Sunday, April 15, 2012

What is your role in the IEP process with identified students?

attributed to
The first step to take in understanding your role in the IEP process with your identified students is to begin with “I” statements! How easy is that? Well, actually, it is the most difficult step to take. By virtue of IDEA 2004 always being referred to as Special Education Services, many of us  take a step back and say “those students” or “your students”, when actually it should be my “my students” or “our students”. While in middle and high school most of us would not presume to tackle a specialized math curriculum,  a specialized science curriculum or physical education program. We all have knowledge about math, science and being physically active, but we would not presume to take over the instruction for those subjects because we are not highly qualified. However, this is the opposite of the model for including identified students who receive special education services into all classrooms.

It used to be that mainstreaming identified students into all classes within a school assumed that the special education teacher remained primarily responsible for the education of “those students”. However, “Inclusion is the more popular educational term referring to the move to educate all children, to the greatest possible extent, together in a regular classroom setting. ….Therefore, skills in curriculum-based assessment, team teaching, mastery learning, assessing learning styles (and modifying instruction to adapt to students' learning styles), other individualized and adaptive learning approaches, cooperative learning strategies, facilitating peer tutoring and "peer buddies," or social skills training are important for teachers to develop and use in inclusive classrooms. Soffer (1994) emphasizes that these are not just good special education practices, but are good practices for all teachers.” With this shift in education communities you will find, “It simply means that the ultimate responsibility for the education of all students in a classroom resides with the classroom teacher in charge....This does not, however, mean that special educators have no direct involvement in the education of these students.” Inclusion: pros and cons

With all this information, how does your role in the IEP process change? Best practices in classrooms today include all learners. One model for this is Universal Design for Learning.Universal Design for Learning is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn.” For educators looking to offer more inclusive classrooms and facilitate the learning process for all,  you may want to check out the examples and resources made available by CAST , the Center for Applied Special Technology at this UDL examples site. This is not a program but rather a change in your way of instructing and facilitating learning for all in your classroom.
An example that we can all benefit from is called Minimizing Threat and Distractions , think ADHD students and others. On this webpage alone you can find a free online reading practice activity, which simulates how to read better in spite of distractions on the page, or a blog post which focuses on classroom distractions and ways to minimize them. While you may have a student in mind as you make changes in your classroom, most likely the changes will benefit many! Your classroom will become a more inclusive and welcoming environment.
Our role in the IEP process has changed significantly. We, all educators, are responsible for providing a classroom environment that is effective and welcoming to all students. The ways we can do this are promoted on the CAST and UDL websites. Focus on one area of your  classroom  or instructional practice to begin with. Look at the results for you and your students as this one change becomes part of your daily routine and culture. Then add one more change to another area of your classroom or instructional practice. Soon you will have designed or redesigned your inclusive classroom not just for “my special education students”, but for all our students.

cross-posted at

Inclusion: the pros and cons
What is Universal Design for Learning?
Universal Design for Learning Examples

CAST- home page for the Center for Applied Special Techology
Minimizing Threats and Distractions- part of the UDL examples site
Readability - an app which removes distractions from webpages, works on Firefox