IEP Accommodations: Choose Wisely

Accommodations are an integral part of a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) when providing access to the general education curriculum for students with disabilities. Accommodations do not change the content or expectation of performance outcomes. They do allow teachers to assess students on their “abilities, rather than [their] disabilities” (National Center on Educational Outcomes, Overview, para. 1, 2016). Thus, teachers and school staff make accommodations to the environment or curriculum, based on the needs of individual students, not on the disability category or instructional setting. For instance, Braille is not an appropriate or effective accommodation for all students with visual impairments, just as all students with autism do not require augmentative communication devices. With appropriate accommodations, students with disabilities can independently demonstrate what they have learned during instruction (Virginia Department of Education [VDOE], 2017).

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Writing Standards-Based IEP Goals

Updated by Debbie Grosser, Ed.D. and Susan Jones, M.Ed.

In 2011, the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) introduced Standards-Based Individualized Education Programs (SB IEPs).  As a result of the Dear Colleague letter issued by the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services in November, 2015, VDOE updated its guidance document (March, 2016). As noted in this document, all students eligible for special education services are required to have SB IEPs “to ensure that children with disabilities are held to high expectations and have meaningful access to a State’s academic content standard” (p. 9).   Use of SB IEPs is viewed as a mechanism for moving students with disabilities forward to on-time graduation with a standard diploma.  The focus is on increasing access to the general education curriculum as defined by the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL), as well as providing specialized instruction to address need areas, including functional and basic skills. [Read more…]

Power Tools: IEP Planning and Specially Designed Instruction

By Susan Jones, M.S.Ed., and Shelley Littleton, M.Ed.

Every new school year brings the opportunity to reflect and look forward. If organization, data collection, and designing specialized instruction for your students with disabilities are a challenge for you, search no more. We have two resources that will help in all these areas. [Read more…]

Standards-Based Individualized Education Program (SBIEP) Resource Brief

According to guidance provided by the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) on November 16, 2015, in the form of a “Dear Colleagues” letter, an Individualized Education Program (IEP) must be aligned with state standards to ensure that high expectations and rigorous academic standards are maintained for all students with disabilities (OSERS, 2015).  In support of this guidance, the Virginia Department of Education has revised its document around SBIEPs (March, 2016), as provided on its website.

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Giving Students the Tools to Grow: Lifelong Learners and Productive Members of a Global Society

How would educators reply if asked why they originally entered and remain in their professional positions? Most likely, their answer would be that they care deeply about the success, happiness, and safety of their students in school and in life. A word cloud, like the one pictured below, prominently displays those words in a group that occur with the highest frequency. This word cloud was created by pasting mission statements of school divisions from across the Commonwealth of Virginia into a word cloud creator. As one might expect, the word “students” appears as the most important focus in schools.

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Developing Self-Determination Skills Through Student-Led IEPs

The purpose of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is “… to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living …” (IDEA, 2004, §601(d)(1)(A)). In order to prepare students for these future endeavors, IDEA requires the development of an Individualized Education Program (IEP) defined as a written statement for each child with a disability that is developed, reviewed, and revised in a meeting in accordance with 34 CFR 300.320 through 300.324, and that must include:

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Aligning and Coordinating Instruction for Students With Disabilities Across Tiers

Students with and without disabilities are expected to master grade-level standards. For students with disabilities who are eligible for special education services, an individualized educational program (IEP) provides academic and behavioral supports designed to level the playing field and create opportunities to succeed in the general education curriculum (Florida Department of Education, 2013). While IEPs should be standards-based, they are not verbatim restatements of grade-level standards or lists of standards from lower grades (Virginia Department of Education, 2011). The annual goals stated in an IEP should be based on the student’s present level of performance and should provide a detailed structure for assisting the student in building the skills required to meet the demands of grade-level standards. This detailed structure is the foundation for specially designed instruction (SDI) (Batsche, 2015). [Read more…]