Is it true that
when a hearing goes all the way to a final determination, the school
districts "win" more than they lose?
I just received your newsletter and enjoyed reading "Hearings
and due process in Massachusetts" by Elaine MacDonald.
I noticed, however, a significant assumption Ms. MacDonald makes in
her reasoning where she states "These stats indicate to me a couple
of things: School districts do come up with something acceptable to
most parents -- 7,401 IEP rejections result in only 618 hearing requests
which result in only 34 full hearings."
What Ms. MacDonald fails to explore in these MA-DOE statistics is:
How many families are dissatisfied with their IEP, but do not know or
understand what their recourse is? Or are just so exhausted by their
children, the status quo, or their daily lives that they don't have
the heart to do battle with a system that is stacked against them?
How many families who rejected their IEP were then advised by their
advocate or lawyer (as we were) that the law states we must prove the
district-recommended placement would prevent satisfactory access to,
or progress in the state curriculum, which is very difficult to do without
actually putting the child in the recommended placement and then waiting
for him/her to fail, thereby wasting precious years and doing untold
damage to the child?
How many families were advised by their lawyer (as we were) that we
could fill a boat with money we will never get back, and spend it fighting
the district with a very high risk of still not getting the services
our child actually needs. Or, we could take that boatload of money and
spend it on a private placement, get the child what he needs, when he
can best benefit from it (the younger/sooner the better).
Some much more interesting statistics to know would be: Of all of the
Special Education schools and programs in Massachusetts, as well as
the "regular-ed" independent schools that have special-ed
programs embedded within them, how many of the students enrolled are
being paid for by their parents? How many homeschoolers of children
with special education needs removed their children from school because
of dissatisfaction with the IEP and/or the services offered? How many
families agree to the school district's IEP, and then object to the
placement recommendation? How many agree in principle with the IEP,
only to be frustrated by the district not sticking to it's own provisions?
How many families use their time and money to pay for private tutoring,
instead of hiring a lawyer to file for a hearing and fight for services
from the public school?
Just to give you a small (anecdotal) glimpse into what the numbers could
possibly be, in my small neighborhood of about 20 houses, there are
three families (there may be more, these are just the ones that I know
of) who are paying for their children to go to The Carroll School in
Lincoln, MA, The Landmark School in Beverley, MA, and Eagle Hill Academy
in Hardwick, MA. I, myself, have two children with special education
needs whom I have chosen to homeschool out of frustration with the IEP/special
education process. Also in my town, there are two private elementary
schools, both of which have embedded special education programs for
children with language-related learning disabilities. For additional
tuition, one may apply for a seat in these programs. They are paid for
by the parents of the children attending, not by the district. Both
programs are full, with waiting lists. None of the families I know,
including mine, accepted their IEP. None of them, including mine, filed
And, none of this addresses the needs of gifted students who, technically,
are also supposed to fall under the category of Special Education. But
in Massachusetts there is no requirement to provide funding or programming
for gifted education. That population goes uncounted in the DOE statistics
because in this state they have no standing to request an IEP, much
less be counted among those who are dissatisfied with the services offered.
I believe Ms. MacDonald's simplistic conclusions drawn from the statistics
creates a misleading, inaccurately "rosey" picture of the
state of parental satisfaction with the IEP process in Massachusetts.
For a more in-depth understanding of this specific subject, please go
And, even if you may be lucky enough to craft a satisfactory IEP, for
an understanding of who may be responsible for implementing it, and
what their qualifications are, please read here: http://www.nctq.org/p/docs/nctq_reading_study_app.pdf,
as well as other articles from the National Council on Teacher Quality
This is, at best, a frustrating system. It is expensive and broken.
Our children, and therefore our society, are not being served by it.
Statements that the system is "doing something acceptable to most
parents" inhibit efforts at reform.
a Childs Fear of the Dentist
A dentists chair can be a little frightening
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cavities and dental work such as veneers later in life. Helping
your child get over or even avoid a fear of the dentist is paramount
for strong and healthy teeth as well as developing good dental habits.