Students identified as needing special education services are entitled to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). This means that students with IEPs cannot be charged extra for receiving the same education as students without IEPs. The word “appropriate”, however, does not always mean the same in some circles. There are those that believe that students with IEPs should be given everything and anything needed to become a highly successful adult. Then, there are those who believe that students with IEPs should be given the bare minimum in order to pass classes with a D-. So what does “appropriate” truly mean?
Appropriate Means Meeting Educational Standards
All students are entitled to a quality education in which they meet the educational standards that have been put into place. Students with IEPs are no different. Goals should be ambitious yet attainable. Service time should work with the student’s least restrictive environment, while providing the needed specially designed instruction in core areas. Assistive technology should be thoroughly considered by the IEP team in connection with goals and deficits. Behavior goals should be set if the student’s behavior is keeping him/her from reaching IEP goals and educational standards.
Appropriate Does Not Mean More
The error many professionals and parents make is in the belief that more is always appropriate. Yes, some students will need a personal laptop or tablet with special software for speech-to-text or augmentative and alternative communication. However, not all students with IEPs will need such assistance. It might be nice for a student with an IEP to have such accommodations; however, the IEP is not there for comfortable allowances. It is there for the student to meet the same academic output of peers. Having an IEP does not mean a student is entitled to technology and accommodations that will make him/her the next Bill Gates. I would love to have a custom built $5000 computer with premium WordPress features and Grammarly, and top of the line noise-cancelling headphones while I create these blog posts. I wouldn’t get so distracted and my work flow would be much smoother. However, I do not need those things in order to produce quality content for the blog. The same goes for students with IEPs; there are needs and there are wants; FAPE only covers the needs.
In short (and yes, this is a rather brief discussion), neither position mentioned previously is correct. Schools need to help students with IEPs reach the same educational standards as other students. However, we cannot give our students with IEPs unnecessary crutches. The new wording in the federal law sums up what “appropriate” should mean; appropriately ambitious, or what is essential and not what is wanted.