NYC Parents: Top Ten Ways to Protect IEP Services in Blended and Remote Learning

Jenn Choi
6 min readSep 16, 2020
Advocating for your student with an IEP will be harder than ever this year. photo: Jenn Choi

By Jenn Choi, Amber Decker, & Rachel Ford of Special Support Services

Public school parents across New York City are inundated with fast-changing and confusing information. This is especially true for parents of students with disabilities who have IEPs. While your child’s school may be well-meaning, many decisions are made beyond their control. Thus, it’s hard for you to know exactly what’s going on and worse, compliance with your child’s IEP seems to be at best, debatable.

To guide you during this difficult time, we have created a TO-DO List for you so that you can protect your child’s access to education during this process as much as possible. To be sure, this is not legal advice, however we want you to use this information to assess your child’s current services and prepare to evaluate those services while we wait for the cloud of confusion to clear.

  1. First things first: Do not fear your child’s school principal or teachers. In many cases, your concerns and complaints will support the good work they are trying to do behind the scenes. They just can’t reach out to you to help them because the system is not set up this way.
  2. Second things second: Get everything you can in writing. Ask your questions via email. If you receive your answers via phone, write an email a summary of your conversation to the school official who gave this information to you and ask them to confirm receipt of your email. Do not stop until they confirm. It is okay. You are not asking for something extraordinary.
  3. As soon as possible, ask for the name (including the spelling) of your child’s teachers (keep in mind that your child will usually have more than one teacher). Then go to this website and look up the certification of that teacher. http://eservices.nysed.gov/teach/certhelp/CpPersonSearchExternal.do What you want to ensure is that the teacher is licensed to provide special education.
  4. If your child has ICT (Integrated Co-Teaching) services on their IEP, know this: no matter what you have been told, your child is entitled to a special ed teacher as well as a separate general education teacher during the subject named in the IEP at all times, in-person, fully remote, hybrid (aka blended)- remote, synchronous, asynchronous. When you are hearing that there is a “third teacher” for hybrid learners on remote days, you must find out if your child has no access or instruction from their in-person co-teaching pair whom they see when they are receiving instruction in the school building. If that is the case, you should be questioning how much your child is actually receiving ICT services.
  5. Ask about the class sizes for your child, especially for remote days of blended learning. Fully remote classes have a maximum capacity of 18 students for preK; 32 for kindergarten; 32 for grades 1–6; 33 for non Title 1 middle schools and 30 in Title 1 middle schools; 34 for high school — even if the class has ICT or is part of a specialized program with class size cap guidelines. Remote classes for blended learners can be DOUBLE of maximum capacity, so for example, for middle school, there could be as many as 66 students participating in one remote class as part of blended learning. (Update 11/24/2020: ICT classes can not double in size. See this link) You should also ask how many students with ICT are in this class. The maximum is 12.
  6. Special Education bussing notification has changed. You will no longer receive a yellow envelope with route information. Instead check your account on https://mystudent.nyc/ and click the Transportation button to find your child’s route information. Additionally, two new emails are at your disposal; BusingExceptions@schools.nyc.gov for Special populations which include Students with Disabilities, in Temporary Housing, in Foster Care, or with Medical/Health conditions. The “Exceptions” include [Street] Hazards, Joint custody, Orders of protection and similar.
    EarlyChildhoodBusing@schools.nyc.gov for Early Intervention & preschool-related questions. We suggest that if asked, do not remove bussing from your child’s IEP even if your child is fully remote for now. Putting it back on the IEP may be difficult and effecting the change will be time-consuming.
  7. No doubt, being a special education teacher in 2020 is incredibly challenging. Think like this: Our home is now part of your child’s teacher’s workspace. Work collaboratively with them as much as possible to inform them of how your child is doing (be their eyes) and extend their reach to your child in your home. Offer wall space to hang up something important. Offer timed reminders (maybe even Alexa) to help them prompt your child. Offer ways to get in touch with you quickly, cell phone texting, installing Google Hangouts on your phone with instant notifications. Your offer is not an expectation, it’s just an idea that may help. Of course, keep a log of your interventions to share at the next IEP meeting.
  8. Stay tuned to NYC educational news reports and read what is on the NYCDOE Special Education in Blended and Remote Settings webpage and check it periodically. For now, there are no notes to indicate that something has changed. It’s good to go to this page after you are hearing things from other parents or from social media. Even just last night, the DOE has said that blended students on remote days do not have to have live instruction. https://www.schools.nyc.gov/learning/special-education/special-education-in-blended-and-remote-settings
  9. Another great resource can be found at IncludeNYC in which NYC DOE guidance documents about ICT, SETSS, Related Services and more are available to parents to read. Look for updates from September 8, 2020. Read about the PAD- Programs Adaptations Document which replaces the Remote Learning Plans from Spring of 2020. See sample here. https://www.includenyc.org/content/includenycs-response-to-covid-19
  10. Now, to really be the best advocate for your child: Get a calendar and keep a log — paper or electronic. Here is a sample
    Commit to filling it out once a day, twice a week, keep it regular, especially during the first two months. This will be very helpful information to you when it comes time to talk about the IEP or about your child’s PAD. Of equal importance, should you need to pursue make-up or compensatory services or more services on your IEP or via an impartial hearing, you will have the data to support your claims.

Did my child have their related services today, speech, OT, counseling?
How long was the service?
Did my child have SETSS as per their IEP today? How long was the service? What did they do?
Did my child have ICT today? Was it synchronous or not? Jot this down just for your own understanding so that you can connect that to your child’s performance (like a science experiment)
How is my child doing with asynchronous instruction and homework? What does that look like usually?
What kind of help if any, is necessary for your child? List the ways that you had to help.
What happens if you don’t help? If you talked to the teacher about this, what were you advised? How did that work?

If you run into problems: Consider writing an email with a concise description of the problem and possible solutions to your principal, your superintendent, or call P311 — (718) 935–2200, complain and then receive your ticket number. You can also email: specialeducation@schools.nyc.gov, the NYCDOE Special Education Office inbox designed to receive inquiries from parents in need of assistance. During this unstable time, we suggest you keep reaching out to them until you get your inquiry resolved.

BONUS TIP: if you really want to go to the next level: Consider writing your report card for your child’s IEP. Pretend you are giving the NYC DOE a report card for their IEP performance for your child. You may laugh but that is a serious proposition for a parent. To do it right, you must read your child’s IEP and see if that is being followed. This includes the management needs and attempts that you can see of them trying to help your child meet their goals. It’s even more possible as your child has some remote instruction if not all. You are able to go into their drive, see their work, see how instruction is being provided to your child.

To teachers who are reading this, if you agree, please share on Facebook and Twitter. Parents want to know how to support you!

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Jenn Choi

Special Education Advocate at @go3snyc supporting families navigate the special education process, AT coach, http://specialsupportservices.com