Sunday, July 28, 2013

What do IEPs actually do?

Most of the kids I have in my class, especially those that transfer from a public school, have IEPs or Individual Education Plans. Most teachers know that IEPs provide students with accommodations in the classroom for various learning disabilities, psychological issues, behavior problems, and other issues that might impede a student's learning. However, when dealing with 25-45 students on a daily basis, each with different learning styles, expectations, intelligence, and motivations, those IEPs tend to get confusing and too specific to follow.

 For example- these goals are found somewhere in each IEP, usually in different places depending on the section where they need help:

  Johnny needs to have all notes provided to him PRIOR to the lecture. 

 Mabel required extra attention on math word problems but not on ELA vocabulary quizzes. 

Tracy needs verbal prompts a minimum 3x a day to re-focus on her work but no more than 6 prompts should be used. 

 Anthony will be working on writing assignments in calendar and teacher will sign schedule everyday.

 Now- a list like this might make it easier to see who needs what, but that is not what happens. IEPs and 504s are kept in a student's file in the office because it is a private, legal document that cannot be shared with people not teaching or consulting that student. So if a teacher needs clarification on a goal, or referencing a particular skill set that needs work, the teacher will have to find the file, write down the goal on a separate piece of paper and then implement the requirement in the classroom- FOR EVERY STUDENT.

 Simply put, it gets to be too much. But everyone agrees that these students actually NEED these accommodations allowances, breaks, and prompts. So what is the solution? How can teachers reference the goals easily and quickly while still creating the best learning environment for EVERY student?

 The teachers and special education specialists that are participating in these discussions agree that changes need to be made in the way the system works and the expectations that are placed on teachers, but no one really will step up and say some of the hard observations or offer suggestions that might be considered too "offensive" to the parents.

 So it stays the way it is with the teachers in the dark about the IEP goals, the parents wanting teachers to "fix" their student even to the detriment of the other 24-44 students in the class, and administrators who want to keep everyone happy while preventing lawsuits.
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