Sunday, April 5, 2009

How successful is your IEP?

How many people actually evaluate how well a student has performed on their IEP over the year? I do not know many that truly evaluate the IEP as a whole to see how well the student performed. The first thing I do when I receive a new student on my caseload is I evaluate the IEP. The IEP is the contract between the parent and the school district. For me to understand where I might go with a student curriculum and assistive technology, I need the snapshot of what is expected and how the student is performing on those expectations.

The first thing that I find that is frustrating is that progress reports are rarely marked. Why bother writing an IEP if you are not going to mark it? That is like going to a restaurant a famous steak house and ordering a McDonald’s hamburger. If you go to the effort to put your thoughts down on paper, mark it.

The second thing that is frustrating is the lack of data. Honestly, showing me your grade book is not going to show me why a student is not performing. Your grade book is just numbers that add up to another number. What does that final number mean? For me it means nothing at all. Show me the students work. You heard the saying “Show me the money!” Mine is “show me the DATA”. I want to see the inconsistency in the students’ performance.

So for me to do my job, I need to look at the IEP with a tool that allows me to see how well the student is achieving the entire IEP. This is what I do:
  1. Count the number of objectives including the carrying statements.
  2. Count the number of achieved objectives.
  3. Divide the number of achieved objectives to the number of objectives.
  4. Review the achieved objectives. What do the achieved objectives have in common?
  5. Review the unachieved objectives. What do the unachieved objectives have in common?

The second piece requires that the IEP team work with me.
  1. Of the unachieved objectives that have progress marked, do you feel these objectives should be continued? If they are continued, are they going to be the same as before or changing it.
  2. Of the unachieved objectives that have not been introduced, why haven’t they been introduced? If they have not been introduced, are they going to be carried over? If they are going to be carried over, these are the objectives that need to be discussed.

The third piece:

  1. If a student has not achieved 80% of their IEP than there is something wrong with the IEP not the student. A student should be able to achieve a personalized plan especially if it was written with the student in mind. The goals and objectives should be able to be achieved in the time allotted. This means that there needs to be a serious conversation about the amount of time the student has in school. How that time is spent in school. And how the therapist and classroom teacher can collaborate on objectives. It is important to note if something major happened in that year for example increase in absences, complete change in staff or school or medical concerns than it might be difficult to reach the 80% achievement.
  2. My formula to an IEP is; I multiply the number of achieved objectives by 2. That is the number of objectives that should be written into an IEP. If I am writing objectives using the data I have, the student should be able to achieve double the amount of objectives in one year. I would rather call a parent and say your child has achieved their entire IEP and we need to write a new one than sit across from a parent and show them so little achievement.
  3. Collaboration is necessary if you wish for students to generalize skills. It does not matter if the student has a learning disability or the student with signification disabilities. The team needs to work together and keep communication open.

Good Luck, in the development of your IEP's this year. I hope this helps others develop IEP's that are meaningful, achievable and successful in reach our students potential.