Mutual Understanding with Head Start
The New York State Education Department has finalized a revised "Memorandum of Mutual Understanding" with the Region II Administration for Children and Families, Office of Family Supportive Services, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; the New York State Head Start Association and the Quality Improvement Center for Disabilities of New York University. This revision replaces the most recent agreement which was signed April 1991. The revised agreement represents the mutual support and sharing of personnel and information resources that have been occurring between the Department and the Head Start Community in New York State for close to 20 years. It reinforces the original 1982 agreement's basic premise that coordination of services between school districts and Head Start Programs will maximize resources for the benefit of preschool children with disabilities and their families. A copy of the agreement is attached for your information.
The Department is encouraging school districts to continue to work closely with Head Start Programs in their area. It is intended that this agreement will serve as a model, with suggested components for consideration, in implementing informal collaborations and developing formal agreements between school districts and Head Start Programs at the local level. For further information about Head Start programs in your area, contact the Preschool Unit at 518-473-6108 or the New York University Quality Improvement Center at 212-998-5528.
The New York State Education Department (SED) and the Region II Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), representing Head Start Programs in New York State, are revising the 1991 Memorandum of Mutual Understanding to reflect changes in NYS Education Law and the Implementation of Head Start Program Performance Standards 1308. This memorandum will replace the previous 1991 Agreement. This agreement supports the premise that coordination of services between Local Education Agencies (LEA's) and local Head Start programs, including those Head Start programs which serve migrant and Indian children and families, will maximize resources for the benefit of preschool children with disabilities and their families throughout New York State.
There have been a number of changes in the service delivery system for preschool students with disabilities stemming from amendments to both federal and state law. These laws mandate the provision of special education services for preschool students with disabilities, while other laws and regulations establish standards for the provision of services to children served by Head Start programs. On the Federal level, the Final Rule on Head Start Services for Children with Disabilities (45CFR 1308) was issued February 17, 1993, and established a number of performance standards for serving children with disabilities in Head Start programs. More recently State law, Chapter 474 of the Laws of 1996, was enacted amending Section 4410 of the Education Law. The amended law requires Committees on Preschool Special Education (CPSEs) to first consider providing special education to preschool students with disabilities in settings which allow for interaction with age-appropriate peers without disabilities. The recent reauthorization of IDEA directs States to provide special education programs and services to students in general education settings, with opportunities for interaction with their age-appropriate non-disabled peers. When viewed together, these amendments have resulted in the necessity to update the Memorandum of Understanding. The revised agreement will enable SED and Region II DHHS to maintain a collaborative relationship while implementing current initiatives to maximize the use of fiscal and personnel resources in New York State.
This agreement is intended to be used as a guide for developing local agreements. It focuses on the empowerment of parents of children with disabilities. The agreement describes the roles and responsibilities of each organization with the intent of offering a model which local programs can adapt to meet community needs. It pertains to center-based and home-based options with Head Start service providers, either as grantees or delegates, for programs operated by a Community Action Agency, not for profit organization or government agency.
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), SED has the responsibility of assuring the availability of a free appropriate public education for all children with disabilities. Each Head Start program in accordance with their federal statute is to make a minimum of ten percent of its enrollment opportunities available to children with disabilities who fall within the Federal poverty guidelines. Head Start offers an inclusive setting in its center-based and home-based programs. Individual Head Start programs can apply to become New York State approved evaluation sites and providers of Special Education Itinerant Teacher (SEIT) services or special class in an integrated setting or may work collaboratively with approved preschool special education providers.
The New York State Education Department and New York State Head Start Association, Region II DHHS/ACF Regional Office and the Quality Improvement Center for Disabilities will conduct activities to support the development of collaborations between local LEA's and Head Start programs which will reflect the following objectives:
- Enumerate areas where joint operational strategies between Head Start programs and LEAs can be developed to plan, initiate and provide integrated services for preschoolers with disabilities and their parents.
- Maximize the availability of services for preschool children with disabilities and their families through coordination between LEAs and Head Start programs.
- Assure that individuals familiar with the linguistic and cultural backgrounds of families are available for the evaluation process and that parents receive information in their dominant language.
- Assure that Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) are jointly developed for preschool children with disabilities and are responsive to the needs of parents, in consideration of cultural diversity, while assuring that requirements of the least restrictive environment (LRE) are incorporated into the child's program.
- Support the transition of children from early intervention services into Head Start and from Head Start into appropriate programs in the public school system by sharing pertinent information with LEAs.
- Provide opportunities for the inclusion of preschool children with disabilities through the provision of special education services in conjunction with Head Start programs to guarantee placement of preschoolers in the LRE.
Please refer to Appendix A at the end of the agreement for a list of definitions which pertain to the document.
SED and Region II DHHS will work collaboratively to encourage the development of local agreements between Head Start Grantees and LEAs that reflect local conditions and resources. Staff will be available to provide technical assistance. The following areas are suggested to be addressed in local collaborative agreements between Head Start Grantees and LEAs:
Parents will be informed of their rights and those of their children, including the right to verbal and written information in their preferred language or other mode of communication as we work together to provide quality child and family services.
Head Start programs, LEAs/Committees on Preschool Special Education (CPSEs) should support the leadership role of parents in the planning, and provision of services for their children. This could include providing parents with information, resources, service options, training, advocacy skills and support to assist them in making informed decisions that best meet their family's needs and interests.
Confidentiality of information is required for the protection of children and families. Families have the right to restrict access to personal information. Prior to any exchange of personally identifiable information regarding individual children, written parental consent must be obtained by both LEA/CPSE and Head Start program. The Board of Education of the LEA must follow established administrative practices and procedures for ensuring confidentiality of personally identifiable data, information or records pertaining to a student with a disability. Information should be given to parents to explain these procedures and the policy that personally identifiable information will not be disclosed by any employee of the State Education Department, any school district, or a member of a Committee on Special Education (CSE) or Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE), to any person other than the parent of the preschool child except as provided in Sections 300.560 through 300.575 and Part 99 of Title 34 of the Code of the Federal Regulations.
LEAs are encouraged to obtain information about Head Start programs. The LEA and Head Start program should recognize their shared responsibility in assuring services to children with identified disabilities eligible under IDEA. Technical assistance and information will be provided to parents of preschool children served in Head Start programs regarding Federal and State Laws and the CPSE/CSE process as they pertain to their children's rights to special education programs and/or services. SED is available to provide technical assistance to Head Start programs interested in applying to SED for approval as a preschool special education and/or evaluation program. Further, SED will encourage and provide technical assistance to approved preschool special education programs and evaluation sites to develop collaborative arrangements with Head Start programs for the purpose of providing special education programs and services to preschool children with disabilities enrolled in Head Start programs.
The LEA and Head Start program are encouraged to inform and assist parents in utilizing available early childhood services and resources in their area. As per the provisions of Section 4410 of the Education Law, a listing of SED-approved preschool special education programs and evaluation sites may be posted at each Head Start program site.
The mandated Head Start procedure for identification of children who may have disabilities begins with standardized health and developmental screenings. The screenings must occur within 45 calendar days of the child's first day of enrollment in the Head Start program. LEAs and Head Start programs may explore ways of coordinating Head Start screening with district mandated screening.
Screening results should be shared with the parents in their dominant language or other mode of communication. Parents whose children may be suspected of having a disability as a result of screening, teacher observation or parental concern will be provided with information regarding the CPSE process and are encouraged to refer their children to the CPSE, so that eligible preschool children may be identified as having a disability and may receive appropriate special education programs and/or services in the least restrictive environment.
Written referrals for comprehensive evaluations will be submitted to the LEA/CPSE based on Head Start screening results or observations. Referrals will be accepted throughout the year and must be accompanied by a signed parental information release form. Staff should explain to parents that a referral for evaluation by the LEA or Head Start does not guarantee identification of the child as an eligible preschool student with a disability. With parental consent, Head Start program staff may provide the results of any individual screenings or evaluations conducted or other appropriate records to the LEA/CPSE for consideration to avoid unnecessary retesting, to reduce costly duplication, and to maximize the continuity of educational and related services. When the LEA/CPSE provides parents with a choice of placement options Head Start should be included in this list.
After a referral is made by Head Start, a comprehensive individual evaluation must be arranged by the LEA of the child's residence. The comprehensive evaluation must be completed by an approved evaluator within 30 calendar days of parental consent for the evaluation. The comprehensive evaluation must be provided at no cost to the parents or to the Head Start program.
The CPSE is required to meet on a regular basis, including the summer months, to accept referrals for the evaluation of children suspected of having a disability. This is especially important for migrant children and others in temporary residence. The LEA should work with Head Start staff and require parental consent to have Head Start staff invited to the CPSE meetings. The LEA should agree to request parental permission to provide Head Start a copy of the comprehensive evaluation report. Head Start staff will, with parental consent, be involved in the annual review of preschool students with disabilities who have received special education programs and services.
The LEA and Head Start should recognize the leadership role of parents in the development of plans related to expectations for the child's goals and achievements. Support should be provided to maximize opportunities for parental involvement in this process. Active parent involvement in the IEP development process should be clearly reflected and incorporated on the IEP.
With adequate notification of meeting date, time and location, Head Start programs are encouraged to allow for the participation, as appropriate, of each child's Head Start teacher, disability coordinator or designee at CPSE or CSE meetings for the purpose of development and review of a child's IEP. When children receive special education programs and services in a Head Start program, the LEA should provide a copy of the IEP to appropriate Head Start personnel in a timely manner, when parental consent has been granted.
The LEA and Head Start should conduct meetings at mutually agreed upon times with adequate notification of meeting dates, time and location, to report progress and to coordinate service delivery. The LEA and Head Start will design local procedures that ensure the timely and ongoing sharing of information related to the child's progress. Parents will be included in this process.
The LEA and Head Start are encouraged to work together to support the transition of children from Part C to Part B services consistent with procedures developed by State Department of Health and SED.
Similarly, LEA/CPSE and Head Start recognize the importance of planning a carefully coordinated and timely transition for children moving into kindergarten or other settings. It is critical that the information and expertise of parents and Head Start be considered in this process.
The LEA/CPSE and Head Start agree that the following people will be included, as appropriate, in planning or informed about the child's transition from preschool services to school-age services:
- CPSE/CSE staff
- Head Start staff, including child's teacher
- receiving staff (classroom teacher, principal, school nurse, special education staff, related services personnel and others)
- other agencies involved with the child and family
Head Start programs and LEAs are required to maintain full confidentiality of children's and family's records. Parents are the only ones who may give permission to transfer the child's Head Start records to receiving schools or agencies.
SED and DHHS will make coordinated training and information available to parents and staff of LEAs and Head Start programs through the Special Education Training and Resource Centers (SETRC) and Early Childhood Direction Center (ECDC), which are administered by SED.
The LEA and Head Start should recognize the degree of expertise available through staff of respective programs and parents and agree to maximize these personnel resources by reciprocally training and consulting with each other. The LEA and Head Start should develop a system for sharing information through joint in-service, staff development and planning at the local levels. Planning may include a coordinated assessment of the training needs of the LEA, Head Start staff and parents. It is recommended that the LEA and Head Start inform each other about upcoming training opportunities.
All collaborative policies and activities affecting this cooperative agreement are dependent upon Federal and State legislation and will be evaluated at least annually and/or as the need arises. This memorandum may be amended at any time upon the mutual agreement of the signing parties or may be terminated by either party upon thirty days written notice.
The LEA and Head Start will review and update local agreements on an annual basis, or more frequently if needed.
Richard H. Cate, Chief Operating Officer, New York State Education Department
Ruth Neale, President, NYS Head Start Association
Matthew Schottenfeld, Assistant Regional Administrator, Region II, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Family Supportive Services, United States Department of Health and Human Services
Barbara Schwartz, Director, Quality Improvement Center for Disabilities, New York University
- A Head Start program refers to an DHHS funded grantee or delegate agency operated pursuant to Head Start Performance Standards (45 CFR 1304).
- A preschooler refers to an eligible preschool student with a disability as defined in Section 4410(1)(j) of the Education Law and Section 200.1(ee) of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education.
- Approved preschool special education programs and evaluation sites refer to the programs defined in Section 4410(a) and (b) of the Education Law and Section 200.1(ff) of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education.
- Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE) means a multidisciplinary team established in accordance with the provision of Section 4410(3) of the Education Law and Section 200.1(l) of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education.
- Committee on Special Education (CSE) means a multidisciplinary team established in accordance with Section 4401 of the Education Law and Section 200.1(j) of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education.
- A student with a disability means a child with a handicapping condition as defined in Section 4410(1) of the Education Law and Section 200.1(mm) of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education.
- Individualized Education Program (IEP) is defined in Section 200.1(q) of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education and in Head Start Performance Standard 45 CFR 1308.3(i).
- Special Education Itinerant Teacher (SEIT) services is defined in Section 4410(1)(k) of the Education Law.
- Consent is defined in Section 200.1(j) of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education.
- Confidentiality is defined in Head Start Performance Standards 45 CFR 1308.6(e)(4) and referenced in Section 200.2(b)(6) of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education.
- Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) is described in Section 200.1(x) of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education, Head Start Performance Standards 45 CFR 1308.3(j) and IDEA 34 CFR Part 300.
- Related Services are special services provided pursuant to Section 4401(k) of Article 89 of the Education Law and Section 200.1(gg) of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education.