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IEP’s – Read them for an effective school year

Many general education teachers and new science teachers are being asked to teach special education students without support.  This is why I am here, to help, give tips tricks and support those who are given the difficult (but not impossible) task of teaching this diverse population of students the subject we all love.

As a science teacher, it is difficult to be on familiar terms with and understand which parts of the IEP are most important.  An IEP can be a very overwhelming document to read and dissect.  An IEP is the Individualized Education Plan that each special education student has.  No two documents are the same as no two students are the same.  The IEP became uniform in New York State 4 years ago.  This has made it much easier for students to go from school to school and the document is readily available.  Each part of the IEP is important, nevertheless some I have found to be more important in the teaching of science.

The first part of the IEP to give special attention to is the Academic Achievement, Functional Performance and Learning Characteristics often known as the (PLEPS).  This part of the IEP informs the teacher of the student’s academic strengths and weaknesses.  This part of the document will inform the teacher if the student has reading, vocabulary, mathematical or any other academic difficulties.  This is often where I find if the student can read independently or needs to be read to.

The next section to take a glance at is the Social Development section.  Due to the lab environment in many of our science classrooms it is important to discern how these students behave in social settings.  Many times, this section will let you know if the student is able or unable to work in cooperative learning groups. Below this section is the Physical Development section, which needs to be read to determine if the student requires any modifications in the lab setting.  Below Physical Development is the Management Needs section.  The section that important for the general education teacher are the Program Modifications that are located further in the IEP.

For the science teacher, the most important section to read and understand is the Supplementary Aids/Services and Program Modifications section of the IEP.  This section informs the educator what modifications the student needs on a daily, weekly or as needed basis.  Often this section explains if the student needs preferential seating, books on tape, copies of notes, refocusing and redirection, information broken into smaller parts, breaks, etc.  These modifications are imperative to the success of the student in the science classroom and the success of the student is dependent on receiving these modifications.   When on IEP direct, click the “Show details” and then the exact reason for the modification or how the modification needs to be given is shown.  This is a huge help in meeting the needs of students with disabilities because each one has their own set of needs and modifications.  What “special seating arrangements” means for one student may be different for another.  

Lastly, the section most general education teachers are familiar with is the Testing Accommodations section of the IEP.  This section explains what accommodations the student is entitled to for quizzes, tests and state assessments.  The IEP will explain how the accommodations should be given; for the example of “Extended time”, in the column “implementation recommendations” it will say 1.5X or 2.0X or Double time.  As the school year gets underway and you learn about your students if you feel that they are in need of another accommodation, do not hesitate to discuss it with the special education teacher, guidance counselor or school psychologist.  The input of the general education teacher is necessary for the success of the child and the coherent writing of an IEP.

All parts of the IEP are important to the success of each student and should be read and followed through.  For the science teacher and meeting the needs of the diverse population these I have highlighted are in my opinion the most important to help make the job a little easier and assist the students who already struggle.   If there is a part of the IEP that you do not understand, ask questions and inquire about the student.  As a special education science teacher it is always refreshing to have the general education teachers ask questions about their students, it shows you care and want to help them in any way that is possible.  Good Luck with the new school year! If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me.