How do you write an IEP for a student who is way behind in reading?  Age level? Grade level?  Reading level?

Consider Jefferson County Board of Education v. Lolita S., 64 IDELR 34 (11th Cir. 2014).  The court held that the IEP denied the student FAPE because it was not individualized.  The court pointed out that the student read at a 1st grade level, but his goal for reading was “derived from the state standard for ninth-grade students.”  And there was no explanation in the IEP as to how this would be accomplished.  It did not help the district’s case that the IEP had another student’s name on it, which was crossed out and replaced with this student’s name.  The transition section was also inappropriate, due to the use of “stock language.”  For example, the goal was “student will be prepared to participate in post-secondary education” but this did not match the student’s diploma track.  He was not on track for a regular diploma or post-secondary education.

We don’t know what happened in this case, but we suspect that the NCLB goal of all students being proficient at grade level, and being tested at grade level, may have played a part in this decision. But remember: IEPs must be individualized, tailored to the strengths and weaknesses of the particular student.  It sounds like this IEP started out with a good description of “present level.” The student was reading at a first grade level. But if that’s the case, how is the district going to get the student to the 9th grade level in one year?  Such an ambitious goal looks unrealistic and doomed to failure.  At a minimum, such an IEP should provide a clear road map for how such a goal would be accomplished.

So chew on this Dawg Bone for today: