Are Individualized Education Plans a Good Thing? A Survey of Teachers' Perceptions of the Utility of IEPs in Regular Education Settings

Article excerpt

The purpose of this survey was to investigate the perceptions of regular education teachers on the utility of individualized education plans (IEPs) for children with disabilities within an inclusive classroom. One hundred and twenty three regular education teachers from Alabama and Georgia were respondents. Twenty-six percent of respondents were African American, 72% were Caucasian, and 2% of respondents' ethnicity was unknown. Forty-two percent of the respondents were teachers in Alabama schools and 58% were teachers in Georgia schools. Results indicated that the majority of regular education teachers perceived IEPs as useful tools in curriculum preparation and teachers were active participants in the IEP process. However, responses also suggest that additional training is warranted.

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The implementation of the "No child Left Behind Act of 2001" and the reauthorization of IDEA provided children with disabilities and regular education children, their parents and teachers a unique challenge. In addition to the requirement that children must pass standardized tests before advancing to the next grade level, these acts also requires the full inclusion of children with disabilities into the regular classroom. These regulations are based on the assumption that every child can learn and that children with disabilities can positively benefit from more interaction with peers and more contact with the regular education curriculum (Huefner, 2000; Kaye and Aserlind, 1979; McKellar, 1995). These requirements resulted in changes in the way services are delivered to children with disabilities.

Traditionally, once a child with disabilities was qualified for special education services, he/she would receive educational services based upon requirements documented within their Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Kaye and Aserlind (1979) described the IEP as a product and a process. As a product, the IEP serves as a roadmap for teachers and parents to ascertain improvements in the child's functioning within academic, social, and/or adaptive domains. It is an indication of the child's present level of performance, short and long term goals and objectives, additional services and supports for the child within the regular education environment and criteria for determining progress. As a process, according to Kaye and Aserlind (1979), the IEP is collaboration between teachers, administrators, parents and when appropriate the child, in determining goals and objectives. It reflects the dynamic process involved in developing, reviewing and revising the educational program in order to best serve the child with disabilities. The IEP as a product is child centered, conversely, the IEP as a process is teacher, administrator and parent centered. Successful IEPs depend upon the process of preparing the written statement describing an appropriate educational program for the child with a disability. However, educational personnel concentrated on the product more so than the process. Special education personnel were the central players in the process of developing a document that would meet federal and state requirements. Regular education teachers, parents and the child would have very little input into the product (Burstein, Sears, Wilcoxen, Cabello, and Spagna, 2004; McKellar, 1995).

Under the most recent reauthorization of IDEA, the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) of a child with disabilities is no longer the exclusive responsibility of special education personnel and concentration has shifted to the process of developing an IEP for implementation in the regular education setting. Congress expanded both the content of the IEP and the membership and responsibilities of the IEP committee. Additionally, this legislation established performance goals and indicators for students with disabilities that are more closely aligned with goals for students without disabilities. It also mandates inclusion of students with disabilities in state and district wide assessments with appropriate accommodations or the use of alternative assessment methods (Browder & Cooper-Duffy, 2003; Schulte, Osborne, and Erchul, 1998). …