This is the third installment on Parts of the IEP. So far we have been invited to the IEP meeting, met the folks on the team and reviewed the student’s Present Levels of Academic and Functional Performance (PLA&FP). Now we have to design what it is that we are going to do during the school year, what the team is going to work on to meet the academic and functional goals for the student.
The development of the measurable annual goals is a very labor intensive part of the IEP. This is because each person on the team (GenEd teacher, SpEd teacher, therapist(s), counselor, etc) will go through the PLA&FP and develop a goal for each one of the needs identified.
School s really must pay attention to this part since they need to meet the requirements of IDEA. This is what it says:
So where do we start?
First we need to know and understand the components of a well written IEP goal. The goal should be not only positive but also describe a skill that can be measurable, hence the title of this section. A well written goal should answer the following question:
Note: We will have another post on how to write goals.
What can we do before the meeting?
As parents attending our first IEPs this can be very overwhelming. How am I supposed to know what to do if I’ve never done it before? (IEP, and what I’ve heard about them) Here is where a good deal of communication, dialog, planning and sharing comes to mind. Look at the copy of your student’s previous IEP, look at the draft the teacher has shared with you and see what things are the same, where progress has been made, what areas need to be changed or you have questions about so you can review them with the teacher. If this is your student’s first IEP, ask the teacher for a copy of the draft they have prepared so you know what they are looking at for your child.
Ask to meet with the Special Education Teacher. He or she can go over the draft with you and explain what the evaluations determined your student has to focus on based on the curriculum for the year but also on their needs. Give the teacher a call or send them an email and let them know you want to meet with them, and the purpose of the meeting.
Do the same thing with all the teachers and/or therapists that work with your child; this will help all the team prepare the draft IEP. When the meeting happens it will be much easier to share the goals that the team has put together and see where they all can come together and work on the goals that have been designed.
What does the curriculum say?
I want to make sure we remember that our children are General education students. What does that mean? It means that they have to learn the curriculum that is taught in the grade that they are in. And it means that if needed, modifications must be made to the way in which this information is taught is so that the student can access that information. The law is very clear that schools need to teach children to higher standards, we as parents have to make sure that happens. By knowing what our children have to learn based on the curriculum we can assist the team in making this happen.
This however does not mean that the team will take the goals that a student without disabilities will need to master and put them on the IEP, when developing the goals the team has to answer the question: What skills does the student need to master the content of the curriculum? For example, say the student’s reading level is lower than what they need to learn social studies; can the curriculum be taught via in a different manner so the student can learn it? Is the student an audio visual learner? Can we use a movie or music to teach the student? How about a video program or assistive technology to assist the student in acquiring the knowledge?
How do I use the PLA&FP?
IDEA is very clear that there must be a direct correlation between the annual goals and the PLA&FP. We know we need to address not only academic but functional goals when developing the IEP. Here are some ideas of questions we might ask when developing the annual goals.
How do you eat an elephant?
Yes, one bite at a time. We all know that is also how we learn to do things, so in order for our children to master a goal we will have to break it down into those smaller bites. This is what the teacher will call benchmarks or short term objectives. The beauty of these benchmarks is that they allow the team to check up on the progress the student is making in reaching the annual goal. This information will be shared with the parents during grading, reporting periods or parent teacher conferences.
These are only required for students who take alternate assessments aligned to alternate achievement standards. The IEP team will decide if the student’s disabilities are such that teaching to an alternative curriculum would be more beneficial than trying to teach the standard curriculum. These students will be working on modified or simplified grade-level content.
Knowing how to understand the PLA&FP, knowing what skills and challenges your student has that impede him or her from learning and accessing their curriculum will help you be a true partner and contributor in your role as a team member.
Note: This will be a series of posts so I can give each topic the time it needs to be explained. As I add to the topics I will place the links to this article so you don’t have to go far to find the information you are looking for.
In the upcoming posts we will go into detail on the following:
Parts of an IEP
Once the team sits down for the IEP meeting
Feel free to send me your questions or comments.