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JA:  Suppose a school places an IEP student into a grade-level course (8th grade Language Arts for example), but the parents decide to push their child into the Advanced course (8th grade Honors English) against the recommendation of the teachers and school.

Is the school/ teacher obligated to follow the IEP in this advanced course? What obligation does the school have towards an IEP student who does not follow the recommended course pathway? (we are assuming the student was placed appropriately, and there was no IEP discrimination during course placement)

  1. This may vary by state, so I will only speak to what is standard practice in Massachusetts. AP curriculum is not offered in 9th grade, as this curriculum is created by the College Board and these classes would be offered for sophomores and upper class-folk. AP classes come at the recommendation of the teachers and not the parents. IEP services and service delivery are very specific about placement. If the student is on an IEP due to a specific learning disability and they are receiving services in reading/writing in an inclusion (co-taught model), then they would have to receive those services in that model. If there is no inclusion AP class (and I have never seen one), then the student must go into a regular inclusion class. Accommodations should be followed in all classes.

    • This is incorrect

      My nephew is taking AP classes in 9th grade currently.

      My oldest was on an IEP and in advanced and honors classes. Special education is a service not a place. She was accommodated and despite struggling with dysgraphia she would type her papers in most classes. ‍♀️‍♀️. We also had access to audiobooks.

  2. Can a student with an IEP based on academic modifications in READING/WRITING due to a 2nd grade reading level, who insists on taking an AP English class, be informed that their reading accommodations/modifications will not be allowed due to the qualifications of receiving an AP grade? If ANY student enrolls in the AP class, they are told what is required of them for both reading and writing assignments. I have no issue with getting help with any assignment as long as the other students are allowed to receive help as well, I have issue with NOT do all the work required to receive an AP grade and expect to receive the same benefits the other students get by doing ALL of the work.

    • Why would anyone want a student who is reading at 2nd grade level to go into an AP class? AP classes are college level classes and follow the College Board curriculum. The nature of the class is rigorous (tons of curriculum coming at you at great speed and tons of work expected). It seems unethical to give a student AP credit (which is college credit, btw) with modifications for courseload/workload. Totally setting them up for failure. Best of luck to them when they go to college.

      • Reading at a 2nd grade level does not correlate with understanding the course content. It would appear that they have mastered content enough to get where they are. Books, & textbooks can be accessed auditorily, speech to text can help with report writing. So it is certainly possible that they could master the content despite the class being rigorous. Federally rules say that a student cannot be kept out of AP classes because of their need for accommodations.

  3. We have an IEP student in biology, against my request for earth science, an easier class. This student failed biology last semester, why biology in the 2nd semester. Is this following the IEP?

  4. My son is doing his College essay on his journey from being on an IEP since kindergarten to finishing high school taking 2 AP courses and the rest Accelerated “From IEP to AP”. They all have strong suits, my sons was Math & Science, he just gets it. For English and History, I think he was bored so spent class fidgeting instead of listening.
    It was quite a journey for him, but one he can look back on and be proud of his accomplishment. Good Luck and keep believing in those kids!

  5. I believe the US Dept. Of Education has some Dear Colleague letters that state their position on this topic.

    Try to get your school team to think outside the box. I suggested regular ed classes but at a higher grade level to meet his pacing and cognitive depth. They weren’t open to it, but it’s worth a try.

    Colorado has a great 2E resource guide that I brought to my son’s school. Not only does it explain the differences between a gifted versus twice exceptional student, it also has assessments that a team can use to try and get the right classes, services and supports for the 2E learner.

  6. I am quite interested in this topic. My son is starting 11th grade soon. He has an IEP to help him with reading and written language as he has dyslexia and struggles. He passed Honors History with an A and qualifies for AP History this year. The summer prep has been a struggle. He’s required to read a book and write 30 open responses paragraphs. The book is above his reading level and he struggled but got through it. The writing is too overwhelming. When I emailed the District to ask for modifications, it was suggested that he step down to Honors. I’m on the fence about what to do. On the one hand, he’s intellectually capable of an AP class but the reading and writing are just too much of a struggle, even with help. I want him to do well on SAT’s, so maybe he should focus on that?

    • AP classes can be quite daunting for some students. Does he enjoy history enough to “plow through this course?” Does he “LOVE” US history. If not, I would suggest honors. Also, another question is– does he use assistive technology (speech to text, read-write-gold, Kurzweil, Learning Ally, etc.)? Assistive Technology is the game changer for many LD students who need such–especially those with dyslexia who struggle with reading and writing. Are the AP classes that important? I know many bright kids, without LD, who skip the APs or some and focus on honors for balance. As you venture forth, know some colleges have structured LD programs and some with summer transition programs before classes start.

      • Thanks for responding! He has always been a history buff so it comes easily to him. He was bored in Honors last year. And, yes, he uses assistive tech. His Sped team are amazing and accommodating in every way which is why he has made great progress. Reading and writing are just the hugest struggle for him. The reason he wanted AP was to weight his gpa. He wants to study Biology in college and that’s quite competitive. I’m advising him to take honors and focus on doing well on SATs.

  7. The student has the right to attempt the honors class, regardless of recommendations for lower placement. The student also has the right to his or her IEP supports.

    However, the student does not have the right to stay in the class come what may. If the school can document that the IEP supports were faithfully provided, and nevertheless the student was not able to keep up to the minimum grade required to stay in the honors class, I think the school can bump the student back to non-honors, just as it does with other students who are not keeping up. In my district, this typically happens when the five-week progress report is issued.

    The exception I am aware of is the flipped classroom, or hybrid regular-Honors combo class. This is more fluid.

    Good luck to the student!

  8. You asked: “What obligation does the school have towards an IEP student who does not follow the recommended course pathway?”

    Can the school punish an “IEP student” who did not follow the school’s advice by refusing to follow the IEP? Nope.

    The school and teachers are responsible for providing this student with the services in his/her IEP.

  9. Having an IEP does not exclude a student from taking advanced courses, honors, AP, etc. Is the student capable, motivated and determined? Is the student looking at college in the future? If so, these parents are wise to ensure that the student is “tracked” now in order to progress towards those higher level courses in high school. The student needs a level playing field to equally access the curriculum and yes, with stated accommodations. More, this student may need a higher level of AT support such as Kurzweil, Read Write Gold, etc., to level the playing field. My question is can the school provide the resources to meet the needs of a determined students and a strong team of parents?

    • More thoughts: Many parents of typical “average” students advocate for their kids to go into the honors and AP courses AGAINST the recommendations of some school personnel. Those kids excel, work harder and appreciate being in a more richly resourced academic environment with rigor. Those kids achieved and set higher goals for themselves. We have a right to advocate the same for our kids as our kids may have college goals. LD kids in upper level courses simply need the right playing field and with accommodations–such will prepare them for college also. The challenge for some LD kids in fast paced courses is having access to the AT to keep up. Parents should do their own AT research and work with disability support centers at local colleges to look into AT options.

      • My question is about the rigor. In my son’s IEP, reduced assignments is an accommodation because he has a processing disorder and is in the 20th percentile of his peers, therefore, he will never be able to produce the amount of work that the other typical students are able to produce. How do you get an Honors or AP teacher to understand that when they believe the class is an Honors or AP class because of the rigor? That is one aspect of it, yes, but the other aspects are more in depth discussions about the subject. My child can learn all of these things just as fast as the other kids, but he cannot produce the amount of work that they can. What is so irritating to me is that the problem is with the teachers not knowing how to give them alternative formats or what to reduce. HELP!!

        • The teachers do not know as they are not trained and such is NOT even addressed at times during their incoming teacher orientations – sounds like your school does not have a support system in place for teachers to provide alternate formats– college disaiblity centers work with faculty to provide the alternate formats, computers, training, etc. Many high school teachers don’t have such resources and their special education teacher co-workers may not even know. You can do the research and present alternate test, reading, study format options to them– go to these sites to see how colleges deal with alternative formats to level the playing field for students with disabilities such as Suny-Cortland, SALT PROGRAM, University of Arizona, etc.

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