By Cyral Miller, Director, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Outreach
Abstract: A new document outlines current legal and state standards and national guidelines for quality VI educational programs.
Key words: Guidelines, Standards, VI programming, administrators, parents
The Texas Education of Blind and Visually Impaired Students’ Advisory Committee, established in 2005, has developed a brand new resource, Educating Students with Visual Impairments in Texas: Guidelines and Standards (PDF), to help administrators and others understand both legal requirements and quality standards to meet the unique needs of students with visual impairments. There are comparatively few students with visual impairments in Texas. Although in the 2007-2008 school year, there were more than 4.67 million students enrolled in Texas schools (retrieved on October 6, 2008 from ), only 8,040 of them were registered as having visual impairments. These children are scattered across the state and range in age from infancy through age 22. In January 2008, half of the school districts enrolling students with visual impairments had fewer than four VI students in their entire district and nearly a quarter (24%) of these districts had only 1 student. (Data on VI student enrollment is from the 2008 Annual VI Registration, compiled by the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired for the Texas Education Agency.) Administrators need information on how to help their students with visual impairment have access to the general curriculum as well as learn VI specific skills to become independent, productive citizens to the greatest degree possible.
This new resource provides a reference on components of a quality program, based upon current laws, rules and regulations in the state of Texas, divided into sections with explanatory text and citations for each component. The document is available free to download from the TSBVI website at , and is linked from the Texas Education Agency special education website as well. A primary goal is to “provide decision-makers with a set of guidelines and standards by which they can determine the quality of their programs serving students with visual impairments” (page 7, Purpose of this Document). In addition, this resource was designed to give parents and caregivers tools to help them advocate for appropriate services. The 12 Guidelines/Standards are listed below.
The Advisory Committee that created this resource includes VI professionals from local districts, local and regional special ed administrators, TEA IDEA coordination staff, consumers, parent organizations, TSBVI, DARS–Division of Blind Services representatives, university personnel, ESC VI consultants, DARS–Early Childhood Intervention staff and related groups such as the American Foundation of the Blind (AFB) and the Alliance of and for Visually Impaired Texans (AVIT). The committee will maintain this reference and update it on an annual basis. Please feel free to share a copy with others, and let us know if there is information that you feel needs to be added for the next edition. You can contact <firstname.lastname@example.org> with your suggestions.
List of Guideline/Standards:
- Eligibility is determined by an individualized family service plan (IFSP) or an admission, review and dismissal (ARD) committee, based upon a medical report, functional vision evaluation and learning media assessment.
- Vision professionals provide expertise specific to visual impairments prior to and during the full and individual evaluation.
- Evaluations of all areas of the expanded core curriculum are used to determine individual student programs.
- Appropriate instructional time, accommodations and modifications are provided to meet all identified areas in individual student programs.
- Certified teachers of students with visual impairments perform required evaluations and instruction.
- Certified orientation and mobility specialists perform required evaluations and instruction.
- Written job descriptions identify comprehensive roles of paraprofessionals supporting instruction of students with visual impairments, including deafblindness.
- Families are active members of the instructional team.
- Vision professionals are members of the instructional team for all birth - two year old children with visual impairments and available for services 48 weeks a year.
- An array of services and placement options are available based on individual student needs.
- Times for specialized instruction by certified teachers of students with visual impairments and by certified orientation and mobility specialists are determined by appropriate evaluation in all areas of the core and expanded core curriculum for each student.
- Written caseload guidelines are used to evaluate caseloads of vision professionals.