Certain services are available to students identified as eligible for special education who are unilaterally placed by their parents in private schools through a federal requirement called Equitable Participation. In Pennsylvania the Intermediate Units are the agencies responsible for the implementation of the federal requirement for Equitable Participation.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that the CAIU, as a sub grantee, make provisions for children with disabilities enrolled by their parents in private schools to benefit from special education services. However, there is no individual entitlement to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) for these students. The CAIU is required to consult with representatives of private schools to determine which children will receive services, what services will be provided, how and where the services will be provided, and how the services will be evaluated.
The procedures for a private school student to access services from the CAIU are as follows: First, the student must have been identified as eligible under IDEA and offered FAPE by a school district, that is, an offer of special education via an Individualized Education Program (IEP) which would be available if the parent wishes to take advantage of a public school education. Second, if the parent refuses the offer of FAPE, but wishes to enroll, or maintain enrollment of their child at a private school, the student may access services from the CAIU if those services have been determined available through the consultation described above. The list of available services may vary from year to year depending on the results of the annual consultation with representatives of private schools.
Next, if a parent refuses the offer of FAPE, the private school can choose to access Equitable Participation Consultation Services or Instructional Coaching through the CAIU to support the student with an identified disability.
Consultation services provide support to the teachers of students in grades K-12 in the areas of Deaf/Hard of Hearing, Blind or Visually Impaired, Autism/Behavior, and Occupational Therapy.
The Instructional Coaching model offers support to private school teachers for grades K-12. Supports the coach can offer schools include:
- helping classroom teachers address learning challenges/differences through planning, modeling, co-teaching, and providing feedback in a reflective and non-evaluative manner
- monitoring and analyzing student assessment data to help guide effective instruction and increase student achievement in reading
- providing support in implementing effective teaching strategies
- visiting a classroom to observe student behaviors, participation, and performance
- supporting teachers in finding appropriate resources to increase student performance
To access these services, the private school must submit a referral form to the Equitable Participation Educational Consultant indicating a request for "Equitable Participation". Private Schools will then select the appropriate model (Consultation or Instructional Coaching).