Student-Led IEP Meetings: Getting the Kids Involved

It seems like Student-Led IEP is a buzz word going around special education right now. I’m not sure who decided this was a new thing, but to me it has been part of my students’ transition goals since I was a student-teacher, writing IEPs for mentor teacher. It seemed to me the obvious first transition goal, since most students don’t yet know what they want to be career-wise and will likely change it multiple times. Why not instead have a goal that is more applicable to the students’ current needs, like say… understanding and participating in the meeting they are now required to attend?

My students actually really love their annual review. Last year, I even had one 8th grade student write her entire IEP with no more assistance than my supervision to make sure she included everything and placed it under the correct section. While my students tend not to lead the actual meeting, they do write at least a section of the IEP with or without my help. I also require them to do the introductions at the beginning of the meeting and read the transition section of the IEP.

I have had many administrators ask me how I prepare my students to do this. The secret is that every student keeps a copy of their IEP with them and we refer to it constantly to discuss what helps them and what they have a right to ask for in regular education classes. I also made up a packet that takes the students through the IEP sections step by step. You can see it here.

My students really like that they get a say in their accommodations and even their goals. They are much more motivated to achieve goals they wrote themselves, and they are more comfortable advocating for accommodations when they understand the why and the how of them (and that it is a legal requirement to fulfill them!).

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Language and Standardized Testing

testing

We are now deep into the second swing of standardized testing. In my state, we use the MAP, PASS, ACT Aspire, and state End of Course assessments. We also have ACCESS for our English Language Learners.

This year has been full of changes as both ACCESS and ACT Aspire were brand new to us. ACCESS replaced ELDA, and ACT Aspire replaced the reading, writing, language and math subcategories of our PASS tests. Has it ever been an adjustment getting IEPs and everything in order in time! Especially since the ACT Aspire test was still making procedural changes up until 1 week before they required all documentation to be done (and 2 days AFTER our school required that data to be submitted!).

The change to ACT Aspire for all our ELA and math assessments led me to rethink how I prep my students for standardized tests. Do you do test prep at all or do you just build it into your regular content and instruction? Do any of you have good test prep strategies or lessons?

In the past, I have never done test prep as a specific lesson or focus. I always just built-in test taking strategies and content into my regular lessons, and then let students perform as they would. PASS is well above the level of students in self-contained classes, so I never drilled them or gave explicit test taking instruction. My goal was that they learn the content as best they can. Unfortunately, I saw students tripped up by the language of the questions year after year and mark wrong answers for content I know they knew the correct answer to.

This year, I have trained students how to write constructed response answers for math and ELA content that is above their level. I have given in to the test prep frenzy, but I’m worried that even with this direct instruction students will not know what to do with the new format. The language is just so far above where my self-contained students are.

How do you teach constructed response answers for math? How do you help students write constructed responses for texts you know they likely will not understand? Do you have any suggestions for prevention misunderstanding of the questions themselves?