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June 03, 2021  

Beware of COVID Compensatory Services Offered by Pennsylvania School Districts and Charter Schools

The Negative Impact of School Closure and Virtual Learning On Your Child’s Progress And The Entitlement To The Right Amount Of Compensatory Services

Now that your child has returned to full time in-person learning, the negative impact of the prior school closure and extended virtual learning on your child’s educational progress will become apparent.

If your child did not make meaningful progress or even regressed in skills, what should your child receive from the school to make up for the learning that was lost?

To help parents navigate the impact of school closures in Pennsylvania, this article will provide information about:

  • What the school should be doing
  • How to interpret the information that they communicate to you
  • What to beware of from the school and what you can do to receive an appropriate amount of compensatory services if your child did not make meaningful progress.

How do you know if your child’s progress has been lost?

Hint: You may not unless the school examines the right data.

Pennsylvania has provided guidance to its school districts by defining COVID Compensatory Services (CCS) as services determined by the IEP team to remedy a student’s loss of or lack of progress in a skill or behavior that occurred during the extended school closure.

Within the first two weeks of resuming in-person instruction, your child’s school should have compared the last progress monitoring data that they had for your child, (most likely February 2020 IEP progress reporting) with data on the same skills that they collect when your child returns to school.

Schools may allow for a period of recoupment of skills after your child has returned to school and instruction has occurred. In other words, after returning to school and receiving instruction for 4-5 weeks, where is your child’s performance as compared to where she was in March 2020 when schools closed?

What is important to know is that the school should provide you with actual data (quantitative information), not anecdotal reporting such as “[child] is participating in our daily math lessons,” or “[child] is showing understanding of the stories that we are reading.”

Actual data can be reported in a number of different ways, such as percentage of comprehension questions answered correctly, reading -records that report grade level of the text, and rates of reading out loud. Student performance on grade-specific math quizzes and unit tests or curriculum based measures for math computation or math problem solving are also acceptable methods of reporting.

Make sure that the data provided allows you to make an apples to apples comparison between your child’s skill levels before school closed and their current performance. Data on behavior should show an increase in your child’s use of replacement behaviors, and a decrease in the occurrence of the behaviors of concern.

Should your child receive services to make up for any losses? How is this determined?

The amount, type, and delivery of services by your school to make up for any lack of meaningful progress during the extended school closure must be made on an individual basis. Unfortunately, many schools are offering one-size-fits-all services, or no compensatory services at all, without providing evidence that what they are offering is sufficient or appropriate for your child.

Any compensatory services provided by your child’s school should reflect the specially designed instruction in your child’s IEP, as well as the frequency, intensity, and methods of instruction that were implemented per the IEP at the time of the school closure.

What can parents do?

If the school does not present individual data on your child, but instead offers a “school-wide” type or amount of COVID Compensatory Services and issues a NOREP* (see the bottom of this article for a definition) for your approval, you should not agree to these services until you have been provided with satisfactory individual information about your child.

You have the right to receive this information from your child’s school without delay, so that you can make an informed decision.

There is a very real concern that many public schools and charter schools will:

  • Fail to do any analysis of whether your child has regressed in skills;
  • Fail to do a proper, data-driven analysis of whether your child has regressed in skills;
  • Offer no compensatory education or services and attempt to get parents to approve a NOREP accepting this offer of nothing;
  • Offer a general program (i.e. summer school) that is not individualized for your child and will not be focused on your child’s IEP goals;
  • Offer a low amount of compensatory education or services that do not make up for the extensive educational programming that your child should have received during virtual instruction.

Remember that public school districts and charter schools at all times had an obligation to provide a free appropriate education to your child with an IEP. The fact that the school utilized virtual learning or a hybrid model, or that the school was not properly prepared or equipped when school resumed in person fully, does not affect that obligation

In simple terms, your child was and is still entitled to an appropriate education and if your child did not make progress, that entitlement should include a proper amount and type of compensatory services.

How much progress is meaningful?

There is no doubt that the unprecedented and extended closure of schools beginning in March 2020 and continuing for over a year will have affected your child’s progress to some degree, but once again, schools were not exempted from their responsibility to provide a meaningful educational benefit to your child.

Although each situation is different, a reasonable approach for parents may be to determine your child’s rate of progress over a year’s time prior to the closure and compare it to the progress that your child made during the period of virtual learning. For example, if your child gained one grade level in reading comprehension from February 2019 to February 2020, compare this rate of growth to what occurred from March 2020 to the present.

If your child has not made progress, has regressed in his/her level of performance, or has made significantly less progress than he did in the same period prior to March 2020, you should ask that he/she be provided with compensatory services that will remedy the loss.

How can parents get help?

If you need help determining whether your child should receive compensatory services and the amount of services your child is entitled to, our educational/legal team can review your child’s IEP and progress monitoring data and assist you in obtaining appropriate compensatory services from the school.

Please contact us for a free initial consultation with an education law attorney and one of our special education professionals on our team.

* NOREP is the Notice of Recommended Educational Placement. For more help with acronyms, see 20 Acronyms Every Parent Of A Special Education Student Should Know.

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