Monday, October 1, 2012

Don Peek - Getting Familiar with those 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 schoolfundingcenter.
Getting Familiar with those IEP’s
Just about everyone is back in school now, getting over the newness and settling into the routine.  Of course, it’s a no-brainer that both regular and special education teachers should be pouring over the IEP’s right now.  Most of those IEP’s were developed and approved by committee last spring.  It’s definitely time to put them to use.
Some of you are probably wondering why I would write about something that should be so obvious to everyone involved.  Well, I served in public education for 20 years as a teacher, an assistant principal, a principal, and an assistant superintendent, and it was not until I became an assistant principal and starting attending lots of review meetings that I fully understood how important IEP’s were --- to both special ed and regular education teachers.
Once I saw the value of these documents, I became a very strong advocate.  I have to admit, however, that while I was a regular ed teacher and taught many special education students who were mainstreamed into my classes, I rarely glanced at an IEP.  I must have gotten them in my mailbox and promptly put them in a filing cabinet where they stayed, unused, for the remainder of the school year.  At that time, I didn’t know what an IEP was or how it was supposed to be used.
What’s a little frightening is that now, in 2012, there are still many, many classroom teachers who pretty much ignore IEP’s and certainly a large number who do not use them effectively.   While a majority of these teachers are in regular classrooms, it is not unheard of for some special education teachers to either ignore or make half-hearted attempts at following the IEP’s they receive for the students in their classrooms.
There are two main reasons for ignoring the directions laid out in IEP’s.  First, some teachers may not have a clear understanding of what an IEP is or what they are required to do in order to fulfill the obligations set forth in the IEP for each student.  This is especially true of new teachers who are often overwhelmed the first few months they are in their classrooms.  These teachers need help, and they especially need help in understanding how they may need to modify what they do when working with mainstreamed special education students.
The other reason that teachers tend to ignore IEP’s is that they are often required to do special work to modify their lessons, assignments, and expectations for the special education students they teach, and they are simply too lazy or too strong-willed to modify what they do for any student.  It’s true that I’m probably talking about a very small percentage of teachers who have this attitude, but even a small percentage of teachers can impact a very large number of students.
New teachers need help.  The other teachers need to be counseled and monitored closely enough to let them know that carrying out the mandates in IEP’s is a part of their job and simply not an option.  Teaching is not easy.  Anyone who has worked as a classroom teacher at any level can tell you that.  And it is true that having to modify lessons for individual students in a classroom makes that job more difficult.
What everyone (parents, teachers, and administrators) needs to understand, however, is that well-developed IEP’s are the key to success and growth when dealing with special education students.  The contents of an IEP should never be made light of or ignored.  Students with disabilities have it tough enough.  It is the least we can do as teachers and administrators to follow the guidelines in their IEP’s so that we have the greatest chance of success when we work with these students.
Grant Name:  Kresge Foundation Educational Grants
Funded By:  Kresge Foundation
Description:  Giving on a national basis with emphasis on Detroit, MI, as well as some international funding to strengthen nonprofit organizations by catalyzing their growth, connecting them to their stake holders, and challenging greater support through grants. Grants are awarded to nonprofit organizations operating in the fields of education, health and long-term care, human services, arts and humanities, public affairs, and science, nature, and the environment. No grants to individuals, or for debt retirement, projects that are already substantially completed, minor equipment purchases, or for constructing buildings for worship services and provide no support for religious organizations, (unless applicant is operated by a religious organization and it serves secular needs and has financial and governing autonomy separate from the parent organization with space formally dedicated to its programs) private foundations, or elementary and secondary schools (unless they predominantly serve individuals with physical and/or developmental disabilities).
Program Areas:  After-School, Arts, Disabilities, General Education, Health/PE, Math, Reading, Science/Environment, Social Studies, Special Education
Recipients:  Public School, Private School, Higher Ed, Other
Proposal Deadline:  See website for details.
Average Amount:  $10,000.00 - $500,000.00
Telephone:  248-643-9630
Availability:  All States


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