Student v. North Reading Public Schools – BSEA # 08-4427
COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS
SPECIAL EDUCATION APPEALS
Student v. North Reading Public Schools
This decision is issued pursuant to M.G.L. c. 71B and 30A, 20 U.S.C. § 1401 et seq., 29 U.S.C. § 794, and the regulations promulgated under said statutes.
A hearing was held on June 17 and June 18, 2008 at the Bureau of Special Education Appeals before Catherine M. Putney-Yaceshyn, Hearing Officer.
Parents requested a hearing on February 4, 2008 and the hearing was scheduled to occur on March 10, 2008. There was a telephone conference call on March 5, 2008 and a pre-hearing conference on April 8, 2008. There was a telephone conference call on May 8, 2008. The hearing was held on June 17 and 18, 2008 at the Bureau of Special Education Appeals. The Parties requested a postponement of the closing of the record to submit written closing arguments and the hearing officer allowed the postponement and set a deadline of June 27, 2008 for the submission of closing arguments. The Parties submitted their closing arguments on June 27, 2008, and the record closed at that time1 .
Those present for all or part of the Hearing were:
Karl Pulkkinen Public School Liaison Landmark School
Ann Helmus2 Neuropsychologist for the Parents
Christine D’Anjou Director of Pupil Personnel Services, North Reading Public School
Kelly Miskis Special education teacher, North Reading Public Schools
Bernadette Ruth Reading Instructor, North Reading Public Schools
Susan Mavrinac Speech and Language Therapist, North Reading Public Schools
Thomas J. Nuttall Attorney for North Reading Public Schools
Catherine M. Putney-Yaceshyn Hearing Officer
The official record of this hearing consists of Parents’ exhibits marked P-1 through P-85, North Reading Public Schools’ exhibits marked S-1 through S-37, and approximately nine hours of recorded oral testimony.
1. Whether the IEP proposed by the North Reading Public Schools for the 2006-2007 school year was reasonably calculated to provide Student with a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment.
2. If not, whether Parents are entitled to reimbursement for the costs associated with their unilateral placement of Student at the Landmark School for the 2006-2007 school year.
3. Whether the IEP proposed by the North Reading Public Schools for the 2007-2008 school year was reasonably calculated to provide Student with a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment.
4. If not, whether Parents are entitled to reimbursement for the costs associated with their unilateral placement of Student at the Landmark School for 2007-2008 school year.
SUMMARY OF THE EVIDENCE
1. The student (hereinafter, “Student”) is a fourteen-year-old student who resides in North Reading and has attended the Landmark School in Manchester, Massachusetts since September 2006 pursuant to a unilateral, parentally financed placement. She is described as a friendly, hardworking student who is well liked by her peers. She has been diagnosed with a language-based learning disability. Additionally, she was diagnosed with complicated migraines that resulted in some seizure like symptoms and headaches. (S-4, P-78)
2. Student moved from Medford to North Reading in June 2005. Mother sent a letter to Christine D’Anjou, Director of Pupil Services for the North Reading Public Schools, dated June 21, 2005 and received by the North Reading Public Schools June 22, 2005. In her letter she informed Ms. D’Anjou that Student would be moving to North Reading on June 25, 2005 and she described Student’s language-based learning disability. Additionally, Mother informed Ms. D’Anjou that Student was scheduled to begin the summer program at the Landmark School on July 5, 2005 and requesting that North Reading fund said summer program if it was unable to meet Student’s needs in-district. (S-29) Ms. D’Anjou sent Mother a letter dated July 1, 2005 following a telephone conversation they had on June 30, 2005. Ms. D’Anjou reiterated that Mother had enrolled Student in the district on June 30 and acknowledged Mother’s decision to privately place Student at the Landmark School. She reminded Mother that although North Reading had only received notice of Student’s moving to the district on June 23, North Reading was prepared to provide Student with the extended school year services outlined on the IEP that had been prepared by her prior district. Additionally, she informed Mother that North Reading would contact her to schedule a meeting in approximately three weeks to write an IEP for Student. (S-28)
3. Student arrived in North Reading with a Medford Public Schools IEP that had been accepted on June 20, 2005. The IEP required a substantially separate classroom and section C of the service delivery grid included direct services in Speech/Language 2 x 30 minutes per week; Reading with a tutor 5 x 60 minutes per week; English/Language Arts 5 x 46 minutes per week; Social Studies 5 x 46 minutes per week; Math 5 x 46 minutes per week, and Science 5 x 46 minutes per week. The IEP also provided for extended school year services consisting of ninety hours of instruction over a six to eight week period. (P-42, S-30)
4. The North Reading Team convened on August 23, 20053 . The Team proposed an IEP to run from September 1, 2005 through September 1, 2006 which fully incorporated Student’s fully accepted Medford IEP. The Narrative Description of School District Proposal indicated that the district believed that Student’s needs could be met in the North Reading Middle School’s language-based co-taught general/special education program, but were not recommending a change in placement because they lacked sufficient current information. North Reading proposed providing Student’s services in the previously accepted program within the Medford Public Schools. Mother was also informed of the availability of other substantially separate language-based programs in Lynnfield, Reading and Wilmington that she could observe. North Reading also encouraged Mother to visit North Reading’s less restrictive language-based program. Mother accepted the IEP on November 25, 2005. (S-25) Student attended the Andrews Middle School in Medford for the 2005-2006 school year. (Mother, D’Anjou)
5. Ann Helmus, Ph.D., has been a pediatric neuropsychologist for seventeen years. She first evaluated Student at Mother’s request when Student was in second grade and has evaluated or consulted to Mother regarding Student each year since. She conducted a “Neuropsychological Consultation” on March 24, 2006, Student’s sixth grade year. She assessed Student using the Wechsler Individual Achievement Tests- 2d edition (WIAT-2), the Gray Oral Reading Test-4 th edition (GORT-4), the Gray Silent Reading Test, and the Elision subtest of the Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing (CTOPP). She noted that Student and Mother reported that Student had not struggled with anxiety that year as she had in the past. Dr. Helmus observed that Student appeared less anxious than at any time that she had seen her in the past. Dr. Helmus reported that Student showed strong gains in her single word reading skills scoring a standard score of 86 in contrast to her January 2005 score of 79. Student’s Pseudoword Decoding was solidly in the average range. Her math calculation skills remained in the low average range as did her math reasoning score. Her spelling continued to be well below average and showed slow growth since Student’s prior testing. Student’s written expression was better than it had been the prior year. However, it contained frequent spelling errors and was, in Dr. Helmus’ opinion, below grade level expectation. Student made significant gains in her rate of oral reading and demonstrated much better accuracy in her oral passage reading. Student’s reading comprehension as assessed by the GORT-4 was in the average range which represented significant improvement since her prior testing. Student’s comprehension of silently read passages improved significantly, but remained below grade level. Student’s score on the Elision portion of the CTOPP improved significantly from a scaled score of 5 to a scaled score of 11. Dr. Helmus attributed the improvement to the intensive instruction Student received using a phonetically based reading curriculum. (P-65, S-16)
Dr. Helmus concluded that Student had made more substantial progress during the 2005-2006 school year (while she was in Medford) than she had seen in any of her prior evaluations of Student. She concluded that Student’s reading fluency and independent silent reading comprehension had improved noticeably, but continued to be below grade level. She noted that Student’s average score on the test of oral reading suggested that her instructional reading level is closer to her current grade level. She noted that Student’s math skills were approximately one year below her grade placement and noted Student showed significant weaknesses in both her conceptual understanding and her calculation skills. (P-65, S-16) Dr. Helmus was very impressed with the program when she observed it and noted that the peers and the curriculum were appropriate for Student. (Helmus)
Dr. Helmus testified that one of the substantial areas of improvement for Student was that her anxiety had been dramatically reduced and she was showing a lot more self-confidence. (Helmus) Dr. Helmus concluded that although Student had made “nice progress in many areas” she would not be able to effectively access the curriculum in a mainstream classroom. She noted that Student would not be able to learn effectively from written text or follow written instructions efficiently. She concluded that Student’s math skills were not secure enough to allow her to access grade level math curriculum. Finally, she opined that Student’s written expression skills continued to be significantly below grade level which limited her ability to demonstrate her knowledge. She noted that Student is an extremely hard worker and is one of the most academically motivated sixth graders she had ever worked with. (Helmus)
6. Dr. Helmus recommended that Student continue to be placed in a substantially separate language based educational program designed to meet the needs of students with severe language based learning disabilities with average intellectual potential. She noted that Student requires instruction in all academic areas by a special educator4 who is experienced in working with students with similar profiles to Student’s. She stated that inclusion would not be appropriate for Student at that time. She recommended that Student continue to receive daily specialized literacy instruction individually or in a small group for one hour and daily reading provided similarly. She noted that the instruction must be provided by a special educator using a curriculum designed to meet the needs of students with language based learning disabilities. She recommended that Student use books on tape and a Kurzweil reading machine and that she receive summer services to prevent regression and continue her progress in “closing the gap” between her skills and grade level expectations. She recommended that she receive services “of the same intensity, frequency, and quality as she received at Landmark Summer School.” (P-65, S-16)
7. Student passed the sixth grade MCAS in both English Language Arts and math. She received a score of 242, in the proficient range, in English Language Arts and a score of 238 in math, two points below the proficient range. (S-11, D’Anjou)
8. The Team reconvened on May 19, 2006 to develop goals and objectives and reconvened on June 9, 2006 to discuss placement. The IEP proposed for July 1, 2006 through July 1, 2007 included extended school year services consisting of four hours of reading/spelling tutorial with a special education teacher and twelve hours of small group instruction with a special education teacher for four weeks. Additionally, the IEP provided for weekly consultation with the speech and language pathologist and special education teacher, direct services in the general education class in the areas of written language arts (5 x 50 minutes/week); math (5 x 50 minutes/week); science (5 x 50 minutes/week); social studies (5 x 50 minutes/week). Section C of the grid included reading/spelling tutorial 5 x 50 minutes/week; academic support (5 x 50 minutes/week); and speech language 2 x 50 minutes/week. It is unclear whether Mother ever accepted or rejected this IEP, as the copies in the record are not signed. (S-13, P-72)
9. Mother testified that Student had difficulty with the inclusion portion of her program while at Medford in the sixth grade. For that reason, Mother had requested that Student be removed from math club and her Italian class. Student was removed from the classes and provided with tutorial instead. Mother reported that when Student is in the inclusion setting she becomes stressed and overwhelmed and does not participate. When North Reading proposed its “partial inclusion” program for the 2006-2007 school year, Dr. Helmus recommended that she remain in a substantially separate program. Therefore, Mother placed Student at Landmark. (Mother)
10. Christine D’Anjou, North Reading’s Director of Pupil Personnel Services, described the development of the program proposed for Student. In January 2005 North Reading began planning a program to meet the needs of six students with significant language-based learning disabilities. North Reading invited the parents of the six students, teachers, the speech language pathologist, occupational therapist, reading teacher, middle school special education staff, an inclusion specialist, and the school psychologist to participate in the planning and they met over five months. They reviewed research regarding teaching children with dyslexia and looked at the outcomes for middle school students in substantially separate programs and inclusion programs. The Parents went and observed programs at Landmark, Carroll, Learning Prep, Reading Public Schools and Lynnfield Public Schools. North Reading hired an additional reading teacher to ensure that the program would be able to provide instruction in Orton-Gillingham and Wilson. The staff was trained in the “LIPS” and Visualizing and Verbalization programs. North Reading conducted training in co-teaching for the inclusion teachers. Dr. Craig, an inclusion specialist, came monthly to consult to the program. There were speech language pathologists available to the class. There were five lap top computers dedicated to the students in the class and North Reading provided training on the use of the Kurzweil Reader. North Reading hired Kelly Miskis, a special education teacher, and a bachelor’s level paraprofessional for the program. North Reading provided increased access to the content area while providing instruction in reading and language arts. There was a special education teacher in all classes other than specials. All students in the language based disability class were exempt from taking a foreign language. Daily reading tutorial and speech language therapy were available as required by each student’s IEP. There was no time during the students’ day that they were without the support of both a special education teacher and a paraprofessional. Students were never pulled out if they did not need to be. Any time Ms. Miskis and the regular education teacher found that the special education students required more direct instruction, Ms. Miskis and/or the paraprofessional could pull them into Ms. Miskis’ adjoining classroom. There was co-planning time built into the teachers’ schedules. (D’Anjou, Miskis, P-73, S-9)
11. Kelly Miskis testified that she is the teacher of language based learning disabilities program at the middle school in North Reading. She has been a special education teacher for eighteen years and is certified in moderate special needs and elementary education. She is also certified in Wilson level 1. Her primary responsibilities are to the six students in the language based learning disabilities class. She delivers instruction in accordance with the students’ IEPs, co-teaches, co-plans and co-implements lessons in English, math, science, and social studies and in a pull-out setting. She is familiar with Student as she has observed her at Landmark and has evaluated her. She found Student to be a “wonderful kid” who was confident and articulate in conversation.
12. Ms. Miskis testified that she would have been responsible for all of services in part B of Student’s service delivery grid and for the academic support listed in part C. Ms. Miskis described what would have been Student’s schedule at North Reading during the 2006-2007 school year. Student would have had daily English Language Arts for fifty minutes. There were approximately 25 students in the class including the six from the language based learning disabilities program. Ms. Miskis and a paraprofessional were in the classroom supporting only the six students and the general education teacher assigned to the classroom was certified in English and special education. The curriculum followed the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks and focused on oral expression, reading, written language, and written expression. Prior to any day’s lesson, Ms. Miskis and the inclusion teacher planned what portions would involve the whole class and what portions would be done in the small group. When the class read literature all stories were presented orally and no student was asked to read silently. The class would read in small groups, use DVDs, cassettes, and MP3s. Ms. Miskis was responsible for ensuring that all six of her students could access the material. (Miskis)
The class time was planned so that if a student was removed from the larger group the transition was seamless. The entire group might have listened to a recording of a story and then the small group would leave to the adjoining room to review vocabulary while the larger group did a reinforcing activity. The small group would return at the beginning of the next activity. Students were aware ahead of time of when they would leave and when they would return. When students returned from the small group the entire group would begin the next activity together. In addition to the seventh grade textbook, Ms. Miskis and her students used the Kurzweil reader and e-reader, a grammar book, graphic organizers (which are used by the entire class) and supporting materials Ms. Miskis provided. (Miskis)
Student’s social studies class would have had 22-25 students including Ms. Miskis’ six students, the paraprofessional, and the inclusion teacher. They used the seventh grade text which continued into the eighth grade. The teachers used Smart Board technology in the classroom. During the next period her students received related services such as reading or speech language (as required by their IEPs) or attended specials. (Miskis)
There were close to thirty students including Ms. Miskis’ students in math class. Ms. Miskis, the inclusion teacher, and the paraprofessional were also in the math class. Ms. Miskis described the class as very structured. There was a coordinated presentation for the introduction of concepts and small group instruction using the adjoining room for further direct instruction. The students knew in advance that the groups would separate and the six students did not miss any of the curriculum while they were receiving additional small group instruction. Ms. Miskis used manipulatives and games to reinforce concepts. She also used spiraling. (Miskis)
There were 22-25 students including Ms. Miskis’ six students in science class. The class followed the science curriculum frameworks. The main textbook was available on CD and on-line. Students could access the text from anywhere and have it read aloud to them. The science lessons involved hands-on learning and “performance based investigation.” (Miskis)
After science class Ms. Miskis brought her six students and the paraprofessional to her own space, where there were laptops, resource and reference texts, graphic organizers and calculators, for academic support. She reviewed the students’ homework for the evening including their agendas and provided separate homework sheets that explained how to start each assignment, all the steps for completing them, and a list of the resources needed to complete them. She taught organizational skills and compensatory strategies directly during that time period. (Miskis)
13. Ms. D’Anjou sent a letter, dated August 3, 2006, to Mother. In the letter Ms. D’Anjou sought to clarify the difference between the inclusion program proposed by North Reading and the inclusion program at Medford that Student had been in prior to her sixth grade year. Ms. D’Anjou reported that the North Reading inclusion program proposed for Student had more supports across all school programming than the self-contained program that Student had attended in Medford. Ms. D’Anjou listed the key elements of each program and a lengthy description of the North Reading program. (D’Anjou, P-73, S-9)
14. Student attended the Landmark School pursuant to Mother’s unilateral placement for the 2006-2007 school year. Karl Pulkkinen, the public school liaison and director of the summer program at Landmark, described Student’s program at Landmark as consisting of small classes of six to eight students and a daily one-to-one tutorial in addition to computer class and physical education. He explained that while all teachers are not certified they are required to be working toward becoming certified in both special education and their content areas. The teachers and staff receive training before the start of the school year including training in the Landmark Methodology and ongoing training throughout the year. He has not observed Student nor spoken to any of her direct service providers, but spoke to her case manager who reported that Student made progress while at Landmark. (Pulkkinen)
Mr. Pulkkinen explained that they use standardized test scores and for returning students, prior information, to determine the groupings for students’ classes. A review of the standardized test scores of Student and the peers in her classes showed that there is a considerable range in the abilities of the students in many of Student’s classes. He explained that there is no “hard and fast range” they try to stay within when grouping students into classes. (Pulkkinen)
15. Dr. Helmus observed North Reading’s program on October 6, 2006. Her report does not indicate how long she spent observing the program or whether she spoke to any of the staff at the program. The report also does not indicate which specific classes she observed5 or contain any specific observations regarding the lessons she observed. Instead, the report included an overview of her understanding of the program and general observations of her perception that there appeared to be a “fair degree of variability in the cognitive and academic skill of the seven students” in the language based program and that three students appeared to function at a level similar to Student. She concluded that both of the inclusion classes she observed appeared to be conducted at a much faster pace than the Landmark classes6 and she believed Student would have difficulty with both the level and pace of instruction of the classes. (P-76, S-7) Dr. Helmus testified that she complemented the social studies teacher on the quality of the lesson she had observed and she stated that he did a great job presenting his lesson very clearly and made good use of technology during the class. Additionally, Dr. Helmus testified that she consults to the Arlington Public Schools and she arranged for staff from Arlington to observe the North Reading program because she had been impressed with it.
Dr. Helmus continued to recommend Landmark for Student after the seventh grade because Student had made a great deal of progress. She reasoned that because Student learns at a slower pace than her peers and has had “tremendous vulnerability toward anxiety” dating back to the second grade she thought she should remain at the Landmark School. She stated that when Student is placed in an appropriate environment that is taught at an appropriate pace her anxiety decreases and she is able to learn. She noted that when Student is put in a situation where she feels overwhelmed or cannot manage the pace or language her anxiety increases and it exaggerates the impact of her learning disability. She opined that Student continued to need a substantially separate classroom and it would have been detrimental for her to make a transition from Landmark to North Reading after having transitioned from Medford to Landmark the previous year. (Helmus)
16. Dr. Helmus conducted another “neuropsychological consultation” on April 6, 2007. She again administered the WIAT-2, GORT-4, and Gray Silent Reading Test. She did not re-administer the Elision subtest of the CTOPP. She reported improvement in all administered sub-tests of the WIAT. Student’s Numerical Operations score improved to the average range which Dr. Helmus deemed excellent progress. She noted that Student’s rate of progress as compared to the previous year had been accelerated. Student’s spelling score also showed significant growth, moving to the low average range. Student continued to make great progress in her written expression, scoring solidly in the average range. On the GORT, Students standard score on Rate fell from 6 on her previous testing to 5. Dr. Helmus noted that she continued to make slow but steady gains in this area. Her scores on Accuracy, Fluency, and Comprehension remained the same as reported after her March 2006 testing. Student’s score on the Gray Silent Reading test improved significantly from 85 to 112. Her comprehension of silently read stories, according to Dr. Helmus, showed dramatic growth as compared to her previous testing. Dr. Helmus concluded that Student made impressive academic progress during the past year as well as significant gains in her confidence as a student. She noted Student’s high average reading comprehension skills, her average range math calculation skills, and great progress in written expression.
In her recommendations, Dr. Helmus indicated that Student continues to require intensive language-based instruction focused on building her foundation of language skills and on mastery of compensatory strategies. She noted Student’s “long-standing anxiety disorder” although Student had not shown symptoms of that disorder during the past two school years and noted that placing Student in a program where she felt overwhelmed by the pace and complexity of instruction, such as the inclusion classes in North Reading, would place [Student] at very high risk for re-emergence of these symptoms, which would subsequently interfere with her ability to make effective academic progress and would threaten her social-emotional development.” She noted that although she had been impressed with many aspects of the North Reading program, particularly the teaching skills and dedication of the special education teacher, she did not think it was appropriate for Student. She reported that Student has “significant weaknesses in both written and spoken language skills” which negatively impact her ability to learn in a regular education class even with co-teaching and an aide. She concluded that Student doe not have sufficient language or academic skills to learn effectively from grade level presentation of information. Instead, she indicated, Student requires material presented using language-based instructional techniques such as slower presentation, use of visuals, simplified linguistic constructions, repetition, simpler vocabulary, and pre-teaching of concepts. Dr. Helmus then questioned whether given the amount of progress Student made during the last academic year the North Reading peers would constitute appropriate peers for Student. However, during her testimony she admitted that she had no direct knowledge of the academic or cognitive levels of either Student’s proposed peers in the North Reading program or her peers at Landmark. She recommended that based upon the strong progress Student made in a substantially separate language-based program in the sixth and seventh grade that she remain in Landmark program for seventh grade and continue with the placement for eighth grade. (P-76, S-7, Helmus)
Dr. Helmus observed Student at Landmark on March 27, 2007 and wrote about her observations in an undated report entitled, Report of Neurological Consultation. In contrast to her observations of the North Reading program, she specified which classes she observed and provided specific observations and a description of what occurred during each class. She noted that during social studies the teacher provided adequate wait time for students to respond and the pace was noticeably slower than a regular education class. She also reported that Student was attentive and participated a great deal. She noted that during a science class the teacher effectively used a “Power Point” presentation and presented a lesson using a multi-sensory approach. The pace of instruction was slow with a great deal of reinforcement. Student was an active participant. She noted that the level of instructional language was “much more simplistic than observed during the science class in North Reading.” She concluded that even if Student had been pre-taught the vocabulary she would have felt overwhelmed in the inclusion science class at North Reading7 . With respect to the English class she noted that the lesson was presented as whole group instruction at a slow pace. Student was fully engaged throughout the class. Dr. Helmus did not observe Student’s reading tutorial and testified that she did not know what reading program Landmark used with Student. She also did not know whether Student used books on tape or Kurzweil at Landmark. (P-76, S-7, Helmus)
17. The North Reading Team, including Dr. Helmus, reconvened on June 1, 2007 to draft Student’s July 1, 2007 through July 1, 2008 IEP. This IEP contained the same services offered in the 2006-2007 IEP.8 Mother rejected the IEP in full on June 20, 2007. (P-78)
18. For the 2007-2008 school year Student’s schedule would have been similar to the 2006-2007 schedule. One difference was that Student would have been placed in a substantially separate math class with Ms. Miskis and her six students and the paraprofessional. The math class followed the algebra I curriculum, but did more breaking down of concepts than the large group class and used supported language. Ms. Miskis consulted with the general education math teacher throughout the year and the students were very successful. The science class was similar to that described above as was the social studies class. The eighth grade English Language Arts curriculum required more writing than in seventh grade. The inclusion teacher would give students assignments with general due dates and Ms. Miskis would work on breaking down the assignments and providing direct instruction on each step. Ms. Miskis again taught the students in academic support at the end of the day. She and the paraprofessional provided direct instruction, pre-teaching, and spiraling. Ms. Miskis coordinated a great deal with the reading teacher and continued using Wilson strategies throughout the academic support period. She also consulted with the speech language pathologist. (Miskis)
19. Ms. Miskis and Ms. Mavrinac, a speech language pathologist at North Reading, observed Student at Landmark during the 2006-2007 school year.9 Ms. Miskis was concerned by the pace of the class and her observation that Student seemed ready to work independently, but was asked to wait for all of the students to be ready. Also, she observed a lot of instruction about putting one’s pencil down and looking up which did not seem to be age-appropriate. During Student’s math class she was again concerned about the pace of instruction and the amount of time wasted with instructions about putting pencils down and looking up. Also, when a student provided an incorrect answer, she noted that the correct answer was supplied by the teacher in most instances. In science Ms. Miskis did not observe any visual supports or any breaking down of new vocabulary words or use of key words. Throughout the day Ms. Miskis was concerned by the slow pace of instruction and that there were a lot of worksheets and rote learning.
20. Ms. Miskis observed Student’s one-to-one reading tutorial in a room she described as large and “barn-like” with cubicles for each student and tutor. She could hear all of the other students around her. She did not see reading strategies taught throughout the day or during the tutorial. She did not see any teaching of strategies. (Miskis)
21. Ms. Miskis found Landmark to be inappropriate for Student because there was no direct instruction in a systematic reading program and because of the rate and pace of instruction. She was also concerned by the curriculum which did not follow the Massachusetts frameworks. (Miskis)
22. Ms. Miskis again observed the Landmark program with Bernadette Ruth, a reading teacher at North Reading, during the 2007-2008 school year.10 She had similar concerns as she had the previous year. During the observation Student raised her hand and asked if the class would be able to write independently and the teacher told her that they would write together. Student sighed in response. Ms. Miskis concluded that Student was ready to write independently, but was required to wait. In the math class, Ms. Miskis noted the slow pace and large amount of redirection regarding putting pencils down and where to put white boards. Again, in math, Ms. Miskis observed that Student was ready to move on and the teacher told her not to get ahead of the others. During oral expression class the teacher called upon students to read out loud and the students had difficulty with decoding. When the students made errors, the teacher provided the correct word. Ms. Miskis did not see any comprehension strategies used. During the one-to-one tutorial Ms. Miskis did not see any strategies used for dealing with errors. She also noted that Student seemed to be confused about what she read. (Miskis)
23. Susan Mavrinac, MS, CCC-SLP, a speech language pathologist in the North Reading Public Schools, conducted a three-year re-evaluation of Student on May 12, 2008. She noted that Student discussed the book, Wicked , that she was reading at school. Student also informed her that she was pleased the third Harry Potter book was easy enough for her to read independently and purely for pleasure. Ms. Mavrinac concluded that Student’ has many age-appropriate language skills. She scored in the average range on many of the subtests administered. She exhibited some consistent strengths in receptive language, but more scattered expressive language skills. “Her word retrieval and vocabulary continue to be moderately weak, and she struggles when required to use complex syntax and grammar in an accurate, flexible manner.” The testing showed that her organization and basic grammar skills seemed to have improved since her 2005 speech/language evaluation, but her expressive language difficulties may affect her ability to express her “good ideas clearly, using precise language, especially when the subject matter is more complex.” Ms Mavrinac recommended a number of accommodations be used in the classroom. Additionally, she recommended that student receive direct speech language services to address vocabulary development and higer-level language formulation skills. (S-2)
24. On May 16, 2008, Ms. Miskis conducted an assessment of Student’s academic functioning. She noted that despite some unnecessary interruptions during the testing, Student remained attentive. She noted that Student was prompt but careful in responding to questions. Ms. Miskis administered the Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Achievement-Standard and Extended Battery A. Ms. Miskis concluded that Student’s oral language skills are low as compared to the range of scores obtained by others at her age level. She noted that Student’s academic knowledge, academic skills, and her ability to apply those skills are all within the average range. Her fluency with academic tasks is in the low average range. She concluded that Student’s performance in reading and written language are at the low average range. Her performance in written expression, mathematics, and math calculation skills were all in the average range. (Miskis)
Ms. Miskis determined that Student would benefit from specially designed reading instruction from a certified reading teacher who can provide direct instruction in a phonetically-based, systematic specialized reading program. She also opined that Student would benefit from participation in the general education curriculum with a certified general education teacher who is knowledgeable in the subject area content. She recommended that Student’s instruction take place in a fully-supported general education classroom with accommodations and modifications provided to ensure that Student is able to successfully access the general curriculum. She included a lengthy list of accommodations that would be beneficial to Student. She testified that all of Dr. Helmus’ recommendations would have been provided in the North Reading program. (Miskis)
25. Bernadette Ruth, the reading specialist at North Reading Middle School, has a Master’s degree in special education and is certified as a reading teacher and a moderate special needs teacher. She is also certified in Wilson level 1. She conducted a three-year evaluation of Student’s reading abilities on May 28, 2008. Ms. Ruth utilized the Word Identification and Spelling Test (WIST), the Test of Word Reading Efficiency (TOWRE), and Woodcock Reading Mastery Test. She described Student as pleasant and engaging and noted that she was attentive and displayed no signs of anxiety throughout the testing. Ms. Ruth concluded that Student has strength in reading, but also has significant weaknesses. When Student was timed on the TOWRE her scores were compromised by her inability to quickly decode the words. Although Student showed solid knowledge of short and long vowel sounds, she was insecure in higher-level phonetic sounds. Ms. Ruth noted that it would be important for Student to strengthen that area of decoding to improve her overall reading and keep pace with grade level curriculum. Student was also below grade level in the area of comprehension. However, Ms. Ruth believed that her comprehension would improve with direct reading support. She was concerned that Student was often unable to generate a strategy to read an unfamiliar word and would instead say, “I don’t know.”
26. Ms. Ruth recommended that Student receive direct daily reading instruction using a highly structured rule-based multi-sensory reading methodology such as Orton- Gillingham or the Wilson Reading Program. She also recommended that Student receive direct instruction in reading fluency based on the results of the TOWRE and past evaluations. She found that Student would benefit from using the computer-based programs of Soliloquy and Kurzweil. She noted that Student requires direct instruction in the area of reading comprehension strategies to help her to become an independent reader. She recommended the use of books on tape and a computer program like Strategy Tutor to expose Student to a higher-level vocabulary and practice reading comprehension skills on grade level text. Finally, she concluded that Student needs a repertoire of explicitly taught reading strategies that she can independently use when she encounters unfamiliar or difficult text. These strategies need to be taught directly and carried over to her content area classes. (S-1)
27. If Student had attended the North Reading program during the 2006-2007 school year Ms. Ruth would have provided her with individual reading services, utilizing the Orton-Gillingham program for five fifty-minute sessions per week. Because Student had received Orton-Gillingham during her sixth grade in Medford and had completed the first two levels it is likely that she would have completed the Orton-Gillingham program in seventh grade. Ms. Ruth would have continued to provide Student’s reading services during Student’s eighth grade. If Student had completed the Orton-Gillingham program she would have continued to tutor her and would have addressed fluency and continue to address decoding. She also would have worked on reading comprehension. (Ruth)
28. Ms. Ruth observed Student at Landmark and was concerned that Student was not receiving Orton-Gillingham or Wilson. She was also concerned that during Student’s reading tutorial the tutor was not using strategies with Student. She did not find the Landmark program to be appropriate for Student. (Ruth)
29. Susan Mavrinac is a speech language pathologist for the North Reading Public Schools. She has a Master’s degree in speech language pathology and is certified by ASHA and the Department of Education. If Student had attended the North Reading program, Ms. Mavrinac would have provided her with direct services in a small group with two or three other students. Her sessions would have focused on learning vocabulary from content areas, pre-teaching, re-teaching, and reinforcing. She would have practiced sentence structure and oral presentations. Ms. Mavrinac also would have consulted to the program. Ms. Mavrinac noted that Student continues to have weaknesses in oral language and she would have benefited from continued speech language services in the seventh and eighth grades. She testified that after observing Student at Landmark she was concerned by the lack of teaching of strategies. She was also concerned that the pace of instruction was below Student’s ability. (Mavrinac)
30. Student testified that in the past she found it difficult to be pulled out of classes to receive services. She found it “awkward” coming back to class because other students would stare at her and ask questions about where she had been. She explained that during the sixth grade at Medford she was in small classes of seven to eight students and she enjoyed it. She had difficulty in Italian, computer class, and math club and she found it difficult to communicate with her teachers. She failed two computer tests and felt ashamed. She did not understand what was going on in math club. She testified that although she was nervous before enrolling at Landmark, she liked Landmark. Most of her classes had six to eight students and she was able to follow along and was comfortable raising her hand and asking questions. She was comfortable reading aloud and did not get nervous when the teacher called on her. She stated that she is “kind of nervous” about the possibility of returning to North Reading, but stated that Landmark has given her confidence and she could get over her nervousness. (Student)
FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS:
Student is an individual with a disability, falling within the purview of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)11 and the state special education statute.12 As such, she is entitled to a free appropriate public education (FAPE). Neither her status nor her entitlement is in dispute. Under the FAPE standard, the IEP proposed by the school district must offer the student a free appropriate public education that meets state educational standards. This education must be offered in the least restrictive environment appropriate to meet the student’s individual needs13 . Federal law also requires that the student be able to fully participate in the general curriculum to the maximum extent possible. 20 USC § 1415(d)(1)(A)(iii); 34 CFR 300.347(a)(2)(I) and (a)(3)(ii); 64 Fed. Reg. No. 48, page 12595, column 1; See also, In Re: Worcester Public Schools, BSEA # 00-1912, 6 MSER 194 (2000).
Additionally, the federal law requires that the student have access to full participation in the general curriculum, to the maximum extent possible. Also, the student’s education must be offered in the least restrictive environment appropriate to meet his/her individual needs14 . 20 USC §1414(d)(1)(A)(iii); 34 CFR 300.347(a)(2)(i) and (a)(3)(ii); 64 Fed. Reg. No. 48, page 12595, column 1; MGL c. 71B § 1; 603 CMR 28.02 (12). See In re: Worcester Public Schools , BSEA # 00-0912, 6 MSER 194 (SEA MA 2000) and In re: Gill-Montague Public Schools District , BSEA # 02-1776, August 28, 2002.
As stated by the federal courts, the LEA is responsible to offer students meaningful access to an education through an IEP that provides “significant learning” and confers “meaningful benefit” to the student15 , through “personalized instruction with sufficient support services …”16 . The requirements of the law assure the student access to a public education rather than an education that maximizes the student’s individual potential. Lenn v. Portland School Committee , 998 F.2d 1083 (1 st Cir. 1993); GD v. Westmoreland School District , 930 F.2d 942 (1 st Cir. 1991).
The First Circuit Court of Appeals interpreted minimally acceptable standards of educational progress requiring that the IEP yield “effective results” and “demonstrable improvement” in the “various educational and personal skills identified as special needs,”17 in the context of the potential of the particular student.18
Similarly, the Massachusetts special education statute defines “special education” to mean, “educational programs and assignments . . . designed to develop the educational potential of children with disabilities . . .” which permit a student to make meaningful educational progress.19 MGL c. 71B § 1, the special education statute in Massachusetts, requires that eligible students receive special education services designed to develop the student’s individual educational potential”20 consistent with the interpretation provided by other Courts. The IEP is the road map that defines the services to be offered and the measurable goals embodied therein determine whether the student has made educational progress.21 See also, In Re: Arlington Public Schools , BSEA # 02-1327, issued on July 23, 2002.
The burden of persuasionin an administrative hearing challenging an IEP is placed upon the party seeking relief. Schaffer v. Weast , 546 U.S. 49, 126 S. Ct. 528, 534,537 (2005) In this case, the Parents are the party seeking relief, and thus have the burden of persuading the hearing officer of their position.
Student’s eligibility for special education services is not in dispute, nor is her profile as a student with a language based learning disability. The dispute centers around whether North Reading proposed an appropriate program for Student during the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 school years and, if not, whether Parents’ unilateral placement of Student at the Landmark School was appropriate.
2006-2007 school year: Student’s Seventh Grade
The first prong of the necessary inquiry is to determine whether the IEP proposed for Student by the North Reading Public Schools was reasonably calculated to provide Student with a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. In order to make that determination, one must consider Student’s needs at the time the IEP was drafted and whether the IEP appropriately addressed each of her needs. As of May 2006, when the IEP was proposed, Student had just completed the sixth grade in a substantially separate language based program at the Andrews Middle School in Medford. Student had had a successful year and as Dr. Helmus’ March 24, 2006 report indicates, she had not struggled with anxiety during the entire school year. Dr. Helmus noted that during testing, Student had appeared less anxious than at any time that she had seen her in the past. Student had made significant gains in her rate of oral reading and reading comprehension, which was assessed in the average range. Dr. Helmus determined that Student’s average score on the test of oral reading suggested that Student’s instructional reading level was close to her current grade level and her math skills were approximately one year below her grade level. Despite the obvious progress Student had made during the 2005-2006 school year, Dr. Helmus concluded that Student required a substantially separate language-based program out of district placement at the Landmark School. She reasoned that Student would not be able to learn effectively from written text or follow written instructions efficiently. She noted that Student’s math skills were not sufficiently “secure” to enable her to access grade level math curriculum. Finally she noted that Student’s written expression skills remained below grade level which “would limit her ability to demonstrate her knowledge.” She recommended that Student be educated by a certified special education teacher who was experienced in working with students with profiles similar to Student’s.
North Reading’s proposed IEP contained services that would address all of Student’s identified needs while allowing her to access grade level curriculum and have access to reading materials at her grade-level which was her current instructional level according to Dr. Helmus. Ms. Miskis is a certified special education teacher with eighteen years of experience who is certified in Wilson level 1. Her enthusiasm for teaching and her dedication to her program were evident throughout her testimony. Ms. Miskis explained that there was a great deal of planning and coordinating between her and the subject matter teachers to determine which portions of the class would include the entire group and for which portions Ms. Miskis would pull her six students into her room. There was also planning to ensure that the transition from the large group to small group would be “seamless” and that the small group students would not miss any of the content area while they were in small group. Ms. Miskis’ students were always made aware in advance when they would be pulled out to Ms. Miskis’ room. This would have alleviated any anxiety that Student experienced due to the transition between large and small groups. Student’s need for a structured reading program would have been addressed by the daily reading/spelling tutorial provided by Ms. Ruth who is certified in reading, moderate special needs, and Wilson level I. She would have provided one-to-one tutoring using the Orton-Gillingham program. Ms. Miskis would have provided reinforcement during her daily academic support period, where she often utilized the same strategies taught in Orton-Gillingham. Student would have received direct speech language services with Susan Mavrinac, a Master’s level certified speech language pathologist twice weekly.
As Ms. Miskis explained, Student would not have been required to rely on her reading ability alone to access the curriculum. She would have access to texts written at her reading level, texts on DVD and MP3, the Kurzweil reader, and other technology. In-class reading was either presented orally to the students or read in small groups. During seventh grade, Student would have benefited from English Language Arts instruction from a dually certified special education/English teacher and Ms. Miskis and the paraprofessional who would break down assignments into manageable steps as needed.
Dr. Helmus did not provide a credible reason for recommending that Student required a substantially separate program such as that provided by the Landmark School. Although she testified that Student required all of her instruction to be from special educators, she was not aware of the certification of Student’s Landmark teachers. Although she opined that Student would not be able to access curriculum effectively in a mainstream classroom, she did not provide a basis for that opinion either in her written report or during her testimony. She believed that Student would not be able to learn from written text, however, Ms. Miskis explained that Student would never be required to rely solely on written text. Dr. Helmus also believed that Student’s math skills were “not secure enough” to allow her to access grade level math curriculum. However, Ms. Miskis explained that she had the ability to pull her six students out of the larger classroom and into her smaller classroom at any time that she thought they required additional instruction or reinforcement. Therefore, if Ms. Miskis determined that Student’s skills were not “secure” in a given area, she could pull her out to provide additional support. North Reading’s IEP provided summer services to prevent regression and address Student’s reading/and spelling (four hours per week for four weeks) as well as small group instruction in other areas (twelve hours per week for four weeks).
Although when Student was younger she had experienced anxiety and difficulty in inclusion settings, she had not experienced any anxiety in school for several school years and had become more confident in her learning abilities. Additionally, Student had never been in an inclusion classroom with the constant support of both a special education teacher and a paraprofessional. Student passed the sixth grade MCAS in math and English Language Arts and scored in the proficient range in English Language Arts, prior to attending the Landmark School.
At the time that Dr. Helmus recommended that Student receive all of her services in a substantially separate program she had not yet observed the North Reading program. It is unclear from her reports and testimony whether she was familiar with the North Reading program when she recommended that Student be placed in a substantially separate program.
Based on the foregoing, I find that the IEP proposed by the North Reading Public Schools for the 2006-2007 was reasonably calculated to provide Student with a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. Parents did not meet their burden of showing that the North Reading program was not appropriate for Student. Therefore, it is not necessary to assess the appropriateness of the Landmark program for Student.
2007-2008 school year: Student’s eighth grade
North Reading proposed the same language based program for Student for the 2007-2008 school year. Parents again chose to place Student at the Landmark School, relying upon the recommendations of Dr. Helmus. (Mother)
Dr. Helmus’ April 6, 2007 assessment of Student again showed significant progress. She noted that Student had made “impressive academic progress” during the prior school year in addition to significant gains in her confidence as a student. Student’s reading comprehension skills were assessed in the high average range and her math skills were assessed in the average range. Despite her progress, Dr. Helmus recommended that Student remain at Landmark. She testified that she continued to make that recommendation despite Student’s progress because Student has shown “tremendous vulnerability toward anxiety” dating back to the second grade. Both Student and Dr. Helmus testified, however, that Student had not experienced anxiety at school during the previous two school years. Nonetheless, Dr. Helmus continued to cite anxiety as a reason why Student should remain at the Landmark School. She also testified that it would have been detrimental for Student, or any child, to transition to three different schools during the course of three years, as Student would have if she returned to North Reading for the eighth grade.
I did not find Dr. Helmus to be a credible witness regarding the appropriate placement for Student. First, she recommended that Student remain at Landmark before observing the North Reading program. When she did observe North Reading’s program, she only observed a small portion of the program and her report contained few details of what she observed. She reported that Student did not have sufficient language or academic skills to learn from grade level presentation of information even after assessing Student’s instructional reading level at grade level and determining that Student’s reading comprehension skills fell in the high average range and her math calculations fell in the average range. Perhaps the least credible conclusion that Dr. Helmus made was her opinion that Student made so much progress during the 2006-2007 school year at Landmark that she would question the appropriateness of the North Reading peers for Student. She admitted during her testimony that she did not have any specific knowledge of the skill levels of either the North Reading or the Landmark peers. Dr. Helmus recommendation that Student remain at Landmark does not seem to consider the IDEA’s requirement that students be education in the least restrictive environment. Despite the impressive progress that Student made during the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 school years, Dr. Helmus continued to recommend that she remain in a substantially separate program.
Student presented as a lovely, insightful, and articulate girl during her testimony. She indicated that she had more confidence in her abilities after spending two years at Landmark. Dr. Helmus found Student to be one of the most academically motivated students she has evaluated. Given Student’s motivation, her average level skills in both reading comprehension and mathematics coupled with the amount of progress that she has made each year, I conclude that North Reading’s IEP for the 2007-2008 was reasonably calculated to provide Student with a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. Student would have benefited from participation in a more integrated classroom than an out-of-district substantially separate program. Ms. Miskis’ observations of Student at Landmark indicate that Student was ready to increase the pace of her instruction and to work more independently than she was able to at Landmark. North Reading’s program would have provided Student with sufficient support to enable her to access the general curriculum in a less restrictive environment.
Even if I had found that the North Reading program had not been reasonably calculated to provide Student with a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment, Parents would not have prevailed on their claim. They provided very little information regarding the Landmark program and its appropriateness for Student.
The only testimony provided about the program was from Mr. Pulkkinen, the public school liaison. He did not have direct knowledge of Student’s progress or performance in her classes. He did not provide many details about the program. Parents were not able to show that the Landmark Program addressed all of Student’s identified areas of need.
Based upon the foregoing, I find that North Reading Public Schools offered Student a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environments during the 2006-2007 school year and the 2007-2008 school year. Therefore, Parents are not entitled to reimbursement for the expenses incurred as a result of their unilateral placement of Student at the Landmark School.
By the Hearing Officer,
Catherine M. Putney-Yaceshyn
Dated: July 22, 2008
On June 27, 2008, North Reading filed a Motion to Strike pertaining to portions of Parents’ closing statement based upon Parents including information in the closing statement that was not in evidence. Because the Parents were not represented by counsel and are not experienced in writing closing arguments, I decline to strike portions of their statement from the record. However, I did not rely upon any information that was not in evidence in making my decision.
Dr. Helmus testified via telephone.
Ms. D’Anjou testified that although North Reading requested Student’s records from Medford when Mother enrolled Student on July 1, 2005, North Reading did not receive any records until August 2005. (D’Anjou)
Dr. Helmus testified that she meant an educator who was certified in special education.
Dr. Helmus testified that she observed North Reading’s “inclusion science” and “inclusion social studies” classes and she had observed the “physical lay out” of the classroom where the substantially separate portions of the instruction took place.
It should be noted that Dr. Helmus observed the Landmark program approximately five and a half months after she observed the North Reading program according to her report (P-76, S-7).
Dr. Helmus did not provide specific observations about the North Reading program or summarize what occurred in each class she observed in her report. (P-76, S-7)
The IEP offered extended school year services consisting of four hours of reading/spelling tutorial with a special education teacher and twelve hours of small group instruction with a special education teacher for four weeks. Additionally, the IEP provided for weekly consultation with the speech and language pathologist and special education teacher, direct services in the general education class in the areas of written language arts (5 x 50 minutes/week); math (5 x 50 minutes/week); science (5 x 50 minutes/week); social studies (5 x 50 minutes/week). Section C of the grid included reading/spelling tutorial 5 x 50 minutes/week; academic support (5 x 50 minutes/week); and speech language 2 x 50 minutes/week.
They observed Student’s English Language Arts, math, science, social studies, and one to one tutorial, and oral language classes.
Ms. Miskis observed English Language Arts, math, oral expression, 1:1 tutorial, and a computer class. (Miskis)
20 USC 1400 et seq .
MGL c. 71B.
20 USC 1412(5)(A)
20 USC 1412(5)(A); 603 CMR 28.02(12)
For a discussion of FAPE see Hendrick Hudson Bd. Of Education v. Rowley , 458 U.S. 176, 188-189 (1992); Cedar Rapids Community School District v. Garret F., 526 U.S. 66 (1999); Burlington v. Department of Educatio n , 736 F. 2d 773 (1 st Cir. 1984). Houston Independent School District v. Bobby R ., 200 F.3d 341 (5 th Cir. 2000); Stockton by Stockton v. Barbour County Bd. of Educ., 25 IDELR 1076 (4 th Cir. 1997); MC v. Central Regional School District , 81 F.3d 389 (3 rd Cir. 1996), cert. denied 519 US 866 (1966); Ridgewood Board of Education v. NE , 30 IDELR 41 (3 rd Cir. 1999). See also GD v. Westmoreland School District , 930 F.3d 942 (1 st Cir. 1991).
Board of Education of Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176, 203, 102 S.Ct. 3034, 3049 (1982).
Lenn v. Portland School Committee , 998 F.2d 1083 (1 st Cir. 1993) (program must be “reasonably calculated to provide ‘effective results’ and ‘demonstrable improvement’ in the various ‘educational and personal skills identified as special needs”); Roland v. Concord School Committee , 910 F.2d 983 (1 st Cir. 1990); Burlington v. Department of Education , 736 F.2d 773, 788 (1 st Cir. 1984).
Houston Independent School District v. Bobby R ., 200 F.3d 341 (5 th Cir. 2000) (a disabled child’s development must be measured with respect to the individual student, not by his relation to the rest of the class, as declining percentile scores may represent the student’s inability to maintain the same level of academic progress achieved by regular peers and not necessarily a lack of educational benefit); Ridgewood Board of Education v. NE , 172 F.3d 238 (3 rd Cir. 1999); MC v. Central Regional School District , 81 F.3d 389 (3 rd Cir. 1996), cert. denied 519 US 866 (1996); Roland v. Concord School Committee , 910 F.2d 983 (1 st Cir. 1990); Kevin T. v. Elmhurst , 36 IDELR 153 (N.D. Ill. 2002).
The Massachusetts Department of Education (DOE) stated that the “FAPE standard . . . requires the school district to provide personalized instruction tailored to the student’s needs, with sufficient support services to permit the student to make meaningful educational progress .” Mass. FAPE Advisory (see footnote 8 above for full title and citation of Advisory) (emphasis supplied).
603 CMR 28.01(3). The Massachusetts Department of Education has also noted that the Massachusetts Education Reform Act “underscores the Commonwealth’s commitment to assist all students to reach their full educational potential.” Mass. FAPE Advisory (see footnote 8 above for full title and citation of the Advisory). M.G.L. c. 69, §1 states in part that a paramount goal of the commonwealth is “to provide a public education system of sufficient quality to extend to all children the opportunity to reach their full potential.”
County of San Diego v. California Special Educ. Hearing Office, 93 F.3d 1458 (9th Cir. 1996) (the correct standard for measuring educational benefit under the IDEA is whether the child makes progress toward the goals set forth in IEP and not just whether the placement is reasonably calculated to provide the student educational benefits.); Evans v. Board of Education of the Rhinebeck Central School District , 930 F.Supp. 83 (S.D. N.Y. 1996) (the IEP must include measurable criteria to assess the student’s progress).