Charter All Schools, FAPE ≠ IEP ≠ 504 ≠ FAPE
One of our recent blog readers is confused about the difference between federal laws protecting the rights of students in public schools. It is important that school leaders and parents in the charter community understand the difference, or they may apply the wrong standards to assessments, learning plans, and programming decisions. This can lead to frustration and conflicting expectations.
Here’s a very brief rundown.
FAPE is a Free Appropriate Public Education. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Educational Act (IDEA) (which is the legislation that proscribes IEP’s) a FAPE is an education that provides benefit. While the benefit must be more than minimal, it need not be optimal. The school is responsible to provide a program that helps the learner progress, but it doesn’t have to deliver the very best program possible.
An IEP is an Individualized Education Plan. If a student has a learning disability (which may be emotional, cognitive, or language-based) then the IDEA specifies the assessments, process, some programming, meeting schedules, and procedures for school disciplines. One of the keys to establishing and implementing an IEP is using the proper assessment in the proper way. For example, the Behavioral Assessment Scale for Children (BASC) has three scales, but a trained school psychologist will vary the number of scales administered depending on whether the reported condition is a learning disability or an emotional disability.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act is concerned with discrimination. This law does not proscribe particular plans, meetings, schedules, or outcomes. All §504 requires is that the school not discriminate. The 504 guidance is mostly concerned with physiological conditions such as impairments, disease, and other handicapping conditions.
Which brings us back to FAPE. Unlike under the IDEA, under §504, a FAPE is an education that is equivalent to that provided to a student without a disability. In some ways, this is a higher standard than the IEP, but it is not nearly as proscriptive.
This is the briefest of overviews, which is why I appreciate so much working with great resource teachers, speech pathologists, and school psychologists. I have condensed some information about basic special education into a presentation for second career administrators who enter the charter world from a non-education career.
You can review the presentation at: http://is.gd/xZLr