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Matrix of Service

What the Florida Department of Education Doesn’t Want Parents to Know

Interpretation of the Matrix of Services Handbook:

Please Read Past EXCUSES made by the “Acting Chief”

The initial thought was to place our PDF file copy of the Matrix of Services handbook on this web site for any interested party who wanted a comprehensive view of how funding was given in relation to the IEP. However the “Acting Chief” Michele Polland was very clear in her response we could not do this.
See Below:

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Matrix Handbook
Date: Tue, 30 Mar 2004 12:19:56 -0500
From: "Polland, Michele"

To: "'Lpopp1@comcast.net'"

Dear Ms. Popp:
I am writing in response to your request for permission to post the Matrix of Services Handbook on your website.

Section 1011.62(1)(e)(1)(b), Florida Statutes, states that matrixes are completed "by personnel who have received approved training." Matrix ratings determined by school districts are subject to both financial audits and compliance monitoring as part of the normal audit/compliance monitoring schedules. Because school districts are responsible for the completion and accuracy of all required matrixes, each district determines who in the district will receive matrix training and who will assume responsibility for matrix completion. The Matrix of Services Handbook was designed as an administrative tool to be used in conjunction with in-depth training of school district personnel. Because the handbook is not intended to be used for general informational purposes, we cannot grant permission for distribution on your website. Parents who would like information about their child's matrix ratings should contact their local exceptional student education administrator.
Michele Polland, Acting Chief
Bureau of Instructional Support and Community Services
Florida Department of Education
614Turlington Building
325 West Gaines Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32399
Phone: 850/245-0475; Fax: 850/245-0953

NOW WHAT? (“not a problem”)
Since the state has determined that parents cannot be part of the funding process relative to not being trained or being responsible for the auditing that occurs, we will talk about the language and services required to obtain the best funding for a special needs child’s educational needs based on our advocacy experiences.

Reference will be made to the “Matrix of Services” (looks like a grid) that is on pages 17 through 20 of the “publication” known as the USE OF THE EXCEPTIONAL STUDENT MATRIX OF SERVICES which is viewable on the Florida Department of Education Website http://www.fldoe.org/ese/pdf/matrixnu.pdf

Go to page 23 of the PDF file. Print pages 23-26 from the PDF viewer. Use in reference with your child’s IEP and Matrix if you have to see how the language/services of the IEP turns into money. THIS IS NOT THE HANDBOOK!!! (It is a worksheet we will use that parents can view on line.)

It is very surprising that that funding information (Matrix of Services HANDBOOK) is not made readily available to parents. In our experiences with advocacy, highly trained district staff can make significant errors in simple math.

District staff can also be very aggressive in limiting the teaching or service intensity a child can have based on what is available in the county’s school system instead of what the child needs to make meaningful and measurable progress.

Poor philosophic value of disabled children is generally demonstrated by failure of school systems to have programs that are “intense” enough allowing them to succeed. Sadly, but quite possibly besides the reasons given by the “Acting Chief,” failure to include parents in the Funding Matrix process gives public school systems little motivation to improve special education programs. Keeping parents away from the funding process in special education allows disabled children continued failure.

To see what intensity of service (teaching ) looks like; You must have or be able to look at the Matrix of Service pages 18-20 PDF viewer pages 24-26 from The Florida Department of Education Website http://www.fldoe.org/ese/pdf/matrixnu.pdf

The Matrix of Services (lets do the math first):
1. Is made up of 5 domains
2. Each domain is worth a “rating” of 5 points
3. Total number of “domain ratings” within the matrix is 25 (5 x 5)
The Matrix is broken into 5 Domains; each domain having 5 levels worth a maximum of 5 points. The point system of the Matrix allows that 5 points (maximum) can be assessed for each domain. In other words, in order to get 5 points, the services given on the IEP must reflect the language used in level 5. The points for each domain are determined by the highest level marked off. It doesn’t matter if multiple levels are checked as only the highest level is used. For example, even if checks are made on level 2, level 3 and level 4; the highest point value for the domain will be 4 points. (not 2+3+4= 9). This information is not readily made available to parents.

Additional Points can be obtained for “Special Considerations” (see page 20 Matrix of Service). Parents need to pay “special” attention to this area. District people seem to routinely make errors with Special Consideration points.
Look at the “Cost Factor Scale” on page 20 (Matrix of Service).

Each cost factor represents a dollar amount in funding. In July of 2000, specific dollar amounts for cost factors 251, 252, and 253 were eliminated and have been renamed in the 2004 "Revised Edition" of the Matrix of Service Handbook. The funding amounts for these newly renamed Cost factors now known as Support Levels 1,2 and 3 are said to have the same cost factors as basic programs 101-103. In attachment 1 and 2 of USE OF THE EXCEPTIONAL STUDENT MATRIX OF SERVICES (PDF Viewer pages 30 and 31) the funding formula is demonstrated (page 30) and actual funding amounts with built in "ESE Guaranteed Allocation" by county are displayed using the ESE Support Levels 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.
In determing McKay scholarship dollars the funding Matrix must be completed using the "Cost Factor" terms.

Please keep in mind the dollar figures below are a sample of dollars alloted to each matrix cost factor. The amounts change from year to year.

ESE Level   Rating Points   Cost Factor   Estimated worth of IEP
1 = 6 - 9 = 251 = $4,000.00 - $5,000.00
2 = 10 - 13 = 252 = $6,000.00 - $7,000.00
3 = 14 - 17 = 253 = $9,000.00 - $10,000.00
4 = 18 - 21 = 254 = $12,000.00 - $15,000.00
5 = 22 + = 255 = $17,000.00 - $20,000.00

Be aware that in Duval County the Cost factor is no longer posted on the front page of the IEP. Interested parents many times have had to request a copy of the Matrix Funding in writing before they can see how their child's IEP is funded. It is always surprising to parents how low funding/services are when their children first enter ESE programs. It tends to make many parents more angry when they note the low levels of funding and the lack of progess the child has made over time. It appears the child has been purposefully allowed to fail by the lack of services offered when they first enter ESE programs. We call this the "wait and see" attitude which dooms many children to continued failure as they never receive the services they need to become successful.

Looking at the Matrix of Service worksheet under each domain are 5 levels. Each level has specific descriptive language that should coincide with language under each domain on the IEP.

Descriptive language specific to each Domain Level:
Level 1: Requires no services or assistance beyond that which is normally available to all students.
Level 2: “Simple” adaptation (the basic requirement to have an IEP) special learning “aids, equipment or furniture”. “Monthly” consultations, assistance, monitoring, assessment. “Occassional” assistance. “Specialized administration of medication.” (Our experience: specifically in regards to pill crushing at school, have MD prescription stating “Crush pill(s) and mix with food or drink, give medication at 12 noon daily” if child is unable to swallow pills.)
Level 3: “Modified” curriculum. “Specialized instructional approaches.” “Some” specialized assistance for “some” activities. “Weekly” consultations, assistance, supervision, intervention, monitoring, assessment, training. “Small group” “Behavior Contract” (Our experience in regards to monitoring medication; have MD prescription specifically stating how often monitoring of side effects is to be done (daily or weekly) and where the report needs to be sent.)
Level 4: “Supervision” for physical safety, majority of learning activities “ Daily assistance” in personal care, communication, “Daily” counseling. “Assistance” majority of learning activity, “Extensive” “Highly Structured” “Direct Specialized” “Regularly Scheduled.”
Level 5: “Continuous,” “intensive,” “individual instruction,” “multiple,” “constant interventions,” “personal assistance.” “Very small group” (Our experiences defined “very small group” as one staff member to three children.)

In all levels except for Level one, services that are provided must be documented either in reports or logs. Evidence must be provided that the service occurs!

McKay Scholarship vouchers turn parents into consumers, so we need to “see the money” very clearly on the IEP. The most direct way this can be written is with the corresponding PLOP (Present Level of Performance) under each domain. In our experience we have found that the IEP sometimes has a very minimal PLOP that is barely identifiable or the PLOP is written as some huge summary about the child and all the domains are put together.

Public school systems routinely “hide the money” when they are hiding the absence of a program or lack of teacher training. It is very difficult to figure “billable” services when school staff are teaching “out of field” without real training or expertise to do the job. In other words, highly trained district staff cannot bill for services a child needs to be successful if teaching staff are not trained to provide them. It is also possible that a child may have the “funding” but never a chance for a trained teacher.

Many parents are naïve in assuming Exceptional Student Education Departments are in charge of training or finding professional staff for disabled students. The school principal at each individual school usually hires the professionals who work there. The child may have the money and the money may follow the child, but the person teaching that special needs child is ultimately up to the school principal.

Questions that must be answered for each domain on the IEP are:
1. What does the child need to have to be successful (service/assistance) ?
2. What service is written on the IEP in each domain that enables the child to be successful?
3. What is the staff/teacher’s training and level of expertise with your child’s disability?

If these questions are not answered or cannot be answered, most likely no service is being given or the teaching staff has inadequate or no training.

The value of a good private evaluation by a PhD. prepared school psychologist is useful to fix or put these questions to rest.
A good psychological evaluation/report will have three things:
1. The child’s disability
2. How the disability affects the child
3. A detailed description (interventions) of what is needed for the child to succeed.

Many times evaluations/reports done by public school employees do not have the interventions needed detailing how the child can be successful. The scary part is interventions (what your child needs to be successful) are now left up to what may very well be but untrained poorly supervised staff.

In our experience district staff and school administrators tend to be the “experts” in what a child needs. They really are “experts” in covering up the absence of non existent programs or poorly trained teaching staff.

Private evaluations and intervention recommendations must be taken into consideration by the IEP team. School systems cannot ignore recommendations that allow a child to make progress just because they are unwilling or unable to offer the service.

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