Thursday, December 1, 2011

Don Peek - How Good are IEP's?

This post is authored by Don Peek, a former educator and past president of the training division of Renaissance Learning. He now runs The School Funding Center, a company that provides grant information and grant-writing services to schools. To learn more, or to subscribe to the School Funding Center Grant Database, go to

How Good Are IEP’s?
IEP, as most of the readers of this blog will know, stands for Individualized Education Program.  IEP’s were mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  Educators and parents who are involved with students in special education know that every single child must have an IEP on file and that each child must be evaluated and the file updated at least once each year. 

IEP’s have been in place long before the latest IDEA legislation in 2004.  I don’t think anyone could question the need or the benefits of having an Individualized Education Program for each student found to have a disability.  In fact, the idea is so good, schools probably need to develop IEP’s for every single student in attendance.  That, however, is not likely to happen for a couple of reasons.  The first is that schools don’t have the money to put such a process in place.  The second is that IEP’s in and of themselves don’t guarantee any improvement in the teaching and learning process.

It is true that a good IEP describes how a student learns best, how the student best demonstrates that learning, and what educators can do to help the student learn more effectively.  Unfortunately, some IEP’s are drafted, agreed upon, and then placed in a drawer where they are seldom viewed until it is time for a yearly evaluation.  I know this may seem strange to the teachers and administrators who use IEP’s properly, but believe me when I say that it’s true.

An IEP should be a well-worn document by the end of the school year.  Teachers should review them often and should prepare lesson plans based on the IEP’s of students in their classrooms. Although special education classes tend to be smaller than mainstream classes, special education teachers still must have a separate IEP for every single student.  Some lessons can cover multiple IEP’s.  Others do not.  Individualized instruction is difficult.  It has been tried time and again in mainstream classes and often proves to be overwhelming to the teachers.

That’s why special education classes are smaller, tend to have more help in the form of aides, and often have more equipment to deal with various disabilities.  All are in place so that teachers can individualize and meet IEP requirements.

If you are a teacher who reviews IEP’s regularly, uses them to develop daily lesson plans, and makes sure you are doing everything necessary for your students to meet their IEP goals, I applaud you.

If you are a teacher who is not using your IEP’s properly, I suggest you begin to do so immediately.  If you are a principal, it is your responsibility to make sure IEP’s are developed and used properly.  If you are a parent, I suggest that you be familiar with your child’s IEP.  Look for progress reports that reference the IEP and monitor the papers and information coming home to you to make sure the IEP that was filed is being followed.

An Individualized Education Program may be one of the greatest rights of the disabled child.  Unfortunately, it is no more valuable than the paper on which it is written unless it leads both teacher and students to the accomplishment of the goals it contains.

Grant Notice:
Grant Name:  Walmart Foundation Grants
Funded By:  Walmart Foundation
Description:  Giving to K-12 Public Schools/Districts, Charter Schools, Community/Junior Colleges, State Colleges and Universities; Private schools and colleges with current tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code; and Churches and other faith based organizations with propose projects that address and benefit the needs of the community at large. See the website for eligibility requirements and additional information. The grant maximum depends on the facility to which you are applying. The Community Involvement Coordinator or manager at the facility nearest you will be able to advise you as to the grant maximum for their location.
Program Areas:  Adult Literacy, After-School, Arts, At-Risk/Character, Community Involvement/Volunteerism, Disabilities, General Education, Health/PE, Homeless, Reading, Safe/Drug Free Schools, Science/Environmental, Social Studies, Special Education, TAG, Technology, Vocational
Recipients:  Public School, Private school, Higher Ed, Faith-Based, Other
Proposal Deadline:  12/31/11
Average Amount:  $250.00 (depends on individual store)
Telephone:  800-530-9925
Availability:  All States


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