It’s That Time Of Year

No, not the holidays.  First semester is almost over, progress reports have been given out and just about every parent of a kiddo with an IEP is freaking out.

While some of us receive weekly, maybe even daily, communication from our kids’ special ed teachers, many of us don’t.  We assume all is well, we address whatever issues are presented in communication from school, some of us even regularly check Parent Portal for current grades and missing assignments (which are not always current). Most often we receive a quarterly IEP progress report stating our kid is making progress toward the IEP goal. All is well. Right?

But those pesky depressing academic progress reports/grades hit us in the head over and over. Most of us have received our quarterly IEP progress reports and see that our kiddo is making progress toward his goals. We sit in that relief for about two seconds because the progress report with the actual grades on it says something entirely different.

Why the disconnect between academic IEP goals and real time curricula?

Good question.

It could be that

  • goals don’t support actual curriculum
  • general ed and special ed aren’t working together
  • IEP goals are written poorly
  • IEP goals are not shared and then revisited with gen ed teachers
  • we need an IEP review and revise to ensure our kids get what they need to have a report card that shows valid academic progress
  • assessment of student performance alone is driving the instruction

Wait, what? Assessment doesn’t drive the instruction? Well, this argument could last to infinity and beyond, couldn’t it?

What came first, the chicken or the egg?  The goals or the assessment? They go hand in hand, sure, but when planning a lesson, what does the planner need to consider first?

That’s easy for me.  How did everyone do yesterday? Lots of blank stares? Exit slips that confirm the majority got it? Quiz grades? Chapter review homework?


Where were my students yesterday as whole persons? As learners, as humans with needs, basic and otherwise? Discouraged? Encouraged? Distracted? Focused? And how did all those things affect academic performance? And if those things affect academic performance, then does whatever academic assessment tool we use really reflect what they learned and why or why not?


The assessment that most drives my planning? The assessment I make of myself, my performance, my ability to read affect and take in feedback while I am teaching.

These are unclear waters, for sure. But many would have you believe that when you sit down to write a lesson plan, you start with whatever academic or behavioral assessment tool you will use.

Well, I think that just discounts a whole lot of what makes our students the whole beings they are. Don’t you? I certainly review the day before, but not in a limited way. If they didn’t get it, then that is on me. What did I miss? What feedback did I ignore or not see?

I start with the IEP goals and standards, how my students left my lesson the day before, as whole people. I analyze what my students need as far as experience and instruction to meet those goals and standards. I spend all my time on finding ways to reach my students, to engage them, to honor who they are and what they bring to me every day.  The whole package. At the end of my lesson I figure out how I will know they made progress or mastered the concept.

And sometimes my student assessment is purely observation. Sometimes it is all about the exit slip. Sometimes it’s about the independent practice.

It is never about the total points my students have accrued per quarter or semester. NEVER. And it is never about how a rubric defines performance. I hate rubrics as assessment tools. That’s a whole other blog post.

I believe this is why our academic progress reports do not match our IEP goal progress reports. We are all assessing different things in different ways and not really talking with each other about how our students are doing if we blend the two worlds. IEP goals and academic curricular goals should blend enough that there is less discrepancy between all those pesky and conflicting progress reports.

Because, how does “making progress” on an academic IEP goal mean the same as the letter grade of a ‘D’ on a report card?

It’s crazy making.





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