A special advisory panel Wednesday continued to wrestle with how to implement a sweeping new state law aimed at helping some special education students earn a traditional high school diploma.
The group — a steering committee of educators, school organization leaders and parents — spent more than three hours peppering state Superintendent of Education John White with questions, concerns and criticism, among other exchanges.
White countered that officials of the state Department of Education are trying to move quickly, as urged by the steering committee, while also soliciting comments from a wide range of advocates.
Meanwhile, state Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, one of the authors of the law and a member of the panel, said he is frustrated that officials of some school districts have told him they are having no problems with implementation, and others complain of major hurdles.
The overhaul, which is Act 833, gives a special education student’s advisory team new authority to chart an alternate path to graduation, including new goals, a program of instruction and a course of study that prepares them for college and careers.
But exactly what that means is befuddling special education officials in some school districts, including the role of educators and others who hammer out a student’s Individualized Education Program, or IEP.
Under the law, new minimum assessments for students who qualify were supposed to be done within 30 days of the start of school.
However, department officials have told local districts that they have until January to finish the task, which has spawned still more criticism that educators are not following the law and that children are being penalized.
White said that, at least for now, IEP teams should be responsible for deciding what criteria students have to meet to earn course credit under the student’s alternate path to a high school diploma.
He said teachers have the final say on whether the student has done so.
White said state officials are reviewing some of the information provided during webinars on Monday and Tuesday amid criticism that it conflicts with comments by state officials.
Laureen Mayfield, president of the Louisiana Association of Special Education Administrators, complained that special education officials had little opportunity to review information in the webinars before they were offered statewide.
However, some of the information was discussed last week during a meeting of the Special Education Advisory Panel, which advises the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
The state has about 83,000 special education students.
An estimated 8,000 high school students per year will be affected by the new rules.
Some of the most heated and lengthy public criticism and concerns about the new law came from two officials of the St. Tammany Parish school system.
One declined to identify herself. Both declined to give their job titles.
Earlier in the meeting, state Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington, co-author of the law, said one way to smooth the process of implementing the law is to ignore questions from reporters.