code changes to Chapter 14/special education, indicating agreement with the following recommendations:
N.J.A.C. 6A:14-2.9 Student Records – copyrighted documents
N.J.A.C. 6A:14-3.5 Determination of eligibility for special education and related services – provision of evaluation reports to parents five days prior to a meeting.
N.J.A.C. 6A:14-3.6 Determination of eligibility for speech-language services – provision of evaluation reports to parents five days prior to a meeting.
N.J.A.C. 6A:14-3.8 Re-evaluation – extending the timeline from 60 days to 90 days
N.J.A.C. 6A:14-4.1 General Requirements – repealing the requirement for job descriptions for classroom aides to be approved by the Department’s county offices
N.J.A.C. 6A:14-4.7 Program criteria – change class age range at the elementary level from three to four years
N.J.A.C. 6A:14-4.9 Exceptions – setting a best-interest standard for exceptions to age ranges and group sizes, and replacing the current time period to allow more flexibility. However, the statement regarding demonstration that the setting for the student is age appropriate should also address functional appropriateness.The Committee response indicated disagreement with the following recommendations:
N.J.A.C. 6A:14-3.2 Case Manager
Allowing districts to assign teachers to serve as case managers would have negative impact on the relationships between families and schools. Teachers do not possess the necessary levels of expertise or time in their daily schedule to effectively perform this crucial role. Case managers are able to serve as a liaison between the parents and the teacher/school, and develop positive relationships with families. Often times, potential costly due process proceedings are avoided through informal mediation between parents and case managers. Additionally, due to the potential for a conflict of interest, the case manager assigned should not be in a supervisory role in the district, unless the individual is serving in a dual capacity as a member of the team (i.e. Supervisor/LDTC, Supervisor/Social Worker).
N.J.A.C. 6A:14-7.6 Provision of Programs
Removing the requirement that all personnel serving students with disabilities in approved private schools for students with disabilities be highly qualified would have a negative impact on services to students. Students with disabilities in New Jersey, whether placed in public or private schools, have the right to be taught by instructors who meet the state’s requirement as highly qualified. Private schools should not operate under a separate set of standards with regard to teacher qualifications.
The members are to be commended for their participation and hard work. Through their efforts, NJASA has been afforded additional opportunities to dialog with Department of Education representatives, and provide input on pertinent issues related to special education. Feel free to contact NJASA Special Education Committee Chair Beth Buoro though NJASA if you have any questions or suggestions for future committee work.