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Chicago Public Schools has issued unworkable and harmful guidance on special education during remote learning.

With less than ten weeks of school to go, CPS has instructed teachers, clinicians and parents to hold more than 50,000 meetings to create “remote learning plans.”

That’s right—50,000. What do we prioritize? When do we find the time to meet with parents? When do we actually teach?

This is a near-impossible task which will only over-burden our case managers. We also fear this will reduce student services as educators throughout the entire district scramble to re-convene IEP meetings. Special education teachers should not have to choose between teaching students and creating remote learning plans.

Case managers will be required, along with IEP teams, to reopen, review and reassess the terms of the IEP for each student in the school. Once completed, they will continue to schedule another set of IEP meetings to address what our special education teachers, clinicians and Itinerant teachers need to be working on with their students.

Once again, CPS is late to the party. The district continues to create documents without the input of those who are making remote learning work.

During the Remote Learning Plan meeting:

  • The IEP team, including the parent/guardian, will discuss and determine the specialized instruction area(s) and/or related services that will be provided for the student during remote learning.
  • The IEP team, including the parent/guardian, will discuss and determine the required accommodations/modifications, measurable annual goal(s) that will be addressed during the remote learning period, frequency and personnel responsible.

The guidance was issued without reaching an agreement with our union, and we are exploring options to challenge the Board, including filing a district-wide grievance and a complaint with the Illinois State Board of Education.

CPS is already out of state compliance for denying services to special needs students. Students with IEPs still do not have Internet access or devices, and our members have already been very hard at work—often working very long hours per day—to provide specialized services for their students despite the lack of guidance from CPS Office of Diverse Learner Supports and Services.

The school district also has a terrible history on this issue.

Instead of listening to CTU educators, CPS has added bureaucratic requirements that we do not have enough time or staff to fulfill. The Board also attempted to force members to complete all evaluations using remote methods, regardless of whether these methods provided necessary information to sufficiently complete evaluations. With pushback, however, we were able to convince the Board to follow State Board of Ed recommendations that if any evaluation required face-to-face assessment, or if the remote evaluation or re-evaluation is inappropriate, it should be postponed until school reopens.

What you should do

We understand that members are feeling overwhelmed by requests that are coming in quickly. We are advising them to make reasonable efforts to comply, but teachers should not skip delivering needed instruction to students in order to convene meetings.

Teachers and clinicians should also not be expected to work around-the-clock to comply with this misguided direction. Teachers should courteously email their supervisors to ask how they are to prioritize their already-existing workload against the new requirement to write RLPs.

Here is a draft template response for members who are unreasonably asked by school administrators to participate in IEP meetings:

I am in receipt of your request to schedule an IEP meeting on May 5, 2020. Conducting the meeting at that time conflicts with the Remote Learning Plan terms agreed to between CPS and the CTU. It will be impossible for me to participate in this meeting due to personal and family obligations in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic, and my obligations to complete my other job duties. I am requesting that the school administration provide the support necessary to complete this meeting, either through the assignment of additional special education staff and/or rescheduling the meeting to another time that complies with the terms of the Remote Learning Plan.

We will forcefully defend any member who is pressured to comply with this needless guidance.