As I was reading a professional book today, the following conversation took place in my mind:
- Why are IEPs for only a subset of students?
- Because they are a legal requirement for providing proper support for those students that qualify for and receive special education services.
- IEP stands for “Individualized Education Program”, right?
- So why don’t we have these for all students?
- Because there is a specific legality connected with these and students who need special services.
- But aren’t all students special?
- Yes, but not all have the same learning challenges that require special attention.
- But shouldn’t we be attempting to meet all the needs of students in personalized ways?
- I suppose, but certain students have more of a challenge in the school setting and therefore receive this help.
- That is great! We need to be meeting individual needs. So why do we only do that with one segment of the school population?
- Because many other students get along fine in school. They are learning and achieving.
- So all the other students are receiving an optimized education based on their gifts and talents?
- Uh….no….but they are not failing or falling behind.
- So let me get this straight. As a society, we value all students? We value all gifts? We value all needs? But we only formally personalize education for a segment of our population?
- I guess so…..at least in many places. You sound like you are critical of IEPs and resent that they are used only with certain students.
- Not at all! I honor our work with those that benefit from IEPs. I am just wondering why we don’t do more of these types plans with other students as well.
- Oh my…..think of the time…..think of the energy……we only have so much time in the classroom. How can we do this? Why should we do this when the other students are already doing OK?
- Do we want students to just be “OK”? Or do we want them all to thrive? Shouldn’t we be learning as much about them as our population that has an IEP?
- I guess…..
- Then why aren’t we?
- Hmmm……then why aren’t you?
Good question……perhaps I need to be doing much more to understand the individual needs of ALL my students and address them in a much more personalized way.
I do realize that the IEP is a legal designation and requirement. And these thoughts don’t challenge these requirements at all. But as the letters IEP stand for “Individualized Educational Program”, don’t those words mean something that has value for every student — to be recognized for the unique talents and abilities which they have been given and then be allowed to build on these gifts and hone them?
For me, this is easier to complete in my Lights Academy classroom, where regular and ongoing conversations with students chart this individualized path. I am challenged by this far more with my freshman Theology students, who come from a diverse set of faith backgrounds and experiences. Today I started thinking more deeply about this. We will see where this “conversation” leads.
So what do you say — IEPs (not in the legal sense) for all?