In 2013, the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) recognized the need for more options to 1) prevent IEPs from moving into contentious and costly dispute processes, and 2) improve outcomes for students. As a result, the Alternative Dispute Resolution Advisory Board was formed to explore possible options. Ultimately, IEP Facilitation was the highly promising practice that Colorado decided to pursue.
CDE now offers state-sponsored IEP facilitations as well as trainings for IEP team members interested in improving their conflict resolution and facilitation skills. For more information on these trainings for IEP team members, see their Stakeholder and Participant Training Continuum Practice.
The Alternative Dispute Resolution Advisory Board, made up of broad representation from across the state, informs the IEP facilitation programs at CDE. The Advisory Board’s mission is to reduce the need for formal dispute resolution measures by providing a funded support system and toolbox of options for all special education stakeholders that lead to a more collaborative IEP process and relationships.
CDE employs an Alternative Dispute Resolution Specialist and currently has four, state-sponsored facilitators.
CDE encourages IEP Team members to first contact their local Special Education Coordinator if they believe a facilitated IEP meeting would be helpful. A number of districts have a trained facilitator on staff and that may be an option the IEP Team may want to pursue.
State-sponsored IEP facilitation is a voluntary service offered at no cost to districts and parents of students with disabilities. A parent or school district representative may make the request for a state-sponsored facilitator via an online form available on the CDE website. Both the parent and school district need to agree prior to a facilitator being assigned.
CDE also now offers tele-facilitation.
The IEP Facilitator is responsible for working with Administrative Units (districts) at the building level to facilitate IEP meetings at the request of the district or the family. Coordination includes: scheduling, collecting documentation, contacting the IEP Team, securing a co-facilitator when feasible, and conducting the meeting.
Minimum Qualifications for Facilitators
- Bachelor’s degree or equivalent related life experience/training
- Must complete IEP facilitation training prior to first assignment
- Must be able to demonstrate conflict resolution skills
- Prior experience as a mediator or facilitator, preferably in area of special education
- Deep knowledge of special education processes and programs
- Prior experience as a trainer
- Knowledge of adult learning styles
- Awareness of culturally-responsive practices
- Excellent verbal and written communication skills
- Excellent time management and organization skills
- Willingness to travel
- Bachelor’s degree or Master’s degree in education, special education, or related field
- Experience in special education including knowledge of legal requirements
- Understanding of special education case law decisions
- Experience in special education as a professional developer, trainer, teacher, special education director or other relevant personnel
- Experience with conflict management and conflict resolution
- Experience with culturally-responsive practices
Major Duties and Responsibilities
- Completes training in established protocol for IEP facilitation
- Participates in ongoing education regarding established protocol and/or updates
- Plans, conducts, and facilitates IEP meeting, to include:
- Creating agenda
- Guiding discussion
- Maintaining impartiality and confidentiality
- Maintaining open communication
- Keeping members on task
- Assisting in conflict resolution
- Participates in process evaluation of meeting
- Maintains communication with Administrative Unit regarding additional needs for IEP facilitation
- Reports to the Alternative Dispute Resolution Specialist
- Other duties as assigned
Statewide facilitators are facilitator-trained in CDE’s 3-day curriculum and attend monthly workgroup meetings with CDE’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Specialist to review data from evaluations, focus on specific skills, and work through issues presented in IEP meetings. The facilitators also complete a trainer-of-trainers training.
An FAQ on IEP facilitation is available on the CDE website. CDE presents on their IEP facilitation program at various statewide and national conferences. Presentations are available for organizations on request. Organizations requesting presentations on the use of facilitative skills include: parent groups, nonprofit organizations, mental health organizations that support parents in IEP meetings, and many others.
CDE collects data on their state-sponsored IEP Facilitation Program via their request form and a Facilitated Individualized Education Program (FIEP) survey following each state-sponsored facilitation. From fall 2017 through spring 2020, 176 requests were made for IEP facilitation, with the total number of requests trending upward each year. During this time period, 72% of respondents indicated that the state-sponsored IEP process likely reduced the utilization of other Dispute Resolution options.
Evaluation Data from Facilitations in 2019-2020
- 91 participants responded to the FIEP survey.
- 98.9% of respondents reported that the facilitator explained the FIEP process and his or her role as a facilitator.
- 90% of respondents believed that the facilitator made it easy to share information during the meeting.
- 86.8% of respondents conveyed that the facilitator kept the meeting focused on the child’s needs.
- 94.5% or respondents reported that the facilitator remained neutral during the meeting.
- 87.9% of respondents felt respected in the FIEP meeting.
- 56% of respondents believe the relationships between school staff members and the family will become more positive.
- 91.2% of respondents would recommend the FIEP process to others.
- 62% of respondents reported full or partial agreement on the IEP.