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IEPs for Schools

Ten years ago my school district identified twenty elementary schools, out of about 130, as needing extra support. These schools were identified based on more than just test scores, although that was one factor. They looked at high rates of students living in poverty, large percentages of second language learners, and schools with high mobility rates. My school was one of the chosen ones. At the time it was presented poorly by the district and in the press and we felt attacked. However it didn’t take us long to recognize the benefits we were being offered and get focused on helping our kids.

These benefits included a full-time, permanent substitute. This position made it possible for us to take advantage of professional development opportunities and have extra support in classrooms at times. We were required to choose a ‘research-based program’ to implement. My school chose literacy collaborative, which gained us a full-time, primary, literacy coach. This is also how we had the opportunity to move to the modified calendar.

All of this costs money. Some of it costs significant amounts of money. As a result there was griping from schools that were not identified about how we were getting special treatment. Which is true, we were.

Over time I sorted out my thinking as I justified the situation to teachers at other schools. My analogy became the idea of an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) for a school. In a traditional school district all schools receive the same resources. The only reason for any difference between schools results from the difference in population size.

The concept of treating all students the same way in education is outdated. Even without IEPs we modify lessons, work, and behavior plans for different students. We know that they don’t all require exactly the same thing in order to succeed. But we still seem to believe that all schools require the same support and resources. If we are truly going to meet the needs of all children we are going to have to move beyond this thinking. We must be more thoughtful about what our different schools need and what we can do to make it happen.

3 Responses to “IEPs for Schools”

  1. I like the analogy. I’ve had teachers at other schools gripe when teachers at my school won district grants. They say we should not be allowed to apply because we “get all that Title I money”.

    This from teachers at a school were the PTO purchased a projector and Promethean board for every classroom.

    I don’t get attitude. I love sharing with other teachers.

    My school is striving to have an unofficial IEP for every student. Grade level teams have a 90 min meeting with our core team each week, while their students have a double period of specials (Art, music, PE, Library, or Art). The needs of every student are addressed over the course of these meetings. Kids that need extra help are given it, students who have mastered information are allowed to go in more depth or do independent projects based on their interest.

    I often have 2 or 3 different grade levels in my tech lab. A class I’m teaching and various numbers of 3rd – 5th graders working on independent projects or using online tutoring programs.

  2. MrTeach says:

    IEP’s per school is a great explanation, but I do have a few concerns. Are vouchers available for those students who could possibly score higher at another school? If the school requires that much extra support, should the district allow students to opt out of attending that school? My second question is why isn’t the district moving their best teachers to that school, or are they? Obviously, I’m just thinking of questions that will arise and I don’t know the answers.

  3. alicemercer says:

    Mr Teach, if a school is in PI Year 2 the district has to offer families the option of other schools in the district. In my district, schools in nicer neighborhoods are usually under-enrolled (families send their kids to private schools, or don’t have kids). I will say that my own experience and most studies show middle/upper class parents have a MUCH different approach as consumers of education than parents of poor students and especially underachieving students. You can see some of that here (http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/eduwonkette/2008/07/cool_people_you_should_know_st.html) in this review of a sociologist work at Eduwonkette.

    I think it shows why choice programs, vouchers, and charters (especially ones that have even minimal entrance requirements) will never be the whole answer to the achievement gap. The best argument that libertarian minded folks (http://meganmcardle.theatlantic.com/archives/education/) have is, well it helps some of them. That won’t get the job done, and it won’t help create a work-force that will be able to “pay” your and my social security when we retire.

    It looks like the school I started at in Oakland may be shut down (it was already reconstituted). I’ll try to blog about that should it come to pass.

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