- Report Published -
|Assessing the Proper Use of Child Study Committees|
|Department of Education|
|HJR 469 (Regular Session, 1993)|
|The 1993 General Assembly House Joint Resolution No. 469 requested that the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) examine the use of child study for identifying and assessing the educational needs of children with attention deficit disorders (ADD). This request was a result of concerns raised that the Child Study Committee (CSC) addresses eligibility to special education testing and placement, that the CSC was not addressing the needs of students with attention deficit disorders, and that the proposed guidelines for child study developed by the VDOE had not been finalized. This legislative study, sponsored by Delegates Shirley F. Cooper and J. Paul Councill, Jr., specifically asked the VDOE for a study that would review and revise, if necessary, the current proposed guidelines for child study. These guidelines were to define the purpose of child study and provide information and guidance to school personnel on assessing the needs of children with ADD.|
After careful review and discussion with the sponsors of this legislative study, it was agreed that it was necessary for this study to be broader and would examine the way CSCs function in Virginia. The CSC is not disability specific; it functions to assist all students having problems in school. Additionally, the study looks at how the CSC is addressing the needs of children with ADD.
After careful review and discussion with the sponsors of this legislative study, it was agreed that it was necessary for this study to be broader and would examine the way CSC's function in Virginia. The CSC is not disability specific; it functions to assist all students having problems in school. Additionally, the study looks at how the CSC is addressing the needs of children with ADD or suspected of having ADD.
To this end, an interdisciplinary team including individuals representing child study committees, regular education, special education, pupil personnel services, parents, and others interested in CSC and ADD developed and carried out the study. To complete this study, the team:
• reviewed the 1986 VDOE document, "A Proposal for Child Study in Public Schools in the Commonwealth of Virginia", and
• conducted a telephone survey of a representative sample of elementary, middle and secondary schools to determine how the Child Study Committees function across Virginia and to determine what services are provided by the CSC for students with or suspected of having ADD.
It was the consensus of the interdisciplinary team that the guiding principles for the team as it reviewed the 1986 child study document and the current functioning of the CSC in Virginia should:
• be child centered,
• address the needs of children at-risk educationally and children having problems in school,
• emphasize the child's abilities as well as educational needs,
• emphasize the child's needs, not the characteristics of a given label,
• involve parents from the beginning,
• recognize the expertise of everyone in the child's environment,
• be based on "best" practices, and
• meet all legal requirements.
After reviewing the 1986 VDOE child study document, using the above guiding principles, the team had several concerns about the process and procedures recommended in this document:
• The process and procedures presented three distinct levels, including Child Study Committee, Identification/Placement Committee (gifted students) and Special Education Eligibility Committee (students with disabilities), and External Agencies, which, while related, were presented as a three-tier approach. The student needed to go through each level, one at a time, to access the services at each level. The team believed that the CSC should meet the needs of all students and should be able to access other school and community services and programs as a part of a student's intervention plan. Thus, the team members believed that the functions and limitations of the CSC and its relationship to other school and community services and programs needed to be defined as a single level of services. This would simplify the process and allow the CSC to develop plans to meet the varying needs of individual students.
• There are CSC procedures in the document that are contrary to the current state regulations. For example, the document states that the principal or designee, upon receipt of a request for assistance and after a conference with the referring source, could terminate the process before the CSC meeting. Also contrary to state regulations, the CSC during its meeting could assign a committee member or other school personnel to conduct educational assessments for CSC to consider at another scheduled meeting of the CSC. The CSC assessments, as described in the document, would assist the committee in several ways including the determination that the CSC suspects or does not suspect a disability. This function is tantamount to determining whether or not a student has a disability which is not the function of the CSC. This is a function, under state and federal law, of the school's Special Education Eligibility Committee.
• The procedures are cumbersome. There were two separate procedures for requesting assistance of the CSC: one if the referring source was a teacher, and another if the referring source was a parent. Yet, there was no recommended procedure if the referring source was someone else other than the student's parent or the student's teacher. Anyone can make a request for assistance to the CSC including the student. The team believed that there needed to be a single process for requesting assistance of the CSC regardless of the referring source.
• The procedures seemed to imply that the CSC must try several interventions before the CSC could refer a student for other programs and services, including a referral for evaluation to determine eligibility for special education and related services. This could result in a delay of several months before a student suspected of having a disability is referred for evaluation.
However, on the positive side, the document did provide procedures for gathering information after a request for assistance was made and before the CSC meeting was held that were useful. This included the review of the student's current educational records, interviews with the parent and, if appropriate, the student, which the team believed should be incorporated into any final CSC guidelines.
A telephone survey of 150 elementary, middle and secondary schools was conducted by team members in order to determine how the CSCs function across Virginia and to determine what services are provided by the CSC for students with or suspected of having ADD. Responses were received from 148 schools, a 98.7% response rate. Approximately 75% of the respondents described the function of the CSC as being a problem-solving committee to address the individual needs of a child and that the esc should review the strengths and weaknesses of the child as it determined ways to address the child's needs. Approximately 77% of the respondents indicated that they invited parents to attend the CSC meeting. However, only 47% reported a parental participation rate greater than 50% at the meetings held. Additionally, about 75% of the respondents saw the CSC as a general education function as compared to a special education function while 18% felt it was a function of both. Thus, about 93% of the respondents see the CSC as being a regular education function. It should be noted that currently the CSC is regulated by § 3.2, C. 3. - 5. of Virginia's special education regulations. Thus, the CSC should be defined and regulated by the state's general education regulations.
The importance of the CSC in developing an intervention plan to address the problem(s) of the child was supported; approximately 87% of the respondents noted that their CSC develops intervention plans to be implemented by school personnel. Yet, about one third of the respondents noted that they develop an intervention plan for less than 50% of the students referred to the CSC while approximately 45% of the respondents noted that they develop a plan for 90%-100% of the students referred to the CSC. If an intervention plan was developed, about 83% were reviewed by the CSC on a regular basis to determine the results of the intervention plan. These reviews occurred on the average of three to four weeks after the intervention plan had been developed and implemented.
Approximately 76% of the respondents noted that they have had students with a diagnosis of ADD referred to their CSC. Also, about 74% of the respondents believed that students with a diagnosis of ADD should be referred to the CSC. However, only 62% of the respondents indicated that they would develop an intervention plan for these students who were not eligible for services under IDEA or qualified for services under Section 504. These intervention plans were developed, for the most part, by the CSC.
Approximately 95% of the respondents noted that the CSC had received referrals of students suspected of having ADD and approximately 7% of these respondents noted that the CSC could determine if the student has ADD. When asked, "If the CSC suspects that a child has ADD, what does the committee do and/or recommend?" Approximately 38% of the respondents reported that they develop and implement interventions; 55% referred the parent to a doctor, a pediatrician, or a clinic to determine if the student had ADD (usually at parental expense); 26% did some type of screening that may include rating scales (e.g. Conners), educational, and psychological screening; and about 36% recommended referral for full evaluation for special education and related services.
Finally, approximately 71% of the respondents reported that the CSC conducted assessments and/or screenings for the CSC members to consider. The type of assessments and/or screening reported included educational screenings and/or assessments, rating scales, psychological screenings and/or assessments, speech/language screenings, PT/OT screenings, formal and informal reading assessments, and screenings of learning disabilities. Respondents also reported that they used record reviews, student progress reports, curriculum-based assessments, and teacher reports as screening instruments. The purpose of these screenings and assessments as described by the respondents was to make a diagnosis (11%), to develop an intervention plan (37%), to screen before making a referral for special education and related services (35%), to rule in or out a disability (10%), and to define the child problems (28%).
Based on a review of the comments from both the review by the team of the document, "A Proposal for Child Study in Public Schools in the Commonwealth of Virginia," and the responses from the survey, the team believed that there was confusion around the Commonwealth about the proper role of the CSC. The team also was concerned that responses to the telephone survey indicated that some CSCs were violating state and federal special education laws. Therefore, the team decided to rewrite the VDOE's child study document and incorporate the procedures for gathering information after a request for assistance has been made and before the CSC meeting. The new document, "Procedures For Child Study Committees Operating In Virginia," clearly defines the purpose of the CSC and provides guidelines for the way this committee should function.
This new document conceptualizes the CSC as a school-wide committee to address the needs of all students. The committee is child-centered and facilitates a process that results in the implementation of accommodations, services and interventions that will enable the child to be successful in school. The options to be considered exist along a wide continuum of support. Also, children may be referred to the CSC through a variety of sources but the charge to the committee and the process to be followed is a consistent one, regardless of the referral source. Simply stated, when a child is referred to the CSC, the committee has the responsibility to review any problems (academic/developmental, behavioral, social, emotional) interfering with the child's performance in school, to brainstorm solutions, to make recommendations to meet the child's needs, and to monitor/review the results of the recommendations.
The revised document clarifies the functions and limitations of the CSC and describes its relationship to other existing programs and services that include: Chapter 1 Programs, Chapter 2 Programs, Family Assessment and Planning Teams, Gifted Education Programs, Programs for Persons At-Risk, Special Education and Related Services Under IDEA and Section 504, Student Assistance Programs, Teacher Assistance Teams, and other programs. The procedures recommend that:
• a request for assistance, regardless of the referring sources, is handled one way; that there is only one request for assistance form;
• the CSC, as a part of the student's intervention plan, may access other school and/or community services and/or programs; and
• the CSC may not conduct its own evaluations and/or screenings to make the determination of whether or not a child has a suspected disability.
The document also notes that the CSC is not a required step in order for a student to access school and/or community services and/or programs. However, the use of the CSC is recommended. Finally, the document addresses the issue of student records and confidentiality relative to the functions of the CSC.
Six recommendations are made as a result of this study:
1. The Department of Education should recommend to the Board of Education that the Standards of Accreditation be amended to include the Child Study Committee as defined in Virginia's proposed special education regulations, "Regulations Governing Special Education Programs for Children with Disabilities in Virginia", January 1994.
2. The Department of Education should adopt and distribute the 1993 CSC document, "Procedures For Child Study Committees Operating In Virginia”, to all public schools, institutions of higher education with teacher training programs, parent resource centers, and other interested parties.
3. The Department of Education should develop an in-service and pre-service training program on CSC to enhance the document, "Procedures For Child Study Committees Operating In Virginia", and make this training package available to all public schools, institutions of higher education with teacher training programs, parent resource centers, and other interested parties.
4. The Department of Education should consider pilot sites to implement the procedures for CSC as defined in "Procedures For Child Study Committees Operating In Virginia". This will allow the Department the opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of these procedures and revise them if needed.
5. The Department of Education should clarify through a Superintendent's Memo that the CSC may not conduct its own evaluations and/or screenings to make the determination of whether or not a child has a suspected disability. Rather, the CSC should review the existing performance evidence to make that determination. The memo should also stress that the CSC cannot request parents to have their child evaluated at their own expense if the CSC suspects a disability, including ADD. In addition, the CSC may not identify a disability. These are issues that may only be addressed through the evaluation process following the referral to the administrator of special education.
6. The Department of Education design and conduct research to increase understanding about the involvement of parents in the CSC process and the development and use of intervention plans.
Finally, since the sponsors of this study agreed that it needed to be broader than the original proposal and examine the way CSC's function in Virginia, there are no recommendations made relative to the identification and provision of services to students with ADD/ADHD only. However, the procedures delineated in the new CSC document, Appendix H, will provide guidance to schools in Virginia in identifying and addressing the needs of these students as well as other students having problems in school. Additionally, the VDOE is in the process of developing a pre-service and in-service training program on ADD/ADHD that will be completed in 1994. It will consist of eight video training modules with written materials and will be distributed to all school divisions, institutions of higher education with teacher training programs, and parent resource centers.