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Methodology in the IEP

Methodology is Vitally Important

By including frequent references to the need to use scientific, research based instruction and interventions, Congress clarified that methodology is vitally important. By requiring the child’s IEP to include “a statement of special education, related services and supplementary aids and services, based on peer reviewed research …” (Section 1414(d)(1)(A)) Congress clarified that IEPs must include "research-based methodology."

Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd EditionWrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition

20 U.S.C. 1414(d), p. 99

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A school psychologist writes:

"Our school district says it has been instructed by the MA DOE not to list specific reading programs or methodology, on a child's IEP. The DOE says schools should have the choice......Consequently the child gets what the teacher either knows or has material for, not necessarily what the child needs.

In several cases so far this year children have been retained after having 20 plus weeks of Reading Recovery and classroom based whole language instruction. And, are expected to receive an "eclectic approach" using some of Wilson and some regular classroom instruction.

They will not write in something like: "Bill's reading disability requires the use of a highly structured and sequenced reading program. He will be-instructed using the (Wilson, Lips, OG) program."

I read that you have interpreted (Section 1414(d)(1)(A)) to allow parents to request that the method (type of reading program/ instruction) be written in. I have been unable to convince school administrators.

Phone calls to MA DOE resulted in "We don't know, need to wait for the new regs. That's only one interpretation of the law, etc."

Why don't they get what the research is saying? Are they that uninformed? What can I do to demonstrate Congress has "clarified that methodology is vitally important" and Congress clarified that IEPs must include research-based methodology?"

Pam Wright answers:

Why do schools resist writing methodology into IEPs? Why does the state DOE go along?

First, schools do not want to comply with parents' requests because they do not want parents telling them what to do. If a parent can request a specific program, and it is written into the IEP, the school has to provide it. In many cases, schools do not have teachers who are adequately trained to implement these programs.

In other words, the school is not withholding a good program. The school does not have a good program that can be implemented by well-trained staff.

School administrators do not want to force teachers to get training in research based programs because they are afraid teachers will get angry and /or quit or that this will violate union rules.

Even if the teachers ARE willing to get quality training in a specific methodology (to use your examples, Wilson, Lips, OG), it is expensive and time-consuming.

Administrators are famous for pinching pennies in important places, and spending $$ on things that benefit themselves (i.e. more administrative staff).

Schools continue to use programs like Reading Recovery that are not effective for children with reading and learning disabilities. Because teachers received training in RR, they believe in it, despite ample evidence to the contrary. Most parents don't know about the research on RR. They think their children are getting one-on-one instruction in reading so they are relieved (for a while).

State Depts of Education

Most of the staff of SEAs are people who used to work for LEAs. Many affluent school districts have more staff and greater budgets than the state so they have a big influence on how the state operates. (Pete sued the state because a school district refused to comply with a hearing officer's order re: placement in an OG school and the state refused to order the district to comply - he won).

You wrote, "Our school district says it has been instructed by the MA DOE not to list specific reading programs or methodology on a child's IEP."

Did the MA DOE put this in writing and disseminate it to school districts in MA? I would request this document to find out what MA DOE wrote (or didn't write). In many cases, you find "unwritten policies."

Your sig line says you are a school psychologist. You are trying to change how things are done in your school so children will have quality services.

So What Can Parents Do?

We advise parents to get a comprehensive evaluation of the child by an expert in the private sector. In addition to writing up the evaluation, the evaluator needs to attend the IEP meeting, explain the child's disability, how it affects the child's ability to learn, why the child needs a specific program, and what will happen if the child does not receive this program - how failure to provide the program will damage the child.

Sue Whitney, Wrightslaw Research Editor replies:

I agree with everything Pam says. And I found this. It is a quote from this page of the Massachusetts Department of Education website under "Implementation Guide."

"We have also included on IEP 2 and IEP 3 reminders to include peer-reviewed research when possible regarding specially designed instruction; and also on IEP 3 a suggestion to consider completing a Functional Behavior Assessment and developing a Behavior Intervention Plan when appropriate in the case where a student's behavior impedes that student's or other's learning and you are considering utilizing positive behavioral interventions and supports."

Also see page 2 of the Implementation Guide.

So, being the good employee that you are, print out a bunch of the Implementation Guides and,

  • take them to meetings,
  • e-mail them to everyone in the special education department,
  • ask the PTA to link to it on their website, and
  • make sure parents have easy access to them.

These articles may be helpful to fight retention.

Grade Retention - Achievement and Mental Health Outcomes
Position Statement on Student Grade Retention and Social Promotion
The Grade Retention Fallacy (Harvard Civil Rights Project)

Particular Teaching Methodology is what is Individualized in the IEP

Emerson Dickman, attorney and past President of IDA, requested clarification from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) about teacher qualifications, parent right to know, and special methodology the IEP.

Mr. Dickman writes -

An important discussion of this issue can be found in the Federal Register at 64 FR 12552, March 12, 1999:

Case law recognizes that instructional methodology can be an important consideration in the context of what constitutes an appropriate education for a child with a disability. At the same time, these courts have indicated that they will not substitute a parentally-preferred methodology for sound educational programs developed by school personnel in accordance with the procedural requirements of the IDEA to meet the educational needs of an individual child with a disability.

In light of the legislative history and case law, it is clear that in developing an individualized education there are circumstances in which the particular teaching methodology that will be used is an integral part of what is 'individualized' about a student's education and, in those circumstances will need to be discussed at the IEP meeting and incorporated into the student's IEP.

As a member of the IEP team it would appear that parents are entitled to sufficient information to determine if the individual(s) assigned is qualified to deliver the goals, objectives, and the 'instructional methodology addressed in the IEP.'

Read the OSEP Opinion Letter in response to Emerson Dickman's letter.

Created: 07/02/09
Last Revised:


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