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.”


English-Language Learners Webinar AI and English Learners: What Teachers Need to Know
Explore the role of AI in multilingual education and its potential limitations.
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.
Mathematics Webinar
Pave the Path to Excellence in Math
Empower your students' math journey with Sue O'Connell, author of “Math in Practice” and “Navigating Numeracy.”
Content provided by hand2mind
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.
Recruitment & Retention Webinar
Combatting Teacher Shortages: Strategies for Classroom Balance and Learning Success
Learn from leaders in education as they share insights and strategies to support teachers and students.
Content provided by DreamBox Learning

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 Opinion 'I Dread Being at This Table.' How to Improve the IEP Process
IEP meetings take an emotional toll on families. But they can be turned into a forum where hope for the possibilities of schooling prevail.
8 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
Special Education Letter to the Editor Schools Must Do Better to Meet IDEA Requirements
More states must follow through on this law.
1 min read
Education Week opinion letters submissions
Gwen Keraval for Education Week
Special Education Test Your Knowledge: How Does Universal Screening for Dyslexia in Schools Work?
Take our quiz to gauge your knowledge of the language processing disorder—and find links to further reading.
1 min read
 Conceptual image of wooden alphabet tiles scattered across blue metallic surface.
Special Education Letter to the Editor Reevaluating My Language Around Disability
A recent opinion essay encouraged this teacher to unpack her approach to labeling students with specific disability classifications.
1 min read
Education Week opinion letters submissions
Gwen Keraval for Education Week