Guest Author - Kristie Melkers
Most of us have heard the saying “it takes a village to raise a child”. Well, in the world of special education, it takes a TEAM to EDUCATE a child. In fact, several people working together to achieve a common goal is requisite to providing an appropriate education to children who receive special education services and supports. So, what is an IEP team? Why does it take a team to get the job done?
Here is the definition of team:
A group of people with a full set of complementary skills required to complete a task, job, or project.
Team members (1) operate with a high degree of interdependence, (2) share authority and responsibility for self-management, (3) are accountable for the collective performance, and (4) work toward a common goal and shared rewards(s). A team becomes more than just a collection of people when a strong sense of mutual commitment creates synergy, thus generating performance greater than the sum of the performance of its individual members.
Who makes up the team as mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004?
• Regular education teacher
• Special education teacher
Representative from the district who can allocate resources
• Person qualifed to interpret evaluation results
• Others with knowledge of the child
Parents have the authority and opportunity to be effective advocates for their child in collaborating to develop the most meaningful educational program for their child. Motivated by love and inspired by the possibilities and capacities seen through parental perspective, appropriately high expectations can embed themselves into the goal-making process of IEP development. Parents are generally considered to be the experts on their child’s strengths and areas where support is needed to achieve educational and functional objectives.
The regular education teacher brings the perspective of the general education curriculum—the yardstick by which progress is measured. The general education curriculum is interesting, dynamic and links the student to the experiences of his or her peers. When curriculum must be adapted or modified to allow acquisition of learning by students with special needs, general education teachers contribute their expertise to ensure continuity with gen ed standards.
The special education teacher contributes expertise in identifying and implementing accomodations and modifications that may be necessary for a student to gain meaning and progress towards educational goals. The special education teacher works in collaboration with other members of the IEP team to incorporate recommendations that inform the presentation of academic and functional curricula in which students engage as they strive towards mastery.
Students who receive special education supports and services are often subject to formal evaluations. The results of these evaluations are not always understood by those who have not been formally trained to interpret their results. A school psychologist or another member of the IEP team who has received training to interpret test results must be present on the IEP team. Consent is required before evaluation of a student. Consent must be informed—meaning the parents (or guardians) have had the evaluation, procedures, etc. fully explained to them before initiation of the eval.
The parents and representatives of the school can invite anyone who has knowledge about the child to the IEP meeting. Family members, friends, and acquaintances from the community are welcome. If an attorney will be present at the request of the parents, it is proper practice to give notice to the school and vice versa.
Students of any age can meaningfully participate in their IEP meeting. One of the better ways that students can find success post-school, is to be able to skillfully understand and articulate their strengths, interests, and areas where they need support. Any of the accommodations and modifications that students receive in their day-to-day program can be incorporated into their IEP meeting to facilitate understanding and communication.
It takes each of the unique perspectives of the team members listed above to arrive at the most meaningful and appropriate IEP that will determine a student’s educational day. There are legal requirements for the presence of the above listed IEP team members. For more information on IEP meetings, please see the links on the special education homepage.