First and foremost, a team approach should be used in developing a student’s IEP. A variety of school personnel (e.g., general and special education teachers, therapists) and family members should collaborate to establish meaningful goals and objectives for a student and to identity the services and supports needed to promote student success. Each team member brings a unique perspective to the table in terms of the scope of the curriculum, demands of the environment, resources available, as well as needs and strengths of the student.
The following guidelines, based upon recommendations in Courtade-Little and Browder’s Aligning IEPs to Academic Standards, 2005, can be used by IEP teams in constructing standards-based IEPs.
- Become familiar with the Common Core State Standards. A general education teacher on a student’s IEP team can be a key resource in understanding curriculum expectations at the student’s particular grade level. At the high school level, it may be necessary to confer with multiple general educators to gain an understanding of the curriculum across content areas.
- Become familiar with the Louisiana Extended Standards, which represent the core academic content that may be assessed at each grade span for students with significant disabilities.
- Keep the planning student-focused. Give careful consideration to the student’s strengths, progress, needs, preferences, and current performance. What are the student’s current skills? What supports and accommodations will be needed to promote access to grade-level content? What are the student’s future needs?
- Consider both specific academic goals and broad access goals. The IEP team should consider strategies to support access to the grade level content in ways that will be meaningful to the student. The team should not attempt to write a goal or objective for every academic learning need. Remember, the IEP does not reflect the total curriculum for a student. It provides a basis for identifying priorities for a student and for specifying how he or she will access the broader curriculum.
Ask if it is “really reading” and “really math.” As the team is developing the objectives related to academic areas, it may be helpful to reflect on the team’s work and ask if the focus is really on reading and/or math, or if the team has gone astray of the essence of the academic content.
- Do not try to force all IEP objectives into alignment with academic standards/Extended Standards. Some students may need functional skills addressed on their IEP along with academics. Functional skills may be legitimate areas to target on the IEP, but do not try to back map them to academic standards. It is best to develop academic goals by beginning with the academic standards, rather than back mapping functional goals into the academic standards. (Courtade-Little and Browder, 2005).
Remember that therapy services provided through the IEP should support a student’s achievement of his or her goals and objectives. As such, therapy should be integrated within the context of other IEP goal areas to the greatest extent possible.