NASP Member Exchange

1.  Managing Initial Timelines

Posted 9 days ago
As we approach a new school year, I am looking ahead to the hustle of the spring months. For those psychologists working a 10 month contract, how do you manage the influx of initial referrals in the spring when there is not enough time left to complete them? Do you have a deadline for initial referral requests to be completed during the current school year? Do you contract during the summer months? Do you roll those requests over to the fall and obtain consent when the new year begins? I would like to be proactive and approach the spring semester with a more solid plan than I have had in the past. Thank you in advance for your input!

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Jaclyn Browning NCSP
School Psychologist
Colquitt County Board of Education
Moultrie GA
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2.  RE: Managing Initial Timelines

Posted 9 days ago
Jaclyn,

You cannot tell teachers not to refer or categorically have a deadline for referrals. That is illegal. You cannot categorically bump late evals to the fall. That would exceed the 60 day timeline.

This problem tends to be systemic and organizational. Solid solutions are probably out of your hands, but good advocacy is not. Many late in the year referrals are due to teachers who have been working with their kids all year and get concerned as the year end closes in that the kid is not making the progress they would have liked. There are variations in how this works for different teachers. Many will share that the kid has done as well as they have done because of the instructional focus and accommodations that the teacher has made, but they suddenly realize that the year is ending, the kid is not making adequate progress, and needs to be referred. Some of these teachers are concerned that the next teacher will not/may not do the same. Or that resources that were available to them (classroom para) may not be available in the child's class next year. Some teachers are concerned that the next teacher, especially if it is a transition year, say to Middle School, will be judgmental of them that they did not refer this kid.

The reality, which you obviously know, is that most teachers should know by March or early April, at the latest (earlier in GA as I think you have earlier start and end dates than we do in the frozen north) that a kid needs to be referred. As a member of the team that handles referrals, you can raise the concern of late referrals, emphasize the rationale that teachers should know and refer sooner, and encourage the team to get this message out to all teachers, with professional development on the referral process, etc., as needed. Administrators can make this a professional practice issue with teachers to support and encourage appropriate referral practices. They can enforce a soft referral deadline. But there must be flexibility to review each late referral appropriately. And there will be some, inevitably. There are the classroom surprises, midyear move-ins that become apparent later, parent referrals (these cannot be refused or delayed), late emerging problems and crises (often behavior related). All of these must be addressed in a timely way. If most teachers make more proactive and prompt referrals, this late year bubble will not be so large and overwhelming. But administrative and team support is essential.

Another important element is to get a handle on re-evals at the start of the year. Look at due dates for the year and make a plan, with your team and with case managers, for when to initiate a planning meeting so that evals are completed and meetings held within time lines. I have used a spreadsheet that takes the eval due date and has formulas to back off the 60 day eval time line, 14 day pre-eval meeting notification, etc. Looking at and developing alternative eval practices to reduce unnecessary testing (and DO needed testing in critical or new areas, as appropriate), will also help reduce the eval load and especially the late year bubble. Re-evals due in May or June can be completed in March or April. Spread out the entire load over the year, if you can.

Keep in mind that not all referrals need to result in an evaluation. I am sure you know this. But this may also be an area for team and administrative support, and PD as needed. For teachers who are understandably concerned about the transition year, whether within the school or to a new school, the kid may be better served by a transition plan that transmits what the current teacher knows to the new teacher, a pre-start or early term meeting with the new teacher, parents, others, as needed. If the kid needs to meet the new teacher and spend some time before school starts to build a comfort level, this can also be planned. Kids do not have to have an IEP or 504 for us to plan for and do what is good for the kid. Also, by taking a non-eval action now, and planing to meet in the fall, you may delay the decision for eval while responding appropriately to the referral.

As for contracting during the summer, again, this is not your decision, though it is one you can certainly encourage. If the district is understaffed, backlogs are inevitable. If the team, administration, school, are unwilling to address the problem of excessive late referrals, the district will be at risk for violating time lines. Sometimes, the summer budget is enough to motivate administrators to address the referral process and staffing shortages. If you are asked to do summer work, be sure that you are paid appropriately, comparable to your contracted year. Divide your salary by number of days in contract to determine daily rate. At minimum, this should be your rate for summer work. Be sure to include not only the eval time, but the scoring and writing time. Administrators also need to understand that a referral in late May or June that is completed within 60 days in July, is out of compliance if the meeting does not take place within 60 days of signed consent. Administrators hate paying teachers to come in for summer meetings, and scheduling these, in the face of individual summer vacation plans, is crazy making. Special ed. administrators do not like being out of compliance.

I hope this is helpful.

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Jonas Taub
School Psychologist, Mason School District
Teaching Lecturer/SpEd Director & School Psych
Plymouth State University/Mason School District
Antrim NH
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3.  RE: Managing Initial Timelines

Posted 8 days ago
​This may only apply in CA where I work, but our timelines are allowed to extend into the next school year for late referrals.  If a signed assessment plan is received within the last 31-59 days of the school year, the count stops on the last day of school & resumes on the first day.  So if the last day of school was day 59, technically you could hold the IEP on the first day of school and still be in compliance.  If the last day of school was day 58, you could hold the IEP on the second day of school, etc.  But if the signed assessment plan is received with 30 days or less in the school year, the IEP must be held within the first 30 days of the next school year school whether it was signed with 30 days or 1 day remaining in the prior school year.  Hope that makes sense & has some use!

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Tina Perdices
School Psychologist
Ross Valley School District
San Anselmo CA
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4.  RE: Managing Initial Timelines

Posted 7 days ago
Hi there,
I have thought about this as well as the evaluation team seems to get overwhelmed every Spring.
In our case, it's often for a good reason, the RTI systems are being implemented with efficacy and there are thoughtful decisions to be made.
Since so much of the assessment caseload is out of our hands, we try to be mindful of planning for the Spring crunch by scheduling any revaluations and other meetings that we know about before the Spring. I also plan to minimize non IEP interventions and other responsibilities as much as possible my moving them up on the calendar. If I can't change it, I plan for it. This seems to be the best way to face what seems to be an inevitable crunch.
Maria

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Dr. Maria Reardon
Massachusetts
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