School Contexts and IEPs

By Codyshafer 2011 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Viewing a school as an ecosystem entails acknowledging its unique context. When it comes to providing special education services for students with disabilities, we tend to act as if schools are akin to controlled clinical settings where scientific interventions can be applied with fidelity. We pretend, in other words, that the capacity and context of a school is relatively unimportant in relation to the needs of a student as outlined by psychological testing.

Yet the reality of a school is messy and complex—just like the reality of a child’s individual and unique mind—and very far from clinical. What this entails is that schools have to find ways to flexibly problem solve in order to more effectively and systematically meet the needs of its students both within and without the classroom.

In my most recent post on Chalkbeat NY, I make the case that a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) must have a connection to the reality of what a school can and will be able to provide, just as what a school provides must connect to the reality of what that student actually needs.

In other words, in order for a student’s plan to have a tangible impact, it must be part of a process of continuous improvement that can be consistently delivered. In the absence of any such connection to the capacity of the school’s teachers and service providers, that student is much less likely to have any support, and the IEP will remain mere words on paper.

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