IEP Changes Coming Next Year: What You Need to Know
Wed., Apr 16, 2008
Brian Touchette- Delaware Department of Education, Exceptional Children & Early Childhood Education
About 75 attendees including around 18 teachers, 1 principal, 1 BSD School Board member, many parents and staff.
Brian introduced the new IEP forms that will be in use within a year. It is the DOE plan for all new IEPs going forward to use the new forms so that within a year all IEP teams will have met and used the new form. There are no plans to rewrite an existing IEP on the new form – only to create new IEPs using the new form.
The new forms were the result of revisions to the Federal IDEA that was reauthorized in 2004. After Congress passed the new law, it look some time for the regulations to be published first by the Feds and then by the States. These new IEP forms, finalized in April of 2008 were the result of the reauthorization of IDEA passed by Congress in 2004.
Brian introduced new IEP forms and while they were to a large extent the same, each one was a little different based on the population of students they were designed to support:
Brian’s talk included interactive discussions of the forms and how to fill them out as well as this Powerpoint presentation, Individualized Education Plans (IEPS).
Brian began by saying the IEP form(s) are new in two ways. Not only is the layout and content a little different to reflect the new IDEA statute and regulations, the format of the form is now geared to on-line storage and retrieval. The forms being replaced were pieces of paper with information written or typed on them and the forms were stored in physical file cabinets at schools. These new forms are electronic and can be accessed and updated electronically. It may take a little bit of time for all the on-line features to get into everyday use – for example, at some time in the future the Department of Ed hopes to have student IEPs available for parents to view as part of a students’ e-school records like grades and DSTP scores.
Brian listed a number of resources he recommended at the beginning of the presentation (see Powerpoint referenced above) but he called particular attention to Barbara Bateman and recommended just about anything she’s written. In fact, DOE used some of her work in the development of the new Delaware IEP forms.
Brian reiterated what we’ve heard from District Office regarding the order of escalation for IEP issues.
- Teacher of the student
- Local school administration including Education Diagnostition (ED) and Principal.
- District Office staff, including Director of Special Services
- State Department of Education (DOE), including Brian’s group
At any point in the process, the Parent Information Center (PIC), can be an excellent informational resource.
Brian mentioned a few things he considered key right off the bat. First, signing the initial part of the form indicating you attended the meeting as a parent does not mean you agree with the IEP. It just means you attended the meeting. Parents should sign this first part if they attend the meeting. Second, there is a new option for parents to attend the meeting via conference call. While a face-to-face meeting is almost always better for just about anything, it is better to attend an IEP by phone than not attend at all. (Page 1 of the blank Elementary form.)
Brian also mentioned there are many different ways to provide appropriate instruction to students with disabilities. Some classrooms function as a SAM (Single Approach to Mastery) where a teacher is dual certified in general ed and Special Ed) There are also TAM (Team Approach to Mastery) classrooms where a certified Special Ed teacher works together with a general ed teacher as a team. However, according to the law, special education services do not have to be provided by a teacher certified as Special Ed. The important thing is that there is process in place to effectively teach EVERY student in the classroom.
At the highest level, the reason for an IEP is to address how the child is different and how those differences dictate what the child needs in order to learn the same things as the other students. How does the student learn? How will school staff address the student’s unique education requirements? Consider goals for the year and think about what is used in addition to regular/general education curriculum such as: related services, social skills, etc. Parents and teachers alike should prepare for the IEP meeting. Think about your student’s strengths as well as educational concerns. Consider not only core subjects like reading and math but also how extracurricular and non-academics are affected by the student’s disabilities. For example, many students need social skills and behavior help so they can function at lunch or at recess. These “Data Considerations” are on page 2 of the blank Elementary form.
Keep in mind the forms were changed to make them better. Don’t try to move everything from last year’s old form into the new form for this year. Some things don’t have a one-to-one correspondence.
The heart of the IEP is on page 3 of the blank Elementary form. It is the Unique Educational Needs and Considerations that drives everything else on the IEP. In the past, parents and teachers often viewed the Goals and Objectives as the most critical part of the IEP. Parents tried to write in very specific goals along with specific services to meet those goals. The new IEP forms should be treated VERY differently. Goals are merely a way to check to see if what we are trying to do is working. It is the Unique Educational Needs and Considerations and the Services, Aids and Modifications on page 3 of the IEP is where we specifcy everything unique the student will be getting to supplement the general ed curriculum that ALL students in public school should be receiving. This is critical – ALL students are taught based on the same curriculum, the general education curriculum, and are are held to the same expectations on the DSTP testing. The only exception would be the roughly 1% children who have an “alternate assessment” (DAPA). The needs on page 3 should outline whatever the student needs to learn with his/her peers and the needs should be as specific as possible to ensure the needs can be met.
For example, if a students has trouble reading, don’t put down “Reading” as a need. Try to break things down further. Reading instruction is broken down into 5 components:
- Phonemic Awareness
An effective IEP will be specific about what the unique needs of the child are down to this level of detail. Depending on the child and the needs, this can be a difficult section to write but if you can’t spell out what the needs are, it is not likely the needs will be met. Still, the bulk of what teachers are teaching should not be in the IEP. Again, all students should be receiving the general ed curriculum and this page should outline what they need in addition to help them succeed. Not everything listed as a need has to be in the area of core academics. For example, some students might need help with things like organizational techniques or gross motor if those are areas that impede learning.
If the IEP form lists a need that is to be met by a specifically mentioned program or service, that specific program or service must be provided. No substitutions. Often, it will be more appropriate to mention a methodology, like Direct Instruction,versus a specific program. It really helps to know and understand what reading and math programs are available in school. Ask what peer-reviewed research supports the curriculum. Don’t be afraid to look it up. Parents may have to do research on their own. Know which general education teachers will be in attendance. Ask outright if your child is participating in the same curriculum as other students and make sure the entire IEP team, including the parents, understand how the student will access and benefit from the general ed curriculum. This is what the IEP is all about.
Page 4 of the blank Elementary IEP form is the goal page. In an IEP there may be many goals, each on a separate page. However, the goals should not be driving the needs as they often did on the old form. The purpose of goals are to evaluate how effective the services and programs in the IEP are working for the student. Goals should be used to determine if progress towards meeting the needs described in the previous section are being met rather than defining the what services are delivered. Goals guide decision making and future planning.
Goals must be meaningful and measurable. Benchmarks should be statements of how far the student will progress toward the annual goal. Ask “If the service provided is effective, what will we see in student’s performance/behavior that tells us so?” An annual goal is really a twelve month objective that tells you if the student has made appropriate progress. If the goals are not being met then the IEP is being carried out effectively. If goals are not being met, the IEP team (or a portion of the IEP team) needs to reconvene to work out the issues. There is no hard and fast rule as to when the team needs to reconconvene but for a reasonably written IEP, the team should have a good feeling by second marking period if the student is off track. If, as a parent you are concerned about your child’s progress, talk to the teacher. Set up another IEP meeting if you think that is needed. Remember, the new IEP regulations say not every IEP team member must attend every meeting anymore. If you are specifically concerned about reading, call a meeting with those staff involved in your child’s reading program.
As Brian moved to the end of the IEP form, he mentioned that the only time refusing to sign a Special Ed form has any real meaning is for the initial evaluation. The school needs a parent of a student to provide explicit approval for the intial Special Ed eval. The school does not need a parent to agree to an IEP in order for that IEP to go into effect. If a parent disagrees or refuses to sign the IEP, the school is still obligated to service the IEP. If parents have specific problems with the IEP, there is a process to work to resolve the specific issue(s) but not signing the IEP does nothing to begin that process. IEP conflict resolution and procedural safeguards was outside the scope of the meeting. There are lots of other resources on the BSNPTA website and other site for information on problems with an IEP. Two great places to start are the Minutes of the Feb 2008 BSNPTA Meeting and the Minutes of the Nov 2005 BSNPTA Meeting.
Here is a presentation on transition IEPs:
Transition in the IEP Process