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Our Kids Count
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Our Kids Count > IEPs and System Accountability

Use of the Student's
Individualized Education Program (IEP) for
Accountability Under ESEA

It has been suggested by some members of Congress that changes to the ESEA should include provisions that allow schools to use the Individualized Education Program (IEP) as the primary accountability tool for determining the progress and proficiency of some - perhaps all - special education students. However, the U.S. Department of Education has stated that IEPs are not appropriate for system accountabilty (see box).

There are a multitude of reason why a student’s IEP cannot and should not be used for school accountability under ESEA. Specifically, these are:

  • The IEP outlines agreed-upon services and supports required to address the individual needs of a student that enable him or her to participate in the regular education curriculum aligned to the standards set for all and with his or her peers without disabilities to the maximum extent appropriate.

  • The IEP serves as a tool for monitoring individual child progress based only on the effectiveness of the individualized services and supports developed to address the student’s disability related educational needs.

  • The IEP is not designed or utilized as a tool for holding schools accountable for ensuring that students with disabilities are taught to the academic content and achievement standards established by the state for all students. As a result, a student's annual goals are often set too low and do not align with state or district content standards.

  • It is not possible to aggregate performance data from IEP goals to use as valid, reliable data in determining accountability at a school, district or state level .

  • There are no consequences attached to a student’s failure to attain individual IEP goals.

  • IEP teams do not make curriculum decisions.

  • Some 13 percent of public school students currently receive special education supports nationally. The rate is as high as 20% in some states. To exclude students with disabilities from the system accountability, or to marginalize their participation by using IEP goal attainment as an alternative measure, will limit accountability for one of every 5 to 7 public school students and would surely result in a violation of their civil rights under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

U.S. Dept. of Education on use of IEP Goals for School Accountability

Excerpt from Non-Regulatory Guidance, Alternate Achievement Standards for Students with the Most Significant Cognitive Disabilities, August 2005
[Full document available here]

"Q. May a State use student progress on IEP goals or an assessment of functional life skills to meet the Title I regulation requirements?

A. No. There are at least two reasons why IEP goals or functional life skills are not appropriate achievement measures for AYP purposes.
First, IEP goals are individualized for each student, and a student’s progress toward each goal is measured for purposes of reporting progress to parents and for making individualized decisions about the special education and related services a student receives. In addition, for AYP determinations, test results must ensure consistency in the judgments made about schools. IEP goals are not designed for this purpose.

Second, as required by Title I, schools are accountable for student achievement only in the content areas of reading/language arts and mathematics. IEP goals may address a broad range of individualized instructional needs, as well as behavioral and developmental needs, and might not be based on the State’s academic content standards. IEP goals may cover a range of issues beyond reading/language arts and mathematics, such as behavior, social skills, or the use of adaptive equipment, and, as such, an examination of how well a student met his or her IEP goals is not synonymous with achievement measured by an alternate assessment for AYP purposes. In addition, IEP goals might not be aligned to State standards, and it is not possible to set achievement standards based on those goals. While States and LEAs may develop assessments that measure students’ progress toward IEP goals, such assessments are not required by Title I. In addition, while acquisition of functional life skills may be an important component of some students' IEPs, it is also critical that such students have access to the general curriculum and that their achievement be counted for AYP purposes."

On March 15, 2010, the Education Task Force of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities sent a letter to Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller stating its objection to any use of the IEP as an accountability tool under ESEA. Forty organizations signed the letter.

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