The “interrupted learning” experience of the past year had many school teams scrambling to figure out how to support students who typically receive special education services in the general education classroom. How could specialized instruction be delivered online, and how could teachers ensure that students with disabilities continue to have opportunities to learn the same curriculum as their peers?
Complying with federal law, state regulations, and local policies was also a consideration. It is already a carefully choreographed dance to implement the Individualized Education Program (IEP) or provide 504 accommodations in the usual face-to-face instruction. With remote and hybrid learning in place, the complications of providing for students with disabilities rose to a new level.
Teachers largely met the challenge head on. They realized they would have to make adjustments in order to meet the needs of students with disabilities, and they did so in innovative ways. In most cases, districts didn't try to address remote and hybrid learning by amending IEPs. Instead, they created companion documents referred to as “remote learning” or “continuity of instruction” plans to document how services would be delivered. Innovative approaches, including teletherapy and online synchronous instruction, became mainstays for ensuring that access to instruction and specialized services continued.
Rethinking IEPs and 504s
Despite teachers’ efforts, a year of figuring out how to deliver remote learning likely contributed to significant learning loss for students with disabilities. So, as we return to in-person instruction, IEP teams are considering the impact of interrupted schooling. They are asking: Are COVID recovery services needed? What data were collected over the last year to determine student progress and develop new goals? What does a learning recovery plan look like?
One thing is for sure: We should incorporate the lessons teachers learned from online schooling into IEP and 504 planning going forward. These steps will help you rethink IEP and 504 plans to ensure you’re setting all students up for academic success post-COVID.
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