The Language of IEPs and 504s

The Language of IEPs and 504s: The Problem with “Engage”

Imagine an IEP with a goal along the lines of the following:

Teachers will engage with student to ensure student understands and accurately records all assignments in student’s planner.

Now imagine attending an IEP meeting at which this goal is being discussed. You push for more details, but the staff member helming the meeting insists that engage means the following:

“It’s not that they’re waiting for to come to them. They’re going to engage with .”

What could go wrong?

Language of IEPs and 504s-All and Before

The Language of IEPs and 504s: The Importance of “All” and “Before”

Imagine your child has the following on his IEP:

“The IEP will share reading data with parents on a monthly basis.”

After six months of meetings, your internal parent alarm starts going off because the data provided by the school doesn’t match what you’re seeing at home.

You submit a FERPA request for all reading data related to your child.

The FERPA response provides you negative reading data that the school didn’t previous share with you.
You want to complain to the school and/or submit a complaint to the state, but . . . 

The school followed the IEP. It did share reading data on a monthly basis. There wasn’t anything in the IEP that stated all data had to be provided.

Writing Goals: "The Problem with Measured Quarterly"

Writing Goals: The Problem with “Measured Quarterly”

Quarterly measurements invite skewed and misleading data. Imagine the following goal is being proposed for your student: “Given content-area vocabulary (English, History, Science, Math), STUDENT will earn 85% accuracy on 3 out of 4 vocabulary assessments per quarter.” In the case of vocabulary, students are provided content-area vocabulary on a daily basis. Depending on the type of assessment (more on this below), the student could be assessed on vocabulary once-to-a-few times a week during each grading quarter. Which assessments count toward the goal? The first four consecutively administered assessments? The last four consecutively administered assessments? Four randomly chosen assessments administered throughout the grading quarter? Four cherry-picked assessments administered throughout the grading quarter?

The Language of IEPs and 504s: Ban “As Needed”

If “as needed” appears on any IEP or 504 plan put in front of you, request that the words be removed.

If you’re advised “that’s how we do it”, ask for documentation citing this to be true, and pull out IDEA or Section 504, and point out “as needed” doesn’t appear in either.

A child doesn’t need an IEP plan or a 504 plan as needed.

Children need everything in their IEPs or 504s period.

The Language of IEPs and 504s: Yes, You Have to Define “Accessible”

Accessible is another of those words to consider inserting every chance you get.

If something is accessible, it is often an alternative method of access.

For example, a student might need a ramp and an elevator as alternatives to the stairs used by his peers.

Another student might need Braille or large text as an alternative to the text provided to her peers.

Accommodations Don’t Have a Word Count: Clarity Trumps Word Count When Writing Accommodations

No laws or implementing regulations state accommodations must be written within a specific word count.

However, pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the unique needs of students must be addressed.

In other words: Clarity and ensuring the unique needs of the child are met is more important than word count.

The Language of IEPs and 504s: Eliminate “Access” and Define “Use”

A friend shared her daughter’s IEP. It included the following accommodation:

“Access to Flash Pass”

“Access” is up there with “as needed” and “all” and “before”.

What is “access”, other than a word that is over-used and under-defined in IEPs and 504 Plans?

The Language of IEPs & 504s: Just When You Thought You Knew the Definition of “Assessment”, Wrong Again

In my world, an assessment is any kind of quiz, test, evaluation, etc., whether it is graded or not graded.

In IEP and 504 Plan worlds, assessments are interpreted as differently as a person might interpret a piece of poetry. Whereas one person might interpret Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” to be about being an individual choosing a different path, marching to a different drummer, and so on, there are others who point to this understanding as nonsense, as the incorrect interpretation.

Who knew assessments could be the same way?

Return to School Virtual IEP Guidance Document

Whether you live in Fairfax County, Virginia, or in a different county or state, view this video.

It’s an opportunity to 1) learn what another school division is doing; 2) identify behind-the-scenes practices that are a) problematic and/or b) not occurring according to the training; and 3) to compare against your own division’s practices to a) bring ideas to them and/or b) ask about problem areas behind-the-scenes in your school division.

This presentation was developed by Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS).

There are a few stand-out comments to consider—and to contact FCPS (or your school division) about if these items weren’t discussed with you.

Here’s one for now, and then the video and transcript follow:

“The first thing the case manager needs to do is to review the IEP and determine whether or not the goals, accommodations, and services can be delivered in a virtual format.”

If yes, did the case manager actually take an action outside of “review” and “determine”?

What’s on the IEP PLOP Page—and What Should Actually Be on the IEP PLOP Page?

20 USC Sec. 1414(d)(1)(A)(i) states:

“The term “individualized education program” or “IEP” means a written statement for each child with a disability that is developed, reviewed, and revised in accordance with this section and that includes—
(I) a statement of the child’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance, including . . .”

It doesn’t state that it should include present levels from a year ago or two years ago. It states present levels—as in, where is the student NOW.

And yet . . . There are IEPs that don’t have baseline data at the start of each year to measure progress. They are void of PRESENT levels.

If you happen to have a child in Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS), there is an IEP page that is actually titled, “Information Related to Present Level of Educational Performance”.

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) has called out FCPS on its use of the page.