Fringe Benefits of the IEP: Individualized Educational Program

Special education teachers have had to specify objectives by writing IEPs for students for years. Now many homeschoolers must do the same. But even if it’s not required, understanding what it is and how it’s done can help every homeschooling parent develop a skill essential to effective teaching: targeting the problem and breaking it into small steps that will allow the student’s efforts to result in a series of successes. Students must discover that their initial frustration can, with effort, end in success in order to become confident in their own ability to learn. So, even if a teacher does not have to develop an IEP, she should make it a habit to think as if she must.

What is an IEP? With only one student in mind, the teacher targets specific weaknesses (in any area, not just academics), decides on an attainable goal, or goals, in each area, and lists how the attainment of that goal will be measured.

For example, if the student has difficulty reading words phonetically, the broad objective of learning to read would be broken down into small, sequential steps, each explaining how the student will be judged. One step could begin, “The student will read words with single vowels,” which breaks down the phonics. By adding “in a word list made up of 50 first grade level words” the testing situation is clarified. Then, an acceptable level must be determined, again by the teacher, but usually 80% or above is expected. The final objective would be written ” The student will read words with single vowels from a word list of 50 first grade words with an accuracy of 85%.” The teacher may also decide a time limit is necessary and could add “within 20 minutes” or whatever she considers realistic.

Whether writing an IEP or just identifying targets, the objectives in the Design-A-Study guides give you a place to start. Then add the testing situation and percentage of accuracy. For example, the reading comprehension skill of identifying a main idea could be chosen from

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