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Moving Up! the Process of Exiting a Student From Special Education

Dean Traylor splits his time being a special education teacher and a freelance writer.

IEP and the data it provides often help special educators make the decision to exit a student from special education services

IEP and the data it provides often help special educators make the decision to exit a student from special education services

A Life-Changing Meeting

The last days of the school year is fast approaching. Yet, a special meeting for Edwin and his mother has been scheduled by the case-carrier. This meeting is extremely important; one of the most important events in Edwin's entire educational career. It's an individual education program (IEP) meeting, in which the his educational goals, growth, and other services will be reviewed, discussed, and rewritten for the upcoming year. However, this IEP will different; it will be his last, ever.

Reports from the teachers, assessments from the school psychologists, and other information gathered by the case-carrier (including the latest report card and standardized test results) indicate that Edwin no longer needs special education services. This time, all members of the IEP team, are ready to "exit" him from these services.

Another way is that the student has fulfilled a school district's or state mandate for graduation from high school.

To “exit” a student means to dismiss a him or her from special education services. The process is similar to a typical IEP; however, the outcome is different. And, it is often met with adulation from everyone involved in the meeting, including the student and his family.

Qualification for an exit from special education services occurs in the following manner:

  • The IEP team agrees special education is unwarranted.
  • the student's parents request termination of services;
  • diagnostics and standardized tests conducted by teachers, school psychologists, and other professionals within the educational or medical field determine the student is at appropriate grade level in certain skills; or
  • The learning disability no longer has a major effect on his/her academics.

In addition, there’s another way to exit a student. A student may go through his or her entire school career with special education services. However, when the student is about to graduate with a diploma, an exit IEP can be conducted during the final months of the senior year. In fact, there is a portion of an IEP exclusively for this. It is known as the post-secondary plan.

Post-secondary Plan

This process terminates the service offered by the school district. It doesn't change the student's designation as a student with a learning disorder. All it means is that he/she completed his/her high school requirements and is ready for graduation. In a situation like this, two more pages on the student's regular IEP will be added to it.

This exit IEP is critical for several reasons. The document can be used by the student to:

  • To take to a post-secondary institution such as a community college or university; or
  • To be used as a document to obtain services offered through the department of rehabilitation’s various work-training programs (especially with programs such as Workability and Transition Partnership Program, which are coordinated by DoR and the student’s school district’s special education program).

To note, if the students will be retested and given new plans. The exit IEP is an indication that one program has been completed and that the student is ready for the next.

These particular exit IEPs will contain pages (usually labeled as Post-secondary plan), which will list the reasons for exiting the student as well as the form of accommodation/modifications that were used to get the student to this point.

In addition, it will ask for personal information from the students such as the student’s modes of contact. This may include:

  • Cell-phone or home phone number;
  • Email address; or
  • Facebook or Twitter account address
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At least one of these modes are needed. If the student wants to add the other they have the option of doing so (most students will use their cell-phone number or email address).

Part of a National Law on Special Education

The article presented is based on California's special education system. Laws may differ from state to state.

Still, the need for mainstreaming and ultimately exiting a student from special education is an important part the national Individual with Disability Education Act (IDEA).

Just one sign a student may not need special education services

Just one sign a student may not need special education services

For more information it is important to obtain it from your state's department of education.

Also, special education laws and terminology may differ between nations. Again, it is critical to check with your state or country's department (ministry) of education.

Who Gets Exited?

Exiting can happen at any time in a special education student’s academic career; however, the process on average occurs more frequently during the high school years.

The student most likely to be exited are those with mild learning disabilities. Every so often, those with Asperger Syndrome will be go through this. Also, a student that has performed well in academics after being mainstreamed will be a likely candidate.

Additionally, The student will have a particular designation (based on the school district). A Resource student (RSP) tends to be headed in this direction. Any student with this designation may spend only 50% or less time of the school day in a special education setting. Also he/she will most likely be mainstreamed.

Exiting a Student

Again, the reasons may vary. A student may have adapted to their conditions and found new learning modes. Or, in rare cases he/she may have "outgrown" the disability. Physical maturity or therapy may have eliminated the source of the problem. Surprisingly, this is not uncommon.

The process of exiting will differ, in accordance to policies enacted by state education department, school district, or special education district (SELPA).

The latter district system often combines several school district's special education programs under its umbrella. Often, it helps to unite these programs by implementing the same educational and procedural policies such as the way IEPs are conducted, and the criteria for those who qualify for special education services.

Moreover, SELPA establishes the protocol for exiting the students by adhering to the laws imposed by IDEA.

Usually, a student being exited has been identified as someone who doesn't qualify for educational service. Usually the most critical determining factor is the assessment made by the school psychologist and/or case-carrier who have officially assessed him/her.

In other cases the team will take a "wait-and-see" approach. They monitor the student for several months to see how he/she progresses.

The assessments are done every three years and culminates in a meeting known as the triennial. The proctor (the school psychologist in most cases) will assess the student in several areas including reading comprehension, written expression, and math. Also, the proctor will use at least three assessment tools (in accordance to the law imposed by IDEA) before making a final decision. That decision will be placed in a report called a psychological report (known as the psych report in special education circles).

After the assessment, and an issuance of the report, a meeting is held in which the team discuss the student's academic growth. Sometimes, the excusal is agreed upon, if there is compelling evidence that this action is appropriate.

In other cases the team will take a "wait-and-see" approach. They monitor the student for several months to see how he/she progresses. The latter will be imposed if the student is about to take a standardized state exam (such as an exit exam). This merely adds more data for the final decision to exit the student.

In Edwin's case, it was combination of state standard tests results, accompanied by the psych report. She assessed academics, auditory, visual, visual and cognitive skills to determine his eligibility for special education services. In his case, the team determined through these battery of assessments that he did not qualify for special education services anymore.

Final Approval

It doesn’t matter how much information or evidence is given . His/her parents make the final decision. Usually parents will agree with the findings and request the exit. In some cases, the parent may feel that the student will still need services. This is often a rarity and in most cases, the special educator (whether it's an administrator or case-carrier) will persuade the parents that exiting is the right thing to do.

Understandably, most parents want to have the evidence to justify any move. If they can have test results, observations, grades, and other tools to measure the student’s performance, then they can feel comfortable with the decision they make.

Edwin’s parents wanted to have him exited from special education services; thus, they used the current data from teacher observations and CAHSEE test score to make the case. The other team members – including the case-carrier – also agreed with the parents.

It should be noted that an exit from an IEP is not an indication that Edwin is cured of his disorder. It merely means that the impact of his condition has been drastically reduced and is longer a hindrance to his academic performance.

Still, Edwin's future has just opened up. He doesn't have a label that may hinder him in the future. His capabilities know no boundaries, despite the deficiencies he had. The exit IEP was the right choice.

Exit IEP can open doors to new possibilities and opportunities.

Exit IEP can open doors to new possibilities and opportunities.

Work Cited

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Dean Traylor

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