By Candace Cortiella, The Advocacy Institute
If your child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP), it's essential that you understand how your state's "academic content standards" can be used to ensure strong academic achievement.
Although you may never have heard academic content standards mentioned in an IEP meeting, there are some important reasons you should be familiar with them:
Given the strong linkage to state standards - both in terms of school accountability and student stakes - it seems only logical that there should be an equally strong relationship between the content of a student's Individualized Education Program (IEP) and the academic content standards for a student's enrolled grade level.
Some states have begun to use this "standards-based" approach and have developed guidance for IEP teams. Many more have yet to begin to require a clear and meaningful alignment between IEPs and state content standards. Regardless of whether your state is promoting a standards-based approach to IEPs, you can begin to insist on a strong connection between IEP components and your state's academic content standards to improve your child's progress. This article provides definitions and background to help you understand this important issue.
State academic content standards specify what students are expected to know and be able to do. NCLB requires that state standards be coherent and rigorous, encouraging the teaching of advanced skills. Every state must have strong content standards for each of the following subjects and grades or grade clusters:
Reading: Grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 10-12
Math: Grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 10-12
Science: Elementary, middle school, and high school
Each state determines its own content standards. The content standards must be the same for all students - including students with disabilities. All students should have access to and be assessed on their enrolled-grade-level content standards. In a standards-based IEP process, IEP team members need to thoroughly understand and use state content standards to ensure that IEP components are aligned.
In a 2004 national survey, only seven states required that the IEPs of students with disabilities address state content standards and only 57 percent of special education teachers said they were "very" familiar with their state's academic content for the subjects they teach.
Source: Quality Counts 2004: Count Me In, Education Week 2004
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