How is my child doing in school? A question frequently asked by parents. Understanding how a student is currently functioning in school is necessary to determine how to best support them. In the IEP this determination is identified as the Present Level of Performance, and should be discussed by the team at the onset of an IEP meeting. This discussion should include perspectives from both the educators and family. This determination should not only focus on the needs of a student but their strengths as well. Additionally, focusing on the strengths of a student often leads to supporting their ongoing needs.
Least Restrictive Environment
How can we best support student learning with the least amount of restrictions? In short, this is what the Least Restrictive Environment or LRE is focused on. This section in the IEP is where educators have to define the LRE for the student. This definition is a statement that should include the following items: when during the school day is the student not with their general education classroom, what are they missing when they are gone, and why are they gone. This statement is significant because really what it is focusing on is inclusion.
Parents, when you are in IEP meetings, ask about this. Ask about where your child is learning, and if they are getting pulled out to learn in a different environment, ask why. When writing the LRE statement for the IEP this is a really good time to reflect on the current programming for that student. The focus always needs to be on what environment is best for that student to learn. At Equitable Teaching our opinion is that the general education classroom with access to the general education teacher for all learning outcomes is the best environment for all students to learn.
Goals and Objectives
The goals and objectives of an IEP should focus on what the team has determined to be the greatest needs for a student. Therefore, this should be very individualized and reflect what is best for that child. At times this can become challenging because it is not realistic to have numerous goals and determining which are most important requires collaboration among the entire IEP team.
There are several skills areas for which goals can be written: academic, speech, social communication, social emotional, functional, adaptive physical education, and occupational therapy are a few examples. The greatest success with goals comes when there can be cooperation between specialists in each of these areas. This allows for fewer goals to be written and the focus of the goals to be consistent throughout a school day rather than just in isolated moments of instruction. Overall, the most important thing is that the goals reflect the needs of the student and are realistic and obtainable.
The goal of an IEP is to support student progress, but how is that progress determined? It is determined through data. Goals must be able to be measured so that data can be collected and analyzed to determine if progress is being made. It is crucial that that data be collected on an ongoing basis because if it is determined that progress is not being made then it may be necessary to reexamine the IEP.
Progress reports are a document that is required in the IEP process. They highlight the most current student data and progress related to each of the goals and objectives in the IEP.
Although this report is a brief summary of a students’ progress it represents something very important, assessment of student growth. A helpful slogan for assessment of student growth is “monitor and adjust”. The ability to do this is a necessity in special education and requires decisions that are data driven. Data collection and progress reports provide a foundation for IEP teams to “monitor and adjust” educational programs to best meet the needs of students.
Modifications and Accommodations
The modifications and accommodations section of the IEP is a list of all the supports that the IEP team has determined to be necessary for a student’s educational success. The possibilities of what can be on this list are varied and student driven. They may support a students communication, learning, sensory processing, social emotional skills, mobility, fine motor, gross motor, hearing, vision or any other area that impacts a students educational success.
It is our opinion at Equitable Teaching that this is the most important section of the IEP. The goal is for a student to be successful in their general education classroom and the IEP team determines what supports are necessary to make that happen. Therefore, it is important for all educators working with students to remember that any modifications or accommodations identified for a student are not optional. They have been determined to be necessary for student success and must be implemented.
We feel parents must know this. If done correctly they can provide a great deal of independence for students. The amount of possible accommodations is mind-boggling and often with a little creativity and training, students can learn strategies that support their education and independence.
For further information: IDEA Topic Areas