One of the best parts about being a teacher is being able to see a student that typically struggles, finally getting it. Usually this is a group effort between the teachers, parents and students. Often times these efforts are formed out of the special education (SPED) department because that is the only scenario in which these partnerships are actually required. The product of these partnerships is a document called an Individualized Education Program or IEP.
An IEP essentially outlines a student’s frequent struggles along with strategies and protocols to help them succeed. Typically, if an IEP is implemented with fidelity, the student will see tons of progress…. Which begs the question: Why aren’t we doing this for all students.
Now the obvious answer is capacity. At my school, it’s hard enough to schedule the meetings and implement the plans for the 10% of students who are actually legally required to have them, let alone the 90% who aren’t. So I’m not advocating for a literal IEP for every student. However, we do need to move towards that type of thinking.
Students without learning disabilities are still individuals. And if you have taught for any amount of time then you know that every student has things that work and don’t work for them behaviorally and academically so…. we should be doing those things. We know that trying to mold kids into a one size fits all model isn’t best practice, but it’s pretty much what we do until we have a plan that tells us otherwise.
Students all across the country are being forced into a cookie cutter mold of what a typical student should be. The ones who break this mold are treated as problems and annoyances until they break it enough to become sped identified, and then all of a sudden the school looks inward at what they can do to help the student.
The latter part of the sentence is the part that should come first.
One or two points on a test shouldn’t determine rather or not a school will do it’s best to help a child or not. That should be a given the second a child enters the school. Unfortunately, unless there is a legal document telling the school to do so, that doesn’t always happen.
This isn’t a post saying that special education students get too much special treatment.
This isn’t a post saying that school districts should be creating legally binding plans for every single student.
This is simply a post pointing out the fact that virtually every student would benefit from the strategies and mindsets that we practice in our sped departments.
Andrew Pillow is a teacher in Indianapolis. He wrote this piece for Indy Ed.