The majority of school systems across the country are closed and students are enjoying the struggles of online learning. That experience includes children with disabilities who have an IEP. An IEP (Individual Learning Plan) is a contract for service between the school system and the child with disabilities. Its purpose is to ensure that the child will receive a free, appropriate education which has been defined by the Supreme Court as allowing a child to move from grade to grade to the best of his/her ability. We have learned lots about online learning. One of the main things is that teachers and students miss each other and don’t learn as well long-distance.
We have also learned that children with disabilities learn even less online and that school systems are not doing very well at differentiating instruction to meet the needs of these kids. Oh, and the IEP is just floating out there in the wind. No one is even pretending schools are meeting the contractual agreement.
What to do about that? Enter the distance learning plan, or in Maryland, the ICLIP, the Individual Continuity of Learning Plan. The ICLP is presented as a temporary amendment to the IEP. It will disappear and the IEP will return as soon as schools reopen. Parents need to agree to the plan. They may do that through email or a phone call. If they do not agree, then a virtual meeting is called to review the IEP so the student gets some education during the period of closed schools.
Obviously, an ICLP cannot cover everything that is in the IEP or it wouldn’t be needed. Most school systems are requesting that teachers pick a couple of goals and one-two objectives for each goal. Some areas are tricky, particularly related services such as OT or speech. Also exactly how does a student learn to handle a table saw, landscape a yard or wire an outlet without touching any of those things?
There was a time when people thought that online learning might be a great replacement for rural areas or to supplement teacher shortages. We have learned that it is not. We have also learned that parents, regardless of whatever professional training they may have, are not great teachers of their own kids. And they don’t want to be. One of the good things that may come out of this experience is that teachers will be more highly appreciated which is a very good thing.
The ICLP is the IEP Light, but at least it is a step to keep moving in the right direction.