Presentation by Randy Ewart at Feb 27, 2017 SEPTA meeting
Link to Drop Box folder with documents to share.
I’ve had discussions with multiple caregivers and parents recently about IEP objectives and evaluation/assessment. I think this is not only an important issue but is an issue that is a foundation for special education.
The purpose of special education, as established in IDEA, is outcome based. The focus is on the future life of the student. Decision making and services are made in this context. With this in mind I believe evaluation/assessment and the development of the IEP, especially objectives, fall under this context. There should be an alignment to the long range future of the student.
Often the focus of special education is on deficits. Evaluations identify deficits and the programming is developed to address the deficits. Certainly many or most educators are conscientious of long range outcomes but the deficits are the priority. Contrasting this is a standards based approach. I do not mean every student working towards grade level work as this would be entirely inappropriate for severely impacted students (like my son). I mean more of an outcome based focus with long range goals as the priority. If the purpose of special education is to prepare students for life after K-12 education then the standards or outcome based approach is necessary. A deficits based approach can result in progress but progress that does not translate into necessary preparation for the future.
Here’s an analogy. A person gets up in the morning and has to go to work. She has a range of tasks from the essential, e.g. getting dressed, to the desired but not essential, e.g. send an email to a friend or make a cup of coffee to go. As is often the case with me, she runs out of time. Maybe she can try to send the email but then has no time for the coffee. Maybe she needed to print a report for work but overlooked it because she was preoccupied with all the other tasks. At some point she has no choice and has to leave regardless if the coffee is ready or the report is printed.
Our kids have a limited amount of time in special education. Like the person going to work, at some point our kids are exited from IDEA regardless if they are prepared. We know a great many of our kids are not prepared. A deficits approach prioritizes urgency at the expense of important. The email is sent but the report was overlooked. A standards/outcome based approach focuses on importance not urgency. This doesn’t mean deficits are overlooked but they are prioritized.
In my experience in school and in working with many different parents I have found a focus on deficits.
Contrast this with another situation. I helped a family with a middle school student with autism. His mother explained to me that they had a goal of him having some type of job and some level of independence. He was very much interested in cars and working with cars in some capacity for his job. The math needed for auto repair is mostly measurement. We mapped out a muti-year plan for his math to focus on measurement and consumer math. He was not going to learn to simplify 3x + 2x but would focus on what a 5/16 inch wrench is and what is meant by 5/16 of an inch.
The first student I ever helped when I began my work in special education was a sophomore with aspergers. He received ineffective special education support and entered community college with the same challenges and gaps in math as he had his sophomore year. I served as a kind of case manager for him as he worked through community college. He needed help with study skills, math content, stress, completing work etc. This semester he is likely to graduate from community college and plans on transferring to a university.
Again, I am not proposing that deficits be marginalized. The deficits can be prioritized based on long range goals and addressed accordingly. The photo of the table above shows 3 categories of post-secondary outcomes and the level of focus on standards and curriculum.
My position is that the current student work and support should be aligned with the appropriate outcome.
The math objectives present in the photos on this post were written for former students of mine. These types of objectives are ineffective and ubiquitous. When I have sat in IEP meetings the majority of the time I am the only person who is capable of evaluating IEP math objectives. This post provides some guidance for others to evaluate these objectives.
In the photo above the objective has 3 major flaws.
In the objective above there are 2 major problems.
The objective above is similar to the previous example. The examples in the objective include “solving” and “graphing.” Is the student supposed to demonstrate mastery in all the different types of algebra concepts? Or, if he can solve equations is the objective mastered?
How can caregivers evaluate these objectives?
The language of an effective objective can be used, almost verbatim, as problem. For example
Have the person writing the objectives provide an example problem that can be used to assess mastery of the objective. If the problem includes additional information or language beyond what is written in the objective then the objective is ineffective. For example:
In my 21 years in working as a math teacher (with 6 that focused on special education) I have rarely seen IEP objectives for math that are directly aligned with the math curriculum that is to be accessed by the respective student for whom the objectives are written (see photo below). The photo above shows an excerpt from an OSERS letter regarding IEP goals that are standards based.
Below is a list of IEP objectives I have written for use in an IEP. They are directly aligned with the math content to be covered. Some educators insist on including the specialized instruction as part of the setting of the objective. I have no qualms with this as long as the student ultimately will demonstrate mastery of the objective without the supports (unless the supports are to be permanent or lead to subsequent objectives that will not have the supports included). NOTE: If you would like suggestions for IEP objectives please use form below and I will add them to this post.
Pre-Algebra and Algebra 1
Link to online folder with documents from presentation
Presentation at Simsbury SEPTO, February 2016 on Advocating for Effective Services using the IEP (see link below)
At the turn of the century education has seen a standards based reform movement, e.g NCLB. IDEA 2004 reflects this with a change in the focus of an IEP towards curriculum standards. What does this mean? The focus of academic based IEP goals and objectives should be strictly aligned with the curriculum standards. This helps to make the general curriculum accessible for all students – to the extent possible.
For example, in the past a math IEP objective may be written based on weaknesses found in psychological tests regardless if this was in the curriculum covered in the life of the new IEP. Maybe a student had trouble with calculations with fractions on the testing so an objective would focus on improving these types of calculations even if the class was not going to cover calculations with fractions.
These new types of IEPs are called Standards Based IEPs. Here are a couple of links.