Special Education

IEPs Must Be Aligned to Grade-Level Standards, Says New Federal Guidance

By Christina A. Samuels — November 18, 2015 1 min read

The U.S. Department of Education reiterated through new guidance that individualized education programs must be aligned to the content standards for the grade in which a student is enrolled.

So, for example, a high-school-aged student who is reading at an elementary school level must have an IEP that is connected to high school standards, as opposed to standards that match his or her current level of academic achievement. However, students with significant cognitive disabilities are allowed to be measured against what are called “alternate achievement standards.” And the department does not mean to suggest that students significantly behind their peers must be expected to catch up in a school year.

From the guidance:

In a situation where a child is performing significantly below the level of the grade in which the child is enrolled, an IEP Team should determine annual goals that are ambitious but achievable. In other words, the annual goals need not necessarily result in the child's reaching grade-level within the year covered by the IEP, but the goals should be sufficiently ambitious to help close the gap.The IEP must also include the specialized instruction to address the unique needs of the child that result from the child's disability necessary to ensure access of the child to the general curriculum, so that the child can meet the state academic content standards that apply to all children in the state.

The Education Department is also looking for feedback on this guidance, specifically on models of alignment that are working well at the state and local level, and how to best implement this guidance for students who are English-language learners and students with significant cognitive disabilities. Comments can be sent to iepgoals@ed.gov or US Department of Education, 550 12th Street SW, PCP Room 5139, Washington, DC 20202-2600.

Resources Released for IDEA’s 40th Anniversary

The guidance was one of several IDEA-related resources released Tuesday to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the law, which was signed by Gerald Ford on Nov. 29. The others include:

Photo: A U.S. Department of Education panel of special education experts on Tuesday featured an IDEA birthday cake. The law’s 40th anniversary is Nov. 29. (Christina Samuels/Education Week)


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A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.