...the good IEP!!

    I was recently doing a workshop for a group of educational assistants...it was a rather in-depth, intense workshop where we examined the characteristics of needs statements, and then followed up with “walking through” the entire process of developing the Individual Education Plan for a real student presented by the EA.  Obviously, for many of the participants, this was the very student they worked with on a day-to-day basis... they had a lot invested in the exercise!! During the process we constantly referred to “buzz words” such as clear, concise, measurable, evidential, and individual to help us identify good needs statements and strategies.  In fact, these words brought a knowing smile to our lips as we visited and revisited them throughout the day!

    About ten minutes from the end of our long, exhausting, intense time, I made a “fatal” pedagogical error... I asked a summative question!! ( Who can tell me when you know you have a good IEP?).  Honestly, I expected to hear back our “buzz words”.  An experienced Educational Assistant, smiled and said, “I know.”  The answer that was forthcoming was so unexpected and profound, that it was 45 minutes of spirited discussion before we left.

     She said, “ That’s easy......if it is a good IEP it will be on the desk, wrinkled and
coffee stained...... all the bad ones are crisp, pristine and in a file.

    If you reflect on this statement you will get a picture of the process and its flaws.
Resource teachers generate pieces of paper because they are mandated or because the are
needed to justify staffing or funding.   These are often generated from computer software
without any editing, customizing or individualizing.  It must be very frustrating to spend
precious time creating a piece of paper for a file!  These teachers are often exasperated
when parents want to exercise their right to participate in this process....  But if the plan is
used daily by the classroom teacher and the EA, if it is the result of meaningful
consultation with the parent, if it clearly outlines what is to done and each person’s role,
ONLY THEN is it worth the time and effort put in to its creation.

    So, is your IEP worthy of a “Tim Horton” ring??  Is it on the desk or in a file?  Is it a
cooperative effort or is it spun out of a generic mold?

     Over the past year, the Ministry of Education has strengthened the requirements for
IEP’s. They legislated new “Standards for the IEP” ( Nov 2000). There is no doubt in my
find that the IEP is fast becoming the most important piece of paper in Special Education.
Is yours “on the desk, wrinkled and coffee stained?”

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