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What Ever Happened to Those Paperwork Reduction Pilots?


Remember them? They were created in the 2004 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The department was to give 15 states the opportunity to develop ways to cut down on individualized education program paperwork for teachers and districts. I last wrote about this in 2006, and never heard about the pilots again. Will they be revived under a new secretary of education?

I was thinking about paperwork reduction as I was reading the policy prescriptions included in the last chapter of Thomas Hehir's 2005 book, New Directions in Special Education. Hehir, now a professor at Harvard University, is a former head of the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs. He suggests that paperwork reduction isn't the really the point--making the IEPs more meaningful is.

Hehir gives an example of a student with dyslexia: such a student should have goals and benchmarks that relate directly to that area of disability. But in other subjects, like science or math, the student should be given accommodations that help the student access grade-level material, not some kind of modified curriculum. For every other subject except language arts, the goals should be the same as for any other student. That would cut down on paperwork, Hehir says, because there'd be no need to include those goals in an IEP. Only the relatively small number of children with significant cognitive delays should have IEPs that are lengthy, because of the need to modify the curriculum more extensively.

Hehir writes:

We should be seeking more powerful IEPs that are tightly focused on gaining access to the curriculum and meeting the unique needs that arise out of each child's disability. IEPs that go on for pages, listing goals and objectives that are disconnected from the curriculum, do not meet this standard.

How many readers feel that their school district's IEPs meet the standard Hehir describes?


Hehir is absolutely on the money, and no, my district is not there.

If the district is actually tracking progress towards goals--this should easily become the present level of progress in the next IEP. If successful, they should know that the strategies/supports were adequate. If not, they should know that something needs to be adjusted.

If the student is progressing adequately in the regular curriculum (based on the same measures already in place for all students), then the accommodations are adequate, if not they should be examined.

The complexity comes from the years of deciding what exact watered down curriculum was going to be served up (or not) and the feds continually ramping up the levels of specificity to try to make clear exactly what Hehir is saying.

I have wanted to go beg legislators to NOT cut my paperwork any more because every time they do, they add lots more to my work load! What in the world are they thinking! Some of them need to go into the classroom and actually see what we are doing.

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