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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation


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One common thread in special education is the IEP. Are you happy with the ones you get for the students in your classes? How can IEPs be improved? How often do you refer to the IEP in a school year? How do you prepare your IEPs. In New York City almost all are still written by hand.

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Deven Black's picture
Deven Black
Middle school teacher-librarian in the Bronx, NY

Welcome to the wacky world of special education, Judy, where one gets one's butt kicked for not complying with the paperwork rules instead of for not helping the kiddos learn.

When it comes to SPED, schools and teachers are between a rock and a hard place. The rock are the paperwork rules that result in huge fines for the district if they are not followed in a timely manner. The hard place is the one where we work and have the responsibility for our students' learning and general well-being.

Does any of it make sense? No. Once you accept that and stop trying to fight it or make sense of it you are much better off.

LPS's picture
Cross Categorical/self-contained - Teacher

I come to SPED first as a parent. I can totally relate to the "trouble maker" when my son was in 4th grade I was sooo full of questions and contacted various organizations to learn as much as I could so I could advocate for my sons and teach them to be their own advocates. One school suspended my son because he wouldn't say the Pledge. I went to the district office and told them that I wasn't leaving until I got my son back in school that day. I was very matter of fact and sat until someone saw me. They had a 504 Plan in place by the end of the day and found a school for him. I went back to college and attended multiple workshops regarding the Federal Laws for Students with Special Needs. When My son was in High school, I rewrote his IEP's with the teacher. We hashed it out together. I also learned to take a "Friend" with me. Would I handle situations differently now that I am a teacher. Of course I would, but we did the best we could with what we knew at the time. I just went to a meeting today about IEP's for our district. And true to form it has come full circle and we are needing to "individualize" goals that align with the standards. In the past we called them SLO's (student learning objectives) and every grade level had them. Humm...Isn't that what we have been trying do with revisions to a federal law that does not fully fund education. OMG Legislators our deciding how we serve children. Their kids are in the elite and private schools for the most part. I work in a school that is about 82% free or reduced lunches. It doesn't make sense that they take money from people who don't have any extra cash as it is. I'll get off my soap box for now. Thanks for allowing me to vent.

Deven Black's picture
Deven Black
Middle school teacher-librarian in the Bronx, NY

LPS, I share your anger and distress about legislators making education decisions. The elitism and inequities that pervade the nation's school systems are exacerbated by the decisions made in Washington DC and the state capitols. I know others share my belief that these policies are part of a deliberate effort to preserve the privileges of the haves by ensuring that the poor, the working class and others with different needs are kept in subservient roles.

Cassie's picture
Teacher of ED students in a self-contained class

I agree with Betsy that a nationally standardized IEP would be helpful. I teach in a district that includes students whose families are military. We receive incoming students throughout the year with IEPs from all over the country. I spend a great deal of time trying to make sense of IEPs that are handwritten, or presented in a format that is unfamiliar to me. It can be very difficult at times to discern what related services are needed and the parents are typically not helpful at all. A uniform IEP is a great idea!

Jerri's picture
High School Self Contained Teacher of students of all levels of abilities

I agree with one nationally standardized IEP too. Makes much more since, especially if it would reduce paperwork. Too much is useless and way too much is duplicated information

CL CCMS/HS's picture
Sped. Teacher, Inclusion, Collaboration, Resource, Middle / High School, VA

I too am a VA spec. ed. We use the SEAS online IEP program that is a part of PowerSchool (attendance/ grade/ report card program). It's okay so far. We type in the goals and objectives, although the Virginia SOLs are already in menu form. But if a student is in inclusion class, they really don't need me to put in all the SOLs as an individualized set of standards to work on. However, I sometimes will use the SOL list to pull out the standards a student needs the most practice with.

I guess that makes it more individualized. Writing IEPs is an ongoing changing process. I remember when I use to write them in triplicate with carbon paper.

Marlene Biddinger's picture

Hi! I teach in Maryland. When I put in the Performance Level on the IEP if it is a student who is just receiving services for the first time. I use the Woodcock Johnson Achievement Tests. I cut and paste and put in the paragraph that explains the portion of the sub test that was given that will be related to my goals and objectives. The student's test score is available, and I type in what they need to learn in a sentence. This will match my Goals and Objectives that I will write next. AS you know my goals and objectives will identify how I will increase the students levels in that area.The Objectives will list the skills that are needed to reach my goals. I was also told to list the accommodations that will be used to help my students reach their goals.
For children who already have IEP's and our getting news ones. I list their test scores a year ago and their present test scores. Than I tell what they need to learn to master their goal. and I list accommodations that will be used.
I don't understand how some one can write in that section and not have the performance level related to goals and objectives. The assessment drives the IEP and tells what skills the student needs to learn. That is where are Maryland Voluntary State Curriculum comes in. We can pick objectives on a lower grade and increase them to help our students master their goals. I hope this makes sense and helps someone.

Julie's picture
2 middle school students in Colorado

[quote]Our district uses TieNet, and they are continuing to improve it with prompts and a model for writing IEP's. We are able to access the state standards although the alternate standards are not included on this link. I have to open a separate document to find the atlternate standards. It sounds similar to the Texas system. I still spend about 3 hours for each student in writing IEP's and progress monitoring takes about 2 hours for each student. Also we have to do additional report cards that are based on grade level standards. I do most of it at home on my own time.[/quote]When you say you spend 3 hours writing IEPS and 2 hours progress monitoring, is that yearly,monthly?


Mindy Cahill's picture
Mindy Cahill
Special Ed. Inclusion Teacher

Another Sunday, another IEP to write. There's something very wrong about the workload. Anyway, I wanted to comment about one of the posts a few days ago from the teacher who left general ed. after 10 years to teach special ed. My question is: WHY? Didn't anybody warn you. I know many teachers who have dual endorsements in regular and special ed. They can't get out of special ed. The only way they can is to apply somewhere else and leave the special ed. license information off their resume. If I had the option, I know what I'd do.

Mindy Cahill's picture
Mindy Cahill
Special Ed. Inclusion Teacher

I also teach inclusion. It is rather pointless writing academic goals for inclusion kids - b/c they have to learn the S.O.L.'s and either pass the test of the VGLA. The only part of their IEP that is really individualized are behavioral or organizational goals. I wish the higher ups would admit this. It would save us a lot of time on wasted paper work.

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