Questions that General Education Teachers Frequently Ask about Special Education

Browse through the following questions and click on one that is similar to a question that you have about special education. Click here for a broad index.

What is an IEP?

 

What is an IEP meeting?

 

What is an MDT?

 

What is an IEP team?

 

When do I have to attend IEP meetings?

 

What is the least restrictive environment ?

 

What do special education personnel mean by "placement"?

 

What is "change in placement"?

 

What is exactly expected of me when educating students with an IEP in my mainstream classroom?

 

How do you know when you are making it too "easy" for the special education student? That is, I want to work with his/her challenge, but not make it too easy.

 

Can I just throw away special education related papers that I get?

 

What is a 504?

 

How many special education students can be mainstreamed into one classroom?

 

What do special education students that are mainstreamed say that I can do to best meet their needs in my classroom?

 

How do you deal with a special education student that is in "denial"? I had one of these in my classroom and it was a real challenge.

 

What is the role of the para-educator in special education and what am I responsible for having the para-educator do during my class time?

 

How do we assess a student with limited English skills without making it a language issue? Is there a test in other languages? Do we really have to wait one or several school years to determine that is not a language problem but rather a learning disability or mental incapacity?

 

Why are we not better informed about the needs and learning styles of the 504 student? Shouldn't the teachers, parents, and student meet with the counselor before school begins; discuss these things; and make plans at the start of the year rather than at the end of the second month?

 

Is there any special classroom funding for the needs of special education students?

 

Are special education students to receive an adjustment on their class grade, or is there to be some kind of an adjustment made for them?

 

How do I get a student tested if I suspect he or she is a special education student?

 

Do special education students receive the same discipline as general education students? (Not only asked by teachers but by students.)

 

How and who gets in to special education programs?

 

Am I expected to do special assignments, lectures, deadlines, etc. for special education students? If they are in my regular education class, shouldn't they be expected to do what the other students do and be graded the same?

 

What part do I play in the IEP or 504 plan? What if I disagree with these plans?

 

My experience is that most CST (Child Study Team) referrals are answered with "does not qualify." Is there any hope that the standards for "qualifying" will broaden? When children are reading 4, 5 and more years below grade level and " don't qualify" I worry that many kids who really need services are being pushed to the side and are doomed for failure and may even drop out of school.

 

I work with a large number of IEP students in my low level math classes. The questions that I have every year are:
a) What are the accommodations for each student?
b) How can I meet those needs on a daily basis?
c) What do I do in my classroom when I know a student works best by himself, but I want to do a group activity? (or the other way around).
d) How can I meet the needs of this student and keep it confidential that the student has an IEP? (Image of the student).

 

From a math teacher:
1. My class isn't allowed to have calculators, but the IEP says they can use one. Can they?
2. The IEP says I should give shortened assignments. Do I have to in math class?
3. The IEP says the student tests at 2nd grade level in math, why are they in my algebra class?

 

I am still unsure about the whole grading schemata regarding special education students.

 

Back to top

 

 

 

 

 

What is an IEP?
IEP stands for individualized education program. These programs outline the disabilities and the resulting educational goals of the student. This program also tells the extent to which the student can participate in general education classes and what accommodations the student needs in those classes. IEPs must be updated at least once a year to ensure that the qualifying student receives an appropriate education. The program is a result of a team of various stake-holders including (and especially) the student's parents. See "What is an IEP meeting?".
Reference WAC 392-172-156 through 160 in the Common School Manual. Back to top

 

What is an IEP meeting?
An IEP meeting is a gathering of parents, special education teachers, and general education teachers that meets at least once a year to either develop an Individualized Education Program or to review it and update it if necessary. See "What is an IEP?". Back to top
Reference WAC 392-172-156 in the Common School Manual.

 

What is an MDT?
MDT stands for Multidisciplinary Team. This team is made up of the school psychologist and special education personnel. Parents are always need to be invited to attend, and the affected student often attends. The MDT reviews discipline and placement issues concerning special education students. Back to top

 

What is an IEP team?
This is the team of teachers, parents, and other professionals that assemble to write and review a student's Individual Education Program (IEP). At this time, the law is interpreted to mean that general education teachers do not have to be on the IEP team, but they must contribute as requested. Back to top
Reference WAC 392-172-156 (IEP Meetings) in the Common School Manual.

 

When do I have to attend IEP meetings?
The current law reads that an IEP meeting must include general education teachers as participants. Many schools, including Wenatchee Public Schools, are interpreting this to mean that general education teachers do not have to attend the meeting, but must participate by offering input. That means that unless things change, you do not have to attend unless you think that it is necessary. However, you do have to promptly turn in those evaluation sheets to the Special Education department. Back to top
Reference WAC 392-172-156 (IEP Meetings) in the Common School Manual.

 

What is exactly expected of me when educating students with an IEP in my mainstream classroom?
Special education students are to be educated and treated exactly the same as mainstream students with the exception of what is specifically outlined in the IEP. See "What is the least restrictive environment ?". Back to top
Reference WAC 392-172-172 (Least Restrictive Environment) and WAC 392-172-158 in the Common School Manual.

 

How do you know when you are making it too "easy" for the special education student? That is, I want to work with his/her challenge, but not make it too easy.
Treat the special education student exactly the same as the other students except in ways that are specifically outlined by the IEP. If the student is struggling, report it to the student's special education supervisor. See "What is the least restrictive environment ?" Back to top
Reference WAC 392-172-172 (Least Restrictive Environment) and WAC 392-172-160 in the Common School Manual.

 

Can I just throw away special education papers that I get?
The papers that you receive as a general education teacher are only a copies so you may dispose of them when you no longer have the student in class; however, the best practice would be to have the papers shredded. At Wenatchee High School, give the papers to the recycling center (which is run the by Special Education Department) to be shredded. Back to top

What is a 504?
A 504 is a plan that is set up whenever a student's education is hindered. There are many possible hindrances including health, academics, physical, or mental needs. These plans are written by a 504 team that includes the school counselor, teachers, parents, and the student if appropriate. A misconception is that 504's are special-education centered, but they are actually run by the counselor and are for students that do not necessarily qualify for special education, but do need modifications and accommodations so that they can learn to their potential. Back to top

 

How many special education students can be mainstreamed into one classroom?
There is currently no legislation which dictates this. However, if the placement is appropriate and the special education students do not interfere with each other's accommodations, there should not be a problem. If a problem does exist, talk to the special education personnel so that they can offer suggestions and review your concerns. Back to top

 

What do special education students that are mainstreamed say that I can do to best meet their needs in my classroom?
The main thing is to be familiar with the student's IEP so that you will know that student's strengths, weaknesses, and accommodations. A second suggestion is to be thorough when reporting back to the special education department about the student's progress. Offer any suggestions or concerns that you have. Finally, you can take the student aside and ask him or her what you can do. This will not only help you meet the student's needs, but will also build rapport. Back to top

 

How do you deal with a special education student that is in "denial"? I had one of these in my classroom and it was a real challenge.
If a student refuses to take advantage of his or her modifications and accommodations, the general education teacher should document that they were offered but refused. The teacher should also notify the Special Education Department and the child's parents. Back to top

 

What is the role of the para-educator in special education and what am I responsible for having the para-educator do during my class time?
The para-educator is in your classroom to help support the modifications and accommodations of the special education student(s). The first step is to make sure the para-educator knows and understands the student's IEP. Remember, it is not the para-educator's responsibility to set up instruction for the student; but rather to assist and support you. Back to top

 

How do we assess a student with limited English skills, without making it a language issue? Is there a test in other languages? Do we really have to wait a one or several school years to determine that it is not a language problem but a learning disability or mental incapacity?
The school psychologist has tests in multiple languages so that language will not be a factor. If a test is not currently available in the student's native language, one would have to be written or otherwise obtained. Remember, the main responsibility of the general education teacher is to report concerns to the child study team via the school counselor. Back to top

 

Why are we not better informed about the needs and learning styles of the 504 student? Shouldn't the teachers, parents, and student meet with the counselor before school begins; discuss these things; and make plans at the start of the year rather than at the end of the second month?
Yes, general education teachers absolutely need to know these things. As soon as it is determined that the student is a 504 student, a meeting should be set up as soon as possible to discuss the student's 504 plan. Back to top

 

Is there any special classroom funding for the needs of special education students?
Normally, there is no additional funding available, but if you believe that you have special circumstances, contact the special education office at Washington Elementary. 663-7117. Back to top

 

Are special education students to receive an adjustment on their class grade, or is there to be some kind of an adjustment made for them?
Only adjust the student's grade if the IEP calls for it. Otherwise, special education students should be graded the same as their peers. If you have any doubts, ask someone from the special education department that is familiar with that student. Back to top
Reference WAC 392-172-172 (Least Restrictive Environment) and WAC 392-172-160 in the Common School Manual.

 

One of the questions I frequently ask is how do I get a student tested if I suspect he or she is a special education student?
If you suspect that a student needs to be placed on an Individualized Education Program (IEP), you should talk to the school counselor and report what you have observed. The counselor will then talk to the school psychologist to look into testing. Back to top

 

Do special education students receive the same discipline as general education students? (not only asked by teachers but by students)
In most circumstances, special education students receive the same discipline as other students unless the misbehavior is suspendible or expellable and results from the student's disability. A review must take place within ten days. If the IEP team determines that the misbehavior had nothing to do with the disability, the student can be suspended or expelled like any other student. However, if the student's disability was the cause, the student can be suspended for no more than ten school days or 45 days if the violation was drug or weapon related. If the student is found to be dangerous, but the school must provide services, the student may be placed in an alternate setting as long as the student's placement has not changed (i.e. setting can change, but not services). Back to top

 

How and who gets in to special education program?
If there is a concern by the general education teacher, the counselor should be notified. The counselor will set up a child study team (CST) which will try out various academic or behavioral accommodations. If those accommodations do not work, the school psychologist will test the student to see if the student qualifies for special education. Back to top

 

Am I expected to do special assignments, lectures, deadlines, etc. for special education students? If they are in my regular education class, shouldn't they be expected to do what the other students do and be graded the same?
You are only expected to make the accommodations outlined by the IEP. If the student is struggling with the normal content of the class (provided that the correct accommodations are being made), report it to the special education department so that they can take the information you provide into account when reviewing the student's IEP.
Reference WAC 392-172-172 (Least Restrictive Environment) and WAC 392-172-158 in the Common School Manual. Back to top

 

What part do I play in the IEP or 504 plan? What if I disagree with these plans?
Your role as a general education teacher is to provide input or feedback to the process. You must also follow the plan even if don't agree with it. Back to top


My experience is that most CST (child study team) referrals are answered with "does not qualify." Is there any hope that the standards for "qualifying" will broaden? When children are reading 4, 5 and more years below grade level and "don't qualify," I worry that many kids who really need services are being pushed to the side and are doomed for failure and may drop out of school.
Special education standards are carefully set by the state so that students that need special help can receive services. The state has to be careful because if standards were too broad, there would be the danger that students that do not really need special education would be wrongfully admitted. If a student does not qualify for special education, you can look into creating a 504 plan or finding other help such as a tutor or Readiness to Learn. Talk to the student's counselor about options.

 

I work with a large number of IEP students in my low-level math classes. The questions that I have every year are:
a) What are the accommodations for each student?
b) How can I meet those needs on a daily basis?
c) What do I do in my classroom when I know a student works best by himself, but I want to do a group activity (or the other way around)?
d) How can I meet the needs of this student and keep it confidential that the student has an IEP? (Image of the student).

Any accommodations that you have to make are specifically outlined in the student's IEP. Unless the IEP says that the student always needs to work alone, include him or her in the group work. As with other students, IEP students need experience working with others. Group work may help with socialization as well. However, you may wish to choose groups yourself placing the IEP student with peers that will be sympathetic and patient if necessary. As far as the last question, be discrete whenever possible, but some things simply cannot be hidden. Back to top

 

From a math teacher:
1. My class isn't allowed to have calculators, but the IEP says they can use one. Can they?
2. The IEP says I should give shortened assignments, do I have to in math class?
3. The IEP says the student tests at 2nd grade level in math, why are they in my Algebra class?

The answer to the first two questions is "yes, if they want." You have to let students have whatever accommodation is called for in the IEP or 504. The second question is more difficult to answer without talking to a member of the IEP team. The most likely answer is that the student's IEP team decided that the student was capable of algebraic logic, but could not quickly and/or accurately compute. Back to top

 

I am still unsure about the whole grading schemata regarding special education students.
IEP students are graded exactly the same as general education students unless the IEP specifically says otherwise. Back to top

 

What is the least restrictive environment ?
By law, special education students must in the nearest environment possible to the general education students. This setting is called the least restrictive environment. For example, special education students should not be in a self-contained room if they can succeed in a general education classroom. Back to top

 

What do special education personnel mean by "placement"?
"Placement" in a special education context does not refer to the specific classes that a student takes during a given semester as one might think. A student's "placement" is how much time the student spends in special education classes versus general education classes. See change in placement. Back to top

 

What is "change in placement"?
A change in placement is when the IEP team chooses to change the number of special education classes as opposed to general education classes. Back to top

 

 

Thanks to: John Magnus, Minnie Obregón, Penny Hedman, Bobbi Kuntz, María Castillo, Anna Domanska, Gloria Reichmann, Neil Zobel, Kristi Rupp-Wilson, Jackie Riley, Danielle Ouellette, Jenny Smith, Desiree Lenard, Theresa Lowther, Stacy Díaz, Drew Gaylord, Brian Behle, and Mike Dacey.

 

 

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Last updated: 11/26/00