Because I make Common Core products, I am often asked questions on how to incorporate them into what we do. Now, I am in no way an expert on all things Common Core. I don’t even pretend to be! This post has taken me about a month to write (mainly because I start working on it and then get distracted working on another project) but I’ve also been doing a lot of research in this area. My hope is that this post will give some insight writing standards-based IEPs, because this is something we are all required to do.
Let’s start at the beginning:
What are standards?
Academic standards had their beginnings in the 1980s education reform. Moving away from norm-reference testing, a standards-based education focuses instead on measurable standards for all students. These standards outline what students need to know, understand and be able to do.
Components of standard-based education includes:
- curriculum frameworks which outline specific knowledge or skills which students must acquire,
- an emphasis on criterion-referenced assessments which are aligned to these frameworks, and
- the imposition of high-stakes tests to check this acquisition
Who needs to to know about the current standards?
Everyone. Yep. Let me say it again-Everyone.
Teachers? Everyone. Intervention Specialists? Everyone. Art teachers? Everyone. Administrators? Everyone. Speech Language Pathologists? Yep, everyone includes everyone working in education today.
Sometimes there is this temptation to think, “Well, I’m not a teacher. I didn’t get a degree in teaching. So the rules don’t apply to me.” However, if you accepted a job in education, you essentially are accepting to play by their rules.
What are the Common Core Standards?
In 2004, a report titled Ready or Not: Creating a High School Diploma That Counts, found that both employers and colleges are demanding more of high school graduates than in the past. The report explained that the major problem currently facing the American school system is that high school graduates were not provided with the skills and knowledge they needed to succeed in college and careers. The report also said that the diploma itself lost its value because graduates could not compete successfully beyond high school, and that the solution to this problem is a common set of rigorous standards. Soooo, in 2009, the National Governors Association set out to develop the Common Core Standards. To date, there are two sets of Common Core Standards: English Language Arts and Mathematics. Currently 43 out of the 50 states have adopted these standards. States that have not adopted them are: Minnesota (adopted only ELA standards), Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Indiana, Alaska and Virginia.
What if you reside if one of these seven states? Your state still has academic standards. They are just created and modified at the state level, instead of the national level.
Let me insert this here-Do I agree with everything the Common Core State standards offer? Nope. However, my state currently has adopted these standards which means they apply to me.
What do standards have to do with IEPs?
According to IDEA, 2004, an IEP must include “a statement of measurable annual goals, including academic and functional goals, designed to meet the child’s needs that result from the child’s disability that enable the child to be involved and make progress in the general education curriculum.”
How do we know if they’re making progress in the “general education curriculum?” Yep-you got it-by the academic standards.
Writing Standards-Based IEPs
Sometimes we get this idea that standards and IEPs don’t mix. In reality though, IEPs depend on standards. Standards are the driving force that indicate if a student requires an IEP. Every state writes IEPs slightly differently but there are typically three main components.
1. The Goal. You write what you want the student to accomplish and how they’re going to get there.
2. The Data. This indicates where the student is currently functioning.
3. The Standard. Why is is important that we work on this goal.
We always need to link to the appropriate grade standard. As tempting as it might be to link to a lower grade standard (because that is where the student is functioning), we need to provide the standard that the student is striving for…not the one that the student is functioning at. Otherwise, they wouldn’t need an IEP, right?
An important distinction here is this: We base what were working on by the grade standard but we write the goal based on the data (where the student is currently functioning. You might want to re-read that sentence because it is important.
Let’s take some examples. There are typically two approaches you can write standards-based IEPs. As long as you arrive at the same end, it really doesn’t really matter which approach you take.
Approach #1 Start with the standards
Using this approach, my K-5 Common Core Standards supporting IEP Goals is my go-to resource. It’s now editable which allows you to insert your own goals for reference.
Educate yourself on what each grade level requires of students and then look at where your students are currently functioning. Ask yourself “How can we get from here (current level) to there (standard)?” Let’s take an example:
Student: little Johnny, currently in third grade, loves recess and is a sweetie. 🙂
Standard: RL 9 (from the Common Core Standards). This standard states that a 3rd grader should be able to: “Compare and contrast the themes, settings, and plots of stories written by the same author about the same or similar characters (e.g., in books from a series).”
Okay, so I know the standard. Now I need to find out my student’s current level. Over the course of my next sessions with little Johnny, I’m going to be busy collecting data in this area. I’m going to be asking him questions such as “Compare and contrast Wilbur and Charlotte in Charlotte’s Web.” “What similarities do you and Matilda have?” “Tell me how Diary of a Whimpy Kid and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing are the same and different.”
“Whoa! Hold the boat!” You might be thinking. My kiddos could never answer questions like these. They are not functioning at this level (otherwise they would not be on an IEP). This is where we need to think creatively. We need to establish foundational skills to meet these standards. Ask yourself, “What skills do my kiddos need in order to reach this standard?” (I included a chart about this below). Before students can compare and contrast, they need to know the concepts “same” and “different.” Next, I will want to determine if little Johnny understands what the concepts “same” and “different” are. I might lay some manipulatives on the table and have him sort all the same colors, or find the ones that are different shapes. Once I have my data established and I really know where the student’s skills fall, I am ready to write my goal.
Approach #2 Start with the student
This is the approach that I typically take and simply works the same as above but backwards. I gather data on my students periodically throughout the year, which typically has nothing to do with their actual goals. I want to assess their current level of functioning with the standards so I use my Curriculum-Based Language Measures.
Let’s take another example:
Student: little Katie, kindergartner, loves coming to speech and is yet another sweetie 🙂
During our speech and language time, I’ve noticed Katie has trouble answering WH questions. She especially has difficulty answering “where” and “when” questions and understanding what those questions mean. In collaborating with her teacher, I also find out that Katie has difficulty paying attention during story time and following along. Sooo…from my data, I realize Katie has difficulty in the area of listening comprehension.
Now, I won’t find a standard that states anything about “listening comprehension,” but I do find this standard: RL 1 (from the Common Core Standards): It states that a kindergartner should be able to, “with prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text.”
If Katie has difficulty answering literal questions, she will definitely have difficulty answering them relating to text. I collect my data. Now I can write my goal.
Ready, Set, Go!
Like I said before, every state has it’s own IEP form and little tweaks, but the major components are pretty much the same: the goal, the data and the standard.
Let’s use our little Katie again as an example:
The IEP above outlines these three main parts using colors. Do you see how IEPs should flow smoothly? I focus here on her current level and I indicate why we are working on these goals by link to the grade level standard.
You might be asking about those foundational skills I referred to. The Common Core Standards are organized in a hierarchical manner so some foundational skills can be found in lower grades. However, in your IEP, you should still always link to the standard that the student is expected to do grade-wise. For others, it takes some of our creativity (but we’re good at that). Below is a chart that I created that I hope you’ll be able to use to sort out some of these foundational skills.
I hope you were able to take away some useful information! Good luck this year writing standards-based IEPs-SHINE!