Teaching Children with Special Needs: Standards Based IEP's

With executive function research as an example of trends to watch in special education in 2015 (see last blog post), we might also look at standards-based IEP's. Generally in education, data and evidence-based practices and interventions are on the minds of special educators.
We can appreciate two truths when we look at standards and special education:

  • Standards-based IEP's are based on academic state standards.
  • A standards-based IEP can help students stay on track for their grade.

Most SPED students are integrated into the regular education programs in their schools. This has taken many years to accomplish, but it's a win-win situation. To help cement the notion that special education students can participate on an even playing field with the traditional student, the IEP has become a focus for attention. The IEP is a legal document, and it is vital for the development of plans that will maximize the school experience for disabled children. 

Special education does not happen in isolation. The movement to Common Core State Standards (CCSS) hasn't ignored the educational needs of SPED students. The standards-based IEP is a document that helps teachers line up their instruction for integrated students with the work they are already doing for the general population. So along with outlining the special supplies, equipment, schedules and assistance required by the student with the IEP, she should be able to pull out the standards the student is struggling with to focus attention on the special educational needs those standards may require. The formative and summative assessments administered in and out of the classroom environment identify standards in need of attention.

Thankfully, there is software available to help teachers navigate the fine points of the process. Developing SMART Goals (S¬–Specific, M–Measurable, A–Action Words, R–Realistic and Relevant, T–Time-Limited) is becoming easier than ever. Teachers can pull relevant IEP goals from databanks provided by state departments of education and software companies. The WrightsLaw site has the best description of the details of IEP development using SMART goals. Also of note, Virginia has put together a first rate document outlining the process of developing a standards based IEP.

Technology will transform special education instruction by enhancing individual learning opportunities and enabling greater flexibility. Tools include blended learning classroom environments, video conferencing, tablet PC's, and web-based curriculum delivery systems. It will become important to stipulate these tools in IEPs; it will help parents keep track of the methods used in classrooms to help their children succeed. 

Textbook companies are scrambling to develop digital textbooks for all students. I remember when we are all concerned that kids were developing scoliosis from carrying heavy backpacks. I had to smile the other day when I heard a mom in the supermarket talking about research that shows kids are developing neck injuries from looking down at smartphones all the time. Some things never change. We will always apply a high level of care to finding the best products and services for students. May the best companies win.

Some resources for your consideration:


Grant Name: Foundation Grants

Funded By: Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation

Description: Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation supports innovative projects that help youth with disabilities develop the leadership and employment skills they need to succeed, particularly for careers in science, technology and the environment. MEAF will also consider projects to create tools that help break down barriers to employment and increase job opportunities for young people with disabilities entering the workforce, including returning veterans with disabilities.

Program Areas: Disabilities, General Education, Professional Development, Science/Environmental, Special Education, Technology, Vocational

Eligibility:  Public School, Private School, Higher Education, Other

Proposal Deadline:  6/1/2016

Annual Total Amount: $1,000.00 - $10,000.00

Average Amount: $400,000.00

Address: 1560 Wilson Blvd., Ste. 1150, Arlington, VA 22209-2463

Telephone: 703-276-8240

Website: Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation

Availability:  All States