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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

IEPs, Education Tools or Enabling Devices?

Individualized Educational Programs, better know in Ed Speak as IEPs, are a federal requirement for students with special education needs such as physical handicaps or learning disabilities. The programs are written for students who qualify according the guidelines of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) law passed by the federal government and most recently updated in 2004. Basically, these students have programs written to meet their special needs by the student's special education teacher and a team of others including regular education teachers, such as myself, and the student's parents.

The intent of IEPs is to give students with special needs the individual instruction they need to meet those needs. Often students are given "modifications" by their lead teachers, usually the students' special teachers. These include things like "preferential steating," extra time to complete tests and assignments, reduced assignments, or changes in which the students are taught such as emphasis on tactile or visual tools.

These are good practices, but they can lead to abuses of the system. For example, if a student is given a failing or less than satisfactory grade, the teacher must be able to demonstrate that s/he has done the required "modifications" or the grade can be successfully challenged. Special education students often are made to feel immune from the schools discipline policy because their behavior in the school is taken into account during the IEP. If a student is considered to be an Attention Deficient Disorder victim, then the student's behavior must be "accomodated" in the classroom.

That is why IEPs are considered by many teachers, especially regular or "grade-level" teachers to be little more than "enabliling devices" which students and their parents use to exempt the student from the requirements non-IEP students must obey.

I would be interested from hearing what some of the educators who read this blog think.

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