The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) has latched on to a new term: “recovery services.” This term is being used to describe services they’re giving students to help bridge educational gaps in learning caused by COVID-related school closures. How is this different from compensatory services? I was quite confused by ODE’s explanation, but I think this is what they’re trying to say…
Normally, if a student doesn’t receive the services listed in their IEP, they are entitled to compensatory education to “compensate” the student for services they should have received. As a result of the pandemic, many schools could not provide services as stated in the IEP. Instead of requiring Ohio schools to provide compensatory education to all of its special education students, ODE is asking us to take a step back and assess why the school did not provide the services. The ODE seems to be trying to call attention to two very different reasons for failing to implement an IEP: a school’s faulty implementation of an IEP or a school’s inability to deliver services due to the pandemic. If the school failed to implement the IEP as written because of the mandated building closures, the student may be entitled to recovery services if the team determines that the student suffered an educational gap. The ODE also states, “If a student with a disability was refused services by a school, or otherwise did not receive services or instruction while other students were receiving services during the building closures, then actual compensatory services may be warranted.”
I would also argue that if a school didn’t make reasonable efforts to provide a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) during the school closures (i.e. no attempts to deliver IEP service minutes remotely), then a student should qualify for compensatory education. Compensatory education is typically delivered minute-for-minute (if the student was supposed to get 20 minutes of OT and got zero, the school owes the student 20 minutes). However, recovery services don’t work that way. Instead, the team must decide how to get the student back on track. ODE is clear that the IEP team must weigh several different factors specific to that individual child to determine whether the student qualifies for recovery services and, if they do, what those services will look like. Remember, all decisions must be made on a case-by-case basis.
Clear as mud, right? We’re all figuring this out as we go. I don’t think there are too many parents out there who think their kids – special ed or not! – got the same quality of education during the mandated school closures! We’ve all suffered. Try not to get lost in the nitty-gritty details and finger-pointing. Take a step back and stay focused on the big picture. Then work with the team – and get creative! – to make sure your child has what they need in order to make progress. COVID won’t last forever!