What should be in Individualized Education Program (IEP) progress reports and what actually is in IEP progress reports often are two different things.
Imagine it is time for your annual work review. Your employer presents a report that states you didn’t make progress, or didn’t make enough progress, toward your goals for the year. However, when you read the report, there’s no data backing your employer’s decision, nor is there a performance plan for moving forward. You don’t know why you didn’t progress and you don’t know what you need to do in order to progress.
The same issues occur with IEP progress reports.
They should reflect the IEP, they should include data that supports degree of progress or failure to make progress, and they should include insight into why progress was or wasn’t made. With the latter, parents and educators can meet to decide if 1) the student still needs the goal; 2) if the student doesn’t need the goal; 3) if the goal needs to be adjusted; 4) if the student implementation or failure of implementation of accommodations, services, and/or related services impacted the student’s progress; and 5) if additional accommodations, services, and/or related services are needed for the student to make meaningful progress.
Federal regulations aren’t fun reads. Please stick with me on this one. There are quite a few that apply. Reading them will help clarify what should or shouldn’t be included in the IEP. The following are excerpts from 300.320 of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which provides a definition of an individualized education program.
Section 300.320(a)(3) of IDEA states that IEPs must include the following:
(3) A description of (i) How the child’s progress toward meeting the annual goals described in paragraph (2) of this section will be measured; and(ii) When periodic reports on the progress the child is making toward meeting the annual goals (such as through the use of quarterly or other periodic reports, concurrent with the issuance of report cards) will be provided;
That’s a clear statement. IEPs must include statements related to how and when progress will be measured and reported. So, let’s visit “paragraph (2)” mentioned above.
300.320(a)(2) of IDEA states that IEPs must include the following:
(2)(i) A statement of measurable annual goals, including academic and functional goals designed to (A) Meet the child’s needs that result from the child’s disability to enable the child to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum; and(B) Meet each of the child’s other educational needs that result from the child’s disability;(ii) For children with disabilities who take alternate assessments aligned to alternate academic achievement standards, a description of benchmarks or short-term objectives;
Combine paragraphs two and three and, again, you get another straightforward statement. IEPs must include statements of 1) how and when progress will be measured and 2) measurable annual goals that a) meet each of the child’s educational needs that result from the child’s disability; b) enable the child to make progress in the general education curriculum; and when applicable c) of benchmarks or short-term objectives.
Let’s look at a third excerpt from 300.320, specifically 300.320(a)(4), which states that the IEP must include the following:
(4) A statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services, based on peer-reviewed research to the extent practicable, to be provided to the child, or on behalf of the child, and a statement of the program modifications or supports for school personnel that will be provided to enable the child (i) To advance appropriately toward attaining the annual goals;(ii) To be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum in accordance with paragraph (a)(1) of this section, and to participate in extracurricular and other nonacademic activities; and(iii) To be educated and participate with other children with disabilities and nondisabled children in the activities described in this section;
When it comes to IEP progress reports, this is a piece to which you should pay attention: The IEP must include a statement of special education and related services that will be provided to enable the child to advance appropriately toward attaining the goals.
In other words: If a progress report states a student is not advancing appropriately, the report should include data for the special education and related services that are or are not working. Per 300.320(a)(4), if they are appropriate, the student should be progressing.
This applies to accommodations, too. Although accommodation isn’t defined in IDEA or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) there’s a general understanding of what the word accommodation means and how they are applied.
Section 12182(a) of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states the following:
No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation.
Section 12181(7)(J) of ADA states the following:
The following private entities are considered public accommodations for purposes of this subchapter, if the operations of such entities affect commerce (J) a nursery, elementary, secondary, undergraduate, or postgraduate private school, or other place of education;
Section 12181 and 12182 of ADA confirm that accommodations are the right of students in school since 1) no individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the accommodations of any place of public accommodation and 2) schools are considered public accommodations.
The settlement agreement for The United States of America and the Park School agrees with this and states the following:
The ADA prohibits a place of public accommodation from discriminating against an individual on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of its goods, services and facilities. 42 U.S.C. § 12182(a). . . .
Park School is a private school providing education to children in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade and is, therefore, a place of public accommodation covered by Title III of the ADA. 42 U.S.C. § 12181(7)(J).
If we wrap up the above, the schools are required to provide accommodations. Those accommodations impact goals, too, and thus data needs to be collected and shared about them, too.
And last, but not least, there’s the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). December 2015, a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), was passed. It ensures that school systems will prepare every child to graduate from high school for college and careers.
What follows below are examples of problems that arise with reporting.
The Report Should Include Data
If an IEP requires a student to do “X on 4 out of 5”, there’s a problem if the progress report states the student did X in “all data collected”.
“All” is not the same as “4 out of 5”.
What is the data?
If the school can’t provide you the data, there’s a problem. They should be able to cite and provide the data collected for the report. This is not an unreasonable request, but you might run into teachers who take offense to something as simple as a request for the actual data.
The Report Should Reflect the Goal
If an IEP requires a student to write three paragraphs containing X, Y, and Z in all subjects, on 4 out of 5 data samples for each subject, there’s a problem if the report states the student did this in History, but doesn’t mention any other subject.
It Isn’t the Student’s Responsibility to Provide Data to the School
If the progress report states that the student did not do X because he “didn’t attend Monday meetings with a teacher” or because he “didn’t finish all of his assignments”, there’s a problem.
It is the school’s responsibility to collect data. It is not the student’s responsibility to provide data to the school.
If there wasn’t data, then the school should have reported that the student “did X on 0 out of 5”.
IEP Progress Report Break Down
The following examples are pulled from a real IEP progress report, which includes goals, progress codes related to the goals, and comments related to the progress. The problems with the comments appear below them. Pay attention to the wording and measurements cited.
Annual Goal 1
Area of Need: Reading Comprehension
Goal: After reading a course-related text, [Student] will answer a variety of inferential questions across curriculum areas with at least 80% accuracy on 4 out of 5 data points, measured quarterly.
Progress Code: 4
Comments: [Student] was able to answer a variety of inferential questions across the curriculum with 80% accuracy on all data points collected.
- The comments don’t indicate that the student answered the questions “after reading a course-related text”. For all we know, the teacher could have asked questions after the students watched a video or after the teacher read a book out loud. There is no indication that data for a reading comprehension goal actually came from answers the student wrote after he read course-related text. Because this is a reading comprehension goal, the data has to indicate if the student read the text.
- “All data collected” is not the same as “4 out of 5 data points”. “All” could equal one data point.
- There is nothing indicating that the data collected was measured from that quarter. The way the goal is written, the data could have been collected the previous quarter or even the previous school year. That might seem like an extreme and unimaginable example, but when it comes to data collected by school divisions, fact often is stranger than fiction.
- There isn’t a notice of the accommodations, services, or related services the student used. Did the student’s use of extended time help make the progress possible? What about the student’s use of large text or increased white space?
Short Term Objective 1
Area of Need: Reading Comprehension
Given a piece of figurative language, [Student] will use a variety of strategies (close reading, visualizing, use of context) to determine and explain what at [sic] the figurative language means with 85% accuracy on 4 out of 5 opportunities, measured quarterly.
Progress Code: 2
Comments: [Student] was able to explain the meaning of presented figurative language on one assignment with 100% accuracy. Given four additional opportunities, [Student] did not provide and [sic] explanation of figurative language due to not completing the assignment.
- “Presented” is not the same as “Given a piece”. This is a reading comprehension goal. Did the student read the “piece” he was given or was he presented with questions that followed the presentation of a video or book that was read out loud, or something else?
- The goal doesn’t state that the student will “explain the meaning”. It states the student “will use a variety of strategies (close reading, visualizing, use of context) to determine and explain”. What strategies did the student use? How did the student use the strategies to determine and explain?
- The comment indicates that the school is blaming the student for not providing it data. The school division’s failure to collect the data is why it doesn’t exist. In an entire quarter, it is hard to believe that the student didn’t have any other opportunities outside of the work he didn’t complete to exhibit his progress or lack of progress toward the goal. In addition, the comment states “the assignment”, not “assignments”. One assignment shouldn’t be the source of four data points.
- If the school is, indeed, lacking data points because the student didn’t turn in any work (or turned in close to no work), that itself should be a data point. There’s no data in the report related to why the student didn’t turn in his assignments. Does the student need different and/or or additional services and related services? Does the student need different and/or new accommodations? Did his teachers fully implement his IEP? Did he have access to all of his accommodations and services? What about the related services? Were the assignments too hard? Did the student need more time? Since the student’s school is using a virtual format during COVID-related school building closured, does the student need access to a printer to print out the assignments? Does the student need access to a scanner to submit his work to class? Does the student need access to a larger monitor? Does the student suffer from screen fatigue? Does the student need help with organization? What about school avoidance? Is the student trying to avoid school? If yes, then Why? Is he trying to avoid specific teachers?