Special Education Case Loads Task Force

Special Education Caseloads: Committee Recommendations

Dear Committee Members

As per our discussions today, below are the board categories as outlined in the meeting.  Committee members are asked to develop 1-3 recommendations for as many of these categories as they wish.  Also please feel free to offer a sentence or two as rationale for the recommendation.




Recommendation:  Recommend that each form that is required have a designation as either a  Federal requirement, State law/rule or local policy with a link to the statutory or policy requirement.


Rationale:  Potentially could streamline processes and reduce paperwork, but would clarify for staff and parents why the form is being required.   Also could become basis for professional development



1.      Paperwork

2.      Case Load Statute/Rule (Modifications?  if so what?)

3.      Licensure/teacher supply

4.      Other time requirements

5.      Professional development

6.      How to increase student time

7.      Ways classroom/other teachers could help

8.      Resource needs (funding, time)

9.      Decision making

10.   Which OLA recommendations should the committee consider?


Since our next meeting is December 10th  please forward to me no later than December 4th


I'd like to have the ability to use technology for video conferencing, electronic parent and educator signatures, automatic data input, and MDE required reporting functions that are automatically accessible eliminating the need for teachers to send to the department. 

Sue Abderholden:

1.       Paperwork
a.       Conduct a study demonstrating which paperwork requirements (very specific) are not required or needed
2.       Case Load Statute/Rule (Modifications?  if so what?)
a.       Lower caseloads or create different ways to handle paperwork
3.       Licensure/teacher supply
a.       Create different requirements for EBD teachers
b.      Include more educational requirements related to reading and RTI
4.       Other time requirements
5.       Professional development
6.       How to increase student time
7.       Ways classroom/other teachers could help
8.       Resource needs (funding, time)
a.       Funding for PBIS, RTI,
b.      Funding to increase professionalism of aides
9.       Decision making
a.       Allow the state to “clean up” the special education rules
10.   Which OLA recommendations should the committee consider?

Todd Travis

· I feel the task force should recommend the legislator adopt all the recommendations made in the OLA report.
· I would also recommend the provision requiring special education teachers holding the new ABS license return to college to obtain a second license within five years be removed and that the high stakes test that is currently required to become licensed be eliminated.
· I would like to see the current rule/law pertaining to caseloads be repealed.
· The Division of Compliance and Assistance at MDE should focus on results driven accountability.

Deb Kittlesen

I’ll comment on a few of the categories:

1) Paperwork – I feel the PWN (Prior Written Notice) is not a necessary document.  I feel it just summarizes what happened at the IEP meeting.  I feel having the annual IEP,  updating the IEP, and having the parents sign off should be sufficient.  The PWN is a new form that was added about 5 years ago and I don’t feel it is necessary. 

2)  I worked on the rule/statute committee and we felt it was important to have them be consistent so things are more clear.

3) Recommend that sp. ed teachers get treated with more respect and be supported by administrators.  For example:  I’m currently a sp. ed teacher that shares my space with two other teachers and two paras.  I also do not have my own computer and phone.   I feel sp. ed teachers are not treated as real teachers at times.  I feel administrators need to support all teachers and give them the resources that they need to complete their work. Also, support the sp. ed teachers when having difficulty with a student.

9)  Decision Making:  Giving teachers more control on scheduling the students on their caseloads like in the past.  The last 5 years administrators have dictated what students are in your classes by test scores instead of looking at the whole student.  The case managers know the students the best and know what the needs are and what group of students work best together. 

4)  We do have sp. ed secretaries and Case Fac.  to test and complete the Evaluation Reports which is very helpful.  This does provide more time with students. This is a good thing.  I wanted to be sure to end on a positive note.

Kirk Schneidawind


1). Recommend aligning paperwork requirements with Federal expectations.


A). Less time on paperwork will result in more instructional time for teachers and students.

B). Accountability measures (IEP) will remain in place.

c). Legislative Auditor reports that confusion has arisen over MDE’s system of monitoring LEA compliance with legal requirements. The report goes on to say that the numerous staff who was interviewed from the LEA voiced concerns about what they viewed as inconsistent or petty compliance decisions. Special education teachers want to teach, not process papers.

Caseload Statute/Rule

1). Recommend providing the greatest flexibility for school administrators in meeting the needs of special education students.


A). School administrators are always trying to balance the needs of all students and available revenue. Placing additional limitations on the management of teachers and paraprofessionals would likely result in pressures in other parts of the school district budget and classrooms.

B). Districts have diverted a substantial portion of general education aid and local operating levy revenue to pay for special education costs. Additional requirements, either in statute or rule, would reduce flexibility and increase costs which would likely increase the growing cross-subsidy.

Licensure/teacher supply

1). Recommend allowing school districts to include incentives to hire special education teachers, or in academic areas where a limited supply of candidates exists.


A. Give school districts the flexibility in meeting the requirement of hiring a licensed teacher and gives districts greater discretion of paying more for a position that is in demand.

B. Recommend higher education institutions to collaborate with public school officials to create a plan that would increase the number of licensed and qualified special education teacher candidates.

C. Recommend higher education institutions explore a special education “licensure” option instead of completing a complete master’s program

D. This would allow greater flexibility for teachers and districts to meet the short-term needs in the area of special education licensure.

Professional Development

1). Recommend that local districts in collaboration with staff development committees should have the discretion to determine the most appropriate staff development activities to meet the needs of their district.

Increasing Student Time

1). See paperwork recommendations

Regular Classroom Teachers

1). Recommend considering all regular education teachers complete at least one broad category special education course before receiving their license.


A). While this may be an additional requirement the approach would ensure regular education teachers had a better understanding of the special education process and the role of the special education teacher.

Decision Making

1). Recommend that school districts have the greatest flexibility in determining their staffing levels based on the needs of the students and financial conditions. School administrators use various strategies in their decision making as it relates to teaching and support staff.

Support OLA Recommendations:

1. Recommend options that would reduce school district reliance on general education funding to pay special education expenses. At the same time, MDE should work with school districts to find feasible cost controls in special education.

2. MDE should evaluate current monitoring process to improve special education teachers understanding of compliance requirements. In addition, MDE should move more toward and outcome based monitoring system.

3. MDE should continue to find ways to streamline paperwork required in special education and identify effective practices from districts to encourage additional efficiencies.

4. MDE should update special education rules for consistency with Minnesota statutes. The Legislative Auditor has done thorough analysis of rules and statutes identifying those that exceed federal requirements. If the committee wants the State of Minnesota to invest in a cost analysis project in each of these identified areas, then the committee should ask for such an analysis.

Leslie R. Sieleni


· Paperwork
· Case Load Statute/Rule (Modifications?  if so what?)
· Licensure/teacher supply
· Other time requirements
· Professional development

· How to increase student time – look into a “progress-monitoring software” or look into Enterprise Content Management (ECM) from Perceptive Software. I recently read something on a school in Alaska that has been using it.  Anchorage School District.  With this system the school district has gone virtually paperless in special ed and other departments.  They have indicated it has greatly reduced workload.  And it is a fact that schools that seek out and implement new technologies will most likely create a better working environment for their staff.

· Ways classroom/other teachers could help – Being a parent and not a teacher, I don’t completely understand the full process.  But I do understand that to create IEPs, the special educator needs to involve the regular educator in the special education process. Otherwise, the two cannot effectively execute the plans. It's difficult to educate a child if you are unaware of his or her special needs. It is important for each to discuss the modifications and accommodations as well as the goals and objectives to ensure student success in the classroom. The special and regular education teacher can then work together in meeting the student’s goals and ensuring adequate progress.
In the same way, the regular education teacher should discuss with the special education teacher his or her goals for the regular students, as the regular education students belong to the special education teacher as well. Both educators should be addressing the goals, objectives, and mandatory curriculum for that grade level.
I don’t understand WHY some of the paperwork can’t be shared as well.  If they are both working for the same goal for the student, it only makes sense that they both be involved 100%.

Michaele Caron

Resource needs (funding, time)

Decision making

Which OLA recommendations should the committee consider?

 1. Paperwork: Recommend the use of SPED administrative assistants to help with paperwork load, for example write and send letters, make appointments with team members.

 Rational: Increase in direct student time for teachers.

4. Recommendation: Allow for regular scheduling of Due Process time for case managers within school day.

 7. Recommendation: The position of SPED paraprofessionals specialized, increase pay and required experience/education so they are able to be of more assistance to teachers with both students and workload.

9. Decision Making: Recommend caseload distribution to be a team decision with both administrators and teachers, in order to provide the best fit for studentsand workload for teachers.

 Rational: There can be many special circumstances/situations to consider with SPED students and to ensure the best possible outcome for students, those with prior knowledge of students can provide valuable insight.

Dana Turman

How to increase Student Time:

Recommendation: Limit special education self-contained classroom size to 12 (for SLD/OHI/EBD) students without a para in order for the individual educational needs of each student be met.

Rationale: The educational needs of each individual student can better be met if the teacher has small class sizes. The teacher can review student work, give feedback and better meet the individual needs of each student when class size is small.

How to Increase Student Time:

Recommendations: Every school has access to a testing coordinator who completes three year reassessments and initials and writes the evaluation reports and sets IEP meetings with parents.

Rationale: Special Education teachers will have more time to prep for their classes, grade and correct student work, and focus on teaching. If there is a testing coordinator, the special education teacher is able to take care and manage the events that come up during a day. student crises, communicating with regular education teachers, making phone calls to parents, outside agencies, etc.

Average time a special ed. teacher needs to complete paperwork/school year: caseload of 20 students:

· Annual IEP Meeting for each student 1 hour each 20 hours
· Time to review IEP (consult mainstream teachers) and write revised IEP 4 hours each 80 hours
· Time to test, write up test results of 3 year reevaluations: 30 hours ea. (ave.7/school yr) 210 hours
· Average estimate of total hours spent on paperwork/school year: 310 hours (310 hours = over 7 extra work weeks which most spec. ed. teachers use their time after hours after school or take home to complete)

Ways classroom/other teachers could help:

Recommendations: Train paraprofessionals in behavior management (the fine line between enabling and enriching student learning).

Rationale: Teachers would be able to rely on paraprofessionals to assist students in their learning. Resources Needed:

Recommendation: Each special education teacher has 1 period to prep for classes and 1 period to work on due process. (See about estimated total hours spent on paperwork per school year for each special education teacher)

Rationale: Special Education teachers spend an average of 5 hours each year per student on annual paperwork. Add in an average of 30 hours for reevaluations. This time spend on paperwork is added to their everyday duties of teaching, calling parents, working with mainstream teachers.


Recommendations: Streamline special education paperwork and get rid of redundancies as recommended by OLA.

Rationale: Special Education teachers will spend more time teaching and less time duplicating information on special education paperwork.

For example:

1. Get rid of the Summary of Performance form the information on this worksheet can be found in the IEP, Evaluation Report and even the student transcript.

2. Prior Written Notice Form combine boxes 2 and 3 and combine boxes 4 and 5 so there are only 3 boxes to completed.

3. IEP form get rid of sections of information that contains information that is found elsewhere. ie. courses can be found on the student transcript.

4. IEP Form: The Present Levels of Academic and Functional Performance and the Present Level of Academic and Functional Performance and Educational Needs are two different sections of any IEP that duplicates information. Condense information so information is not repeated.

5. Measurable Postsecondary Goals: sections found on the transition IEP form. This information is redundant and can be found in the Present Levels when assessing the 5 Transition areas.

Caseload Statute/Rule:

Recommendations: Special education teacher caseloads are limited to certain number of estimated minutes each student would require to complete paperwork, parent meetings, parent communications, etc.

Rationale: Student educational needs can be better met and teachers will have time to complete their other duties such as teaching, consulting with teachers, dealing with student crises, making parent phone calls, etc.

Mary Sawatzky

1.  Recommendation:  paperwork reduction:  The Evaluation/re-evaluation is good for 3 years.  Create a “fluid” or 3 year IEP.  Have the goal area expandable – date the goal and have all progress reporting right under the goal.  Continue on down that same page/goal area all three years ---Date the next time the team meets, adjust the goal as needed and continue with the progress reporting under that goal. 


Rationale:  The goal and reporting are all together (stacked) rather than two separate documents.  The new date is recorded for the next annual mtg so you can see the flow of the due process  - makes more sense to the parent and next building or grade the student is in.  The 3 years of IEPs must relate back to the comprehensive assessment so since the assessment is 3 years... 3 year IEP.   The next assessment will then be less cumbersome and file digging to create the assessment determination form. 


1A.  With the 3 year IEP or annual IEP – leave out the objectives ---- unnecessary.

Rational – goal is broken into 2 smaller parts - redundant. 


2.  Recommendation:  Create assessment and IEP writing teams – Take the paperwork completely out of the case managers - teacher’s hands. 


Rationale:  The teacher has to be present at the annual meeting.  The teacher knows the goals.  Someone else can create the document. 


3.  Recommendation:  Have better and/or annual education/inservice on how the state wants paperwork done and then have rubrics for the monitors for consistency.   


Rationale:  consistency – need to know what the expectations are. 


4.  Recommendation:  Statewide system for paperwork. 

Rationale:  Consistent, parent friendly, case manager doesn’t have to dig to find pertinent info, monitors don’t have to dig for info.  Have it available electronically so parent can look at the goal and progress at their leisure.  (Grade book is available for student/parent now to view grades.)  Do the same for IEP.  Creates less “office management” duties/mailings/printing of paper. 


5.  Recommendation:  Each building have a Sped. ED coordinator/lead staff -  to manage timelines, follow-up with details from Eval/IEP/etc. mtgs.  Details such as following up with doctor phone calls, send releases, send IEPs/evals., send paperwork.  This person would sit in on all meetings.  Go to person for technical and legal advice. 


Rationale:  Prevents the revolving door problem during meetings.  The coordinator would know community programs to refer to – contact person.  Phone calls coming to the building would get a sped. minded person.  Allows the teacher to not have to answer the phone/problem solve during direct instruction time nor have to return phone calls after hours.

Kim Kang

1.  Hire and FUND a school staff person who is responsible for ensuring all paperwork associated with IEPs and other administrative special education items is completed.  This could be a part-time position (in my opinion) that could work closely with the educators as well as possibly run some interference between the school and parents, ensure that all special education laws and procedures are being followed, etc. however, it would have to be funded---not just a job shuffled onto someone else's existing workload.

Barb Zeimke

Case Load Rule: Recommend that we retain the current Case Load Rule. Consider strengthening the language under Part B to clarify that districts must have a policy that is included in their TSES. MDE could offer guidance for this part as well for districts to adopt as their local policy.

MDE to provide/continue to provide Workload Consideration Guidance to districts.

MDE website to have a page for school districts to access where districts could search for other districts with similar profiles to see successful strategies/models for efficiency streamlining paperwork, administrative functions (e.g. third party billing), etc.

Professional development: Recommend that both additional pre-service and in-service training is provided regarding the special education teacher/service provider’s responsibilities for data collection, documentation, and accountability for federal and state regulations within special education. 

Resource needs: Recommend that the legislature provide funding at a level adequate to support the case load requirements and workload guidelines.