2001 Conference Proceedings

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Aligning the IEP to the General Curriculum via the Evaluation
Compliance and Best Practice

Ben Ewing, NCSP
Ewing Solutions, LLC

Special Education is a process and not just a series of discreet events. When viewed as discreet events, critical issues are not carried forward and, as a result, are not remedied. When viewed as discreet event there is no continuity. The Special Education process requires the following issues to be aligned:

With alignment, the team ensures that issues identified in the classroom and confirmed in an evaluation are addressed in the IEP and after graduation. Alignment ensures continuity of education by aligning special education with the general curriculum of the school district.

The purposes of this title are
(1) (A) to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for employment and independent living.
(B) To ensure that the rights of children with disabilities and parents with such children are protected; and
(C) To assist states, localities, educational services agencies, and Federal agencies to provide for the education of all children with disabilities
(2) To assist states in the implementation of a statewide, comprehensive, coordinated, multidisciplinary, interagency system of early intervention services for infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families;
(3) To ensure that educators and parents have the necessary tools to improve educational results for children with disabilities by supporting systemic-change activities; coordinated research and personnel preparation; coordinated technical assistance, dissemination, and support; and technology development and media services; and 
(4) To assess, and ensure the effectiveness of, efforts to educate children with disabilities. 

IDEA (1997)
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act - reauthorized (IDEA - 1997) is designed to do a number of things. Among them are providing a free appropriate public education to children with disabilities, protecting their rights and provide assistance to local schools to provide services for them. The law also provides assistance to the localities to implement early intervention programs and to improve programming generally. 

The law discusses discrimination. Any service provided to a child with a disability must be necessary. If a service is necessary but not provided - that is discrimination. Likewise, when a service is provided that is not necessary - that too, is discrimination.

The basic premise is that the school district has adopted a general curriculum. The general curriculum is the mission statement of the school district. Special Education is required when a student can't progress in the general curriculum because of a disability. Special education addresses only the deficits in the general curriculum that are due to the disability.

Any change to the presentation of the general curriculum is a change in the natural order of education. Any change to the natural order needs to be necessary and, therefore, justified. The only way to justify the necessity of changing the natural order is with data. 

The IEP cannot be written until an evaluation is completed. Whether it is a comprehensive evaluation (an initial or reevaluation), an annual review, a report card the IEP cannot be a living document unless it has life-giving data provided in the evaluations.

1. Only an evaluation can determine educational needs and specific deficits in the general curriculum and how a disability affects learning
2. Only the general curriculum deficits affected by a disability should be addressed in the child's IEP
3. Therefore, the IEP can only be aligned to the General Curriculum through an evaluation

General Curriculum and Mission
Special Education means specially designed instruction designed to meet the needs of the child with a disability. A person with a disability is any person who has a physical or mental impairment, which substantially limits learning.
The general curriculum adopted by the school board is the mission statement of the school district. When a child has problems with learning the curriculum, the school district is not accomplishing its mission. Whenever a business is not accomplishing its mission, an action plan is designed and implemented based on a thorough needs assessment. In schools, it is no different.
When a child demonstrates problems in learning, a needs assessment is conducted. In schools the needs assessment is the collection of data leading up to interventions and continuing, as necessary, through the formal evaluation process. With the data obtained in an assessment, the TEAM can determine the form and degree of interventions. 

If the problems in learning are due to the curriculum or some factor external of the child then remedies to the system are in order. When the problems in learning are due to a disability then special education may be required. Regardless of the origin of the problem, an action plan to deal with the problem (whether in the system or in the child) should be designed and then implemented. Furthermore, regardless of the origin, the process should begin and end with the child in the classroom. 

The Process of Special Education
The general curriculum is taught in the regular classroom (as opposed to special education classroom). In the regular classroom regular methodologies are used. Teachers can deal with the normal variation as it occurs in the population. By definition1, 85% of the population falls in the average or normal range. 
When a child demonstrates an inability to perform, to sequence, or to remember then that child may have problems with learning. Learning problems require interventions beyond normal educational techniques. These special techniques must be assessed for effectiveness. If the problem persists after these special techniques, then the TEAM may be wise to consider a referral for more comprehensive assessment or evaluation. 

At this point the TEAM is examining whether or not the child may have an educational disability. If so then the child may be eligible for special education based on his or her unique needs in the curriculum. Regardless of eligibility, an action plan should be developed. This action plan should identify the baseline behaviors, or present levels of performance of the child as well as measurable goals with specific criteria for mastery.
Services that are necessary for the IEP to be implemented are provided. Remembering that to fail to provide a service is failure to provide a free appropriate education. In addition, providing a service that is not necessary is also a form of discrimination.

The services and their relationship to each goal and to the general curriculum are delineated in an action plan or Individualized Education Program. The services are the final aspect of the special education process. The services are the necessary changes to the general curriculum as determined by the evaluation, the goals and the TEAM.

The Process of Alignment
All roads in education should lead to the general curriculum. The process of Special Education begins and ends with the child in the classroom or general curriculum. Deviating from the curriculum is to deviate from the mission of the school. Deviation from the mission of the school wastes precious resources.
Special Education is a process that requires aligning the IEP to the general curriculum. The only way to do this with accuracy is to base the IEP on data. The comprehensive evaluation provides the data necessary for alignment. 
By conceptualizing Special Education as a process and aligning the IEP to the curriculum through the evaluation School Districts can 

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