Special Education

One State’s Approach for Struggling Math Learners: IEP-Style Plans

By Lydia McFarlane — August 02, 2023 3 min read
Sand Pine Elementary fourth grade students, from left, Ayden Jenkins, Ceinna Davis, and Kera Gordon review math lessons with teacher Stephanie Sheridan at the school on Feb. 18, 2015, in Wesley Chapel, Fla.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Students struggling with math in Florida may get more attention in the classroom this upcoming school year.

Earlier this week, Florida’s Department of Education announced an unusual proposal that is aimed at helping students in kindergarten through 4th grades who are identified with substantial gaps in their math knowledge.

Under the plan, schools would be required to develop individualized education programs for students, much like the IEPs that are mandated under federal law for students with disabilities.

The Florida plan targets a wider range of students struggling with math and the qualifications differ by age.

For example, for kindergarteners, the evaluation is based on the students’ ability to identify and compare three-dimensional figures and shapes. For 4th graders, the evaluation is based on the students’ abilities to interpret data and understand mathematical concepts such as mean, median, and mode.

Florida’s Department of Education wants to implement this proposal to ensure students who are struggling with math are receiving the support and help that they need to succeed for the rest of their educational experiences.

While this plan is now just a proposal, if it were implemented into Florida schools, it would be unconventional.

Many students with IEPs are diagnosed with learning disabilities that ensure their protection under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, which then identifies them as special education students. Students protected under this act are given resources from the school that are funded by the state.

However, if Florida’s Department of Education follows through on its proposal, the students that would potentially be getting IEPs would not necessarily be protected under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

“I think it is an interesting proposal to address math deficiencies and potentially very helpful to many students, but because these students would not be determined eligible under the IDEA in the manner required by federal law, schools could not receive federal IDEA money to help defray the costs of the proposal,” said Mitchell Yell, a professor in the Educational and Developmental Science College of Education at the University of South Carolina whose research often focuses on IEP development.

School districts could potentially be responsible for funding the new plan, which could cost districts significant amounts of money even as it helps the students targeted.

“This additional help will be costly to school districts, and because the method of identifying students as needing extra assistance does not adhere to the requirements of the federal law, schools would likely have to come up with these extra funds. If the state would provide funding for these additional services, that would certainly help the school districts financially,” Yell said.

Rather than giving each student who is identified as having a substantial math deficiency an IEP, Florida schools have other options to consider, Yell pointed out.

“They [Florida schools] could have small group math instruction with more individual help for students who are identified through the new system,” he said.

While the best way to help students who would be identified by this proposed plan has not yet been decided, extra math help for students who are struggling, especially after the pandemic, could prove to be valuable.

“I think the notion of giving students extra help through an IEP-type plan is laudable,” Yell said. “We know that students who have reading and math problems certainly have had these problems exacerbated by the pandemic. Giving the students the extra help they need is a pro.”

Events

Budget & Finance Webinar Staffing Schools After ESSER: What School and District Leaders Need to Know
Join our newsroom for insights on investing in critical student support positions as pandemic funds expire.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Achievement Webinar
How can districts build sustainable tutoring models before the money runs out?
District leaders, low on funds, must decide: broad support for all or deep interventions for few? Let's discuss maximizing tutoring resources.
Content provided by Varsity Tutors for Schools
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
College & Workforce Readiness Webinar
Roundtable Webinar: Why We Created a Portrait of a Graduate
Hear from three K-12 leaders for insights into their school’s Portrait of a Graduate and learn how to create your own.
Content provided by Otus

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Special Education The Pros and Cons of AI in Special Education
AI can make special educators' jobs easier by handling paperwork and serving as an adaptive tool. But there are privacy and other concerns.
9 min read
Student being assisted by AI
Nicole Xu for Education Week
Special Education From Our Research Center What Happens for High Schoolers Who Need More Than 4 Years?
Districts work to serve older students longer than four years to plan for a changing career world.
6 min read
Older student facing the city, younger version is being swept away.
Nicole Xu for Education Week
Special Education These Grants Could Help Students With Disabilities Access Jobs, Training
The Ed. Dept. is investing $236 million to help with transitions to careers and post-secondary education.
3 min read
Collage of a woman in a wheelchair on a road leading to a large dollar sign. In the woman's hair is a ghosted photo of hands on a laptop.
Collage by Gina Tomko/Education Week + Getty
Special Education Download DOWNLOADABLE: Does Your School Use These 10 Dimensions of Student Belonging?
These principles are designed to help schools move from inclusion of students with disabilities in classrooms to true belonging.
1 min read
Image of a group of students meeting with their teacher. One student is giving the teacher a high-five.
Laura Baker/Education Week via Canva