by Elton Krafft


Authors’ Note on the 2019 Supplement: Significant Developments in Special Education in Wisconsin since 2009

There have been many developments in the field of special education in Wisconsin since the original 2009 publication of Special Education in Plain Language. We chose to incorporate the changes as a supplements readers will not need to search for them throughout the chapters. This was done out of respect to the thousands of readers over the past 10 years of the 2009 Special Education in Plain Language publication.

Website links and DPI bulletins references were updated throughout the original publication.

Significant Developments in Special Education since 2009 

(in Alphabetical Order): 

College and Career Ready IEPs (CCR IEPs) 

DPI developed new guidance on writing IEPs, called College and Career Ready IEPs: Improving Outcomes for Students Ages 3-21. This guidance brings together Wisconsin’s vision that ALL students, including those with IEPs, will graduate prepared for college and a career, and on improving literacy (reading) outcomes for students with IEPs (RDA/Reading Drives Achievement). The CCR-IEP framework includes 5 Beliefs and a 5-Step Process to help IEP teams in writing IEPs. For more information: 

Effects of Disability

The IEP team is asked to describe how the disability affects the student’s access, involvement, and progress in the general curriculum including each academic area (e.g., reading, math, science, social studies) and functional performance (e.g., daily-living skills, workplace environment, play), including how the disability affects reading. For preschool children, the IEP team is asked to describe how the disability affects participation in age-appropriate activities, including language development, communication and/or early literacy. For more information, please see the link to the DPI guide on Special Education forms as it pertains to “Effects of Disability”:

Family Engagement

On the revised IEP forms, the IEP team must answer the question: “How will school staff engage parents/families in the education of the student (e.g., sharing resources, communicating with parents/families, building upon family strengths, connecting parents/families to learning activities, etc.?”

Fifty years of research on how families engage with schools suggest that when parents are involved in students’ learning, students (1) earn higher grades and test scores; (2) enroll in higher level academic programs; (3) are promoted on time and earn more credits; (4) adapt better to school; (5) have better social skills and behavior; (6) attend school more regularly; (7) graduate and go on to post-secondary opportunities. 

IEP teams are encouraged to link specific parent/family engagement activities to the student’s Measurable Annual Goals. See link to the video of Karen Mapp, a nationally known author and speaker on Family Engagement:

Postsecondary Transition Plan (PTP) 

Simply put, transition is helping students with disabilities and their families think about their life after high school and identify long-range goals, designing the high school experience to ensure that students gain the skills and connections they need to achieve these goals. In Wisconsin, state law requires transition planning to begin for a child at age 14. New tools are available to help IEP teams with transition planning. More transition information can be found at: The Postsecondary Transition Plan (PTP) should be discussed and finalized at an IEP team meeting.

Interactive PTP Tool 

The DPI has developed an electronic tool to assist in transition planning called “Postsecondary Transition Plan Worksheet”. This tool is intended to assist IEP teams to document the post high school transition requirements in federal and state law while meeting the unique needs of the student. The interactive PTP tool guides the IEP team by asking a set of questions relating to postsecondary goals in the area of education, employment, and independent living. Once completed, the IEP team can print the Postsecondary Transition Plan Worksheet for inclusion in a student’s IEP. Only when the PTP online format is not available, the IEP team completes the paper copy of the Postsecondary Transition Plan Worksheet.

A Parent’s Guide to the Postsecondary Transition Plan (PTP): Please use the link below:

PTP Demonstration Site

This demo site was created to help parents and other IEP team members become familiar with the PTP or to create a draft PTP, before an IEP Meeting, which can be printed (but is not saved online).


This new PTP App was designed for Students to use to prepare for their own IEP/PTP (but anyone can use it). It is available from, iTunes, or Google Play. After completing their plan using the PTP App, students can email themselves a copy to save and print.

General Tip on writing the IEP document: Parents are part of the IEP team that writes the IEP. The school district’s Case manager captures the IEP Team discussions / decisions and scribes (writes / includes) this information into the IEP.

Print Disability

The revised IEP forms include a new component for IEP teams to consider the need for Accessible Educational Materials (AEM): “Consider the need for accessible education technologies or materials available to students regardless of formats or features, including the National Instructional Materials Access Center/NIMAC”. Federal law IDEA 2004 requires that Accessible Educational Materials be provided to special education students who have a Print Disability according to their IEP. 

Here are a few examples of Print Disability:

  • The student has difficulties sounding out letters and words from a printed page at or near grade level
  • The student has difficulties reading from a printed page with speed, accuracy and proper intonation (how your voice goes up and down) at or near grade level
  • The student cannot see the information on the printed page
  • The student cannot hold a book and turn its pages 

Once the IEP team decides that the student has a Print Disability, it has to decide which accessible educational materials (large print, audio files, digital text or braille) will be most helpful for the student. 

Open Enrollment

The Open Enrollment program allows all parents, including parents of children with disabilities, to apply for their children to attend a public school in a school district other than the one in which they live. Students in 5-year old kindergarten to grade 12 may apply to participate in open enrollment. 

The timeframe in which Open Enrollment application are accepted for the following school year typically runs from early February through the end of April. 

The non-resident school district may deny an application for a special education student if special education space is not available, or if the specific special education / related services that are needed for the student are not available. Parents whose applications are denied may appeal to the DPI within 30 days of the denial. The DPI decision may be appealed to circuit court. There is no tuition cost to parents for participation in open enrollment. If transportation is required in the IEP for a child with disability, it must be provided by the non-resident school district. More information can be found at: 

Results Driven Accountability (RDA) 

The federal Office of Special Education Programs requires state and local school districts to take responsibility (accountability) for the education of all students, including students with disabilities. Results Driven Accountability (RDA) is the revised system of accountability that now includes both compliance (with federal requirements) and results (outcomes of students). Since reading is such an important skill for all children, Wisconsin chose “Reading” as the focus area for RDA. Because of this emphasis on reading, Wisconsin calls RDA “Reading Drives Achievement.” DPI changed several IEP forms to include reading achievement questions. For more information on RDA:

Revised Specific Learning Disability (SLD) Eligibility Criteria 

The revised Wisconsin Specific Learning Disability (SLD) rule took effect 12/1/10. The rule includes revised requirements and criteria for initial SLD evaluations and reevaluations. The rule included that IEP teams cannot use “significant discrepancy” to determine SLD eligibility. Instead, SLD eligibility is now based, in part on data collected during intensive interventions that are “scientific research-based or evidence-based.” To qualify as a student with a specific learning disability, three criteria must be met:

  1. Inadequate Classroom Achievement. This means a student’s academic skills in one or more academic areas are well below the expectations for students without disabilities of the same age.
  2. Insufficient Progress. This means the student cannot meet age or grade level learning expectations in a reasonable period of time even after intensive interventions.
  3. No Exclusionary Factors. This means that if the student’s inadequate achievement or insufficient progress are due primarily to other reasons, the student does not qualify as a student with a specific learning disability. These other reasons are: learning problems due to environmental or economic disadvantage, cultural factors, lack of appropriate instruction in any of the achievement areas of SLD such as reading or math, limited English proficiency, or other impairments the student may have.

The IEP team looks to see if any of these factors exist. If none of them are the main reason for the student’s learning problems, then this requirement is met. For more information, including SLD eligibility forms (ER-2A, ER-2B, ER-2C):

Seclusion and Restraint, Act 125

The Act applies to both regular and special education students and prohibits the use of seclusion or physical restraint unless a student’s behavior presents a clear, present and imminent risk to the physical safety of the student or others, and it is the least restrictive intervention feasible. Certain maneuvers and techniques are prohibited, and mechanical or chemical restraints may not be used. Seclusion rooms may not have locks, and rooms must be free of any objects or fixtures that may injure the student. If it is reasonably anticipated that restraint or seclusion may be used with a student with disability, it must be included in the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) and the IEP must also include positive interventions, supports and other strategies based on a functional behavioral assessment. Other requirements include parental notification and documentation and training on safe use of physical restraint, including ways to deescalate behavior. For more information, see DPI link:

Special Needs Scholarship Program

The Special Needs Scholarship Program (SNSP) is not special education. It is a state program that allows students with disabilities who are:

  • Wisconsin residents and;
  • have an IEP or Service Plan that;
  • meets program requirements

To receive a state-funded scholarship to attend a private school that is located in Wisconsin and participating in the SNSP. The private school receives a state aid payment for each eligible student. SNSP schools are required to implement the IEP or Service plan of SNSP students as modified by the written agreement between the SNSP school and the student’s parent/guardian.

SNSP schools are required to provide SNSP parents with quarterly reports about the progress of their student’s modified IEP or Service Plan and the student’s academic progress. In order for a student to be able to continue his/her participation in the SNSP, the student must be made available for an IEP team reevaluation by the resident school district within sixty (60) days of a reevaluation request being made. Resident school districts may only make a reevaluation request once every three (3) years for each SNSP student.

If a SNSP student is determined to no longer have a disability during an IEP team reevaluation, the student will receive a partial scholarship in the following school year. A partial scholarship student is able to continue to participate in the SNSP at the same school, but the SNSP scholarship will be at a lower rate. For more information: 

Statewide Assessments

The Wisconsin Student Assessment System (WSAS) is a comprehensive statewide system designed to provide information about what students know in core academic areas and whether they can apply what they know. To make sure that local education agencies take full responsibility (accountability) for the education of their students, DPI requires the administration of several general education statewide tests. New tests required since 2009 include: Wisconsin Forward Exam, ACT Aspire Early High School, ACT with Writing, and an alternate assessment, named Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM) . 

While the above general education statewide tests include Accommodations tools for Students with Disabilities, they also include additional support tools that are designed to assists all students, including Students with Disabilities (SwD). It is important for SwD to be exposed to these support tools in addition to the accommodations tools in their daily instruction. See links below to Supports and Accommodations tools in statewide tests:

Tip: At their child’s IEP team meeting, parents should ask if any of the statewide assessments support tools that are appropriate for their child should be included in the child’s classroom daily instruction. We know that in order for students to be familiar with these tools and to be able to use them effectively during the administration of the statewide assessments, it is important for teachers to include the tools in their day-to-day instruction.

General Education Statewide Assessments or Alternate Assessments? 

IEP teams are responsible for deciding whether students with disabilities will participate in general education assessments with or without accommodations, or in the alternate assessment, the Dynamic Learning Map (DLM)). In a given year, a student with disability must participate in either general education assessments or alternate assessments, but not in parts of both. The Dynamic Learning Map (DLM) measures the progress of students with the most intellectual disabilities. Please see DPI link below for more information on how to determine students with the most significant intellectual disabilities:

Summary of Disability-Related Needs

Disability-related needs reflects characteristics of the student’s disability that have an effect on access, engagement and progress in reading in relation to grade level standards and instruction. This may include needs related to acquisition of academic skills such as phonemic awareness, phonics/decoding, reading fluency, vocabulary development, reading comprehension, number sense, and ability to manipulate numbers. Disability-related needs may also include the functional skill needs such as social-emotional, behavioral, self-regulation, mobility, sensory and others that affect access and engagement in curriculum, instruction and other activities. The disability-related needs are identified by asking why the student is not achieving grade level standards or functional expectations, looking for the root causes. It is important to link the disability-related needs with goals and services in the IEP. For more information, please see the link to the DPI guide on Special Education forms as it pertains to “Summary of Disability-Related Needs”:

Supreme Court Clarification of the Free Appropriate Public Education FAPE Standard 

Please see the link below to the DPI bulletin 18.02 explaining the Supreme Court decision Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, (137 S.Ct. 988), in which the Supreme Court unanimously held that a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) is provided through an Individual Educational Program (IEP) reasonably calculated to enable the child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances. Link to the DPI 18.02 bulletin: 

Updated Resources (Alphabetically)