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Phil:  I would like to know if it is legal for a regular education teacher to modify the curriculum for a struggling student who is not on an IEP.

  1. How early is too early to request modifications? I have a student in kindergarten. We are working on getting an IEP, but kindergarten is too hard for him. Ideally I would like to see him getting extra help on preschool-level curriculum, but the school has already said they don’t do that and kindergarten is low as they can go on instruction.

    • Tanessa, if a child qualifies for an IEP, then accommodations, modifications, & specially designed instruction must be considered, & developed for the child. I suggest you contact your state parent training & information center. They are there to help parents work with their public school, & know their rights under the federal law.  

  2. I am a second grade general education teacher. I have a student with an IEP who has data from beginning and mid year of 2020-21 showing child is on kindergarten level in reading and math in all subcategories of both subjects. How do I teach this child in my classroom when he is two or more grade levels behind in every subcategory in reading and math and overall 2 years behind in both as well.

    • Kay, you do not indicate what specially designed instruction the child is receiving from special ed staff to address these deficits. If there is not any, or it is minimal that is a problem for you, the child, & the district. It is the responsibility of the principal, & IEP team to provide you & the child the supports needed. That is not easy but it is their responsibility to do this. I feel that few teachers get the support they need, & should speak up as you are doing.

    • Hi Kay, you can discuss your concerns with the child’s parent/family. The parent may not realize the significance or severity of the child’s inability to master grade level reading and math skills. You can also refer the child to your school’s special education team for evaluation.

      The federal special education law (IDEA) includes the Child Find mandate. Child Find requires all school districts to identify, locate and evaluate all children with disabilities, regardless of the severity of their disabilities. This obligation to identify all children who may need special education services exists even if the school is not providing special education services to the child.

  3. in the state of Texas can assignments only be reduced by 25% for a student with ADHD and ED… It is being suggested that that is the maximum %

    • This is a district rule, not a state rule. You can start by asking to see the district policy & state rule on this. I work with the TX parent training & information project. We can assist you on this & other issues you may be having. Unfortunately there is a lot of misunderstandings about accommodations by educators & unwillingness to follow them. You can find our staff that serve your area at:

  4. Please explain to me the difference in a differentiated curriculum and accommodations that are available on an IEP?

  5. I was always taught that if you have modifications for a student that has an IEP, then it was considered resource which is outside of the classroom. And that if you were an inclusion student, then you do the same work w/o change in curriculum but can have accommodations to help support the student.
    But now I am being told that you can modify work inside the classroom if it’s on their IEP. But how is that supporting inclusion only?

  6. One more point of clarification: yes, teachers may need to address gaps in skills by re-teaching skills from lower grade levels and/or providing academic interventions, however that approach is meant to be temporary, not long term, and is not considered “modification”. In the field of education and special education there are many educators using the term “modify” to mean different things. In this context, to modify means to significantly alter, lower and reduce the expectations for a student within the curriculum. The decision to do so has serious implications for a student long term, especially around earning a diploma to graduate high school. Hope this helps.

  7. Hi, technically the answer is no. All teachers in every state are required to teach the grade level standards for each subject area and may not lower the outcomes or expectations for students unless specified legally in an IEP. “Modified” curriculum in its truest definition means to lower the complexity of the content, and is usually only implemented (per IEP) when a student has a cognitive disability or intellectual impairment. What you may be talking about however is “adapting” the curriculum or perhaps using UDL approaches (Univeral Design for Learning), which would require a student to learn the same grade level content but students would have options to show the content skills in varied modalities and methods (for example, verbal task vs paper and pencil tasks).

    • My son is deaf, but does not have a cognitive disability or intellectual impairment. His IEP team is attempting to modify his curriculum. I have filed for due process and have the resolution session Thursday (4/4/19) and I have been desperately seeking information on modified curriculum and when it is appropriate. Can you assist me in my search?

      • This is a lot to work through with so little time, but modifying a curriculum is not always a bad thing, and doesn’t always mean the student cannot eventually earn the same diploma or graduate with his peers. Hopefully your State has a similar process to mine where a student can work with a significantly modified curriculum based on what the Ohio Dept. of Ed. calls “extended learning standards”. Testing still ensures students demonstrate the same knowledge as typical peers, and they can earn the same graduation diploma.

        To me, the outcome is the more important element (graduating with an equal diploma). If this means the school assists with accommodations, modifications and/or specially designed instruction, I’m okay with that.

        Good luck today!

      • Modifications have their place depending on the student’s needs. However, my child with an IEP in middle school advocated against modifications. My child asserted that less was being expected of him with the modifications as he would compare his work and assignments to that of his peers. He had the same goals as his peers towards college and advocated towards that goal. He is now in college. That self advocacy made the teachers at that middle school take note and raise the bar. What are your son’s goals and plans? Remember also, some schools track lower performing students in the same classes together which also may result in different expectations and class wide modified content.

    • This seems to contradict Differentiated Instruction which is a part of all good teaching. The content could be supporting varying ability levels, along with different expectations for the outcomes. As I am a special education teacher I have to fight this battle on a daily basis with general education teachers who do not want to differentiate their instruction. Our students with disabilities end up having behaviors because after all their efforts they end up with a D or F because the outcome expectation is the same as their peers. This is not okay. And it doesn’t mean they should be placed in a special education environment.

  8. My son has 504 plan for ADHD. He has always struggled with math and this year has physics. By law can we ask for modified tests for him in that class? The school is suggesting he switches to the easier physics class referred to as ” applied physics ” however he would have to drop out of his band elective to do so. Being in band gives him a social element we feel is important although he seems to be considering the idea. Input is greatly appreciated!

    • Cheryl,

      Your son can stay in his physics class. A 504 will have all of the modifications he needs. You can request for these. He needs band because that is a great way to give him that social element he needs. I would request in writing a meeting with the principal, his physics teacher along with his caseworker to list the modifications that he needs. The school can suggest but if he has the 504 plan they have to follow that so he has the right to be in the harder physics class.

    • 504 can only get accommodations. but schools kinda do whatever they want anyways… so… go have meetings and see what theyll do for you.
      if you can convince them a modification is an accomodation… its all good.

  9. I will answer for the state of New York — I’m not completely certain this would hold in any state. Yes, a regular education teacher may modify the curriculum informally, as long as the student gets exposed to the regular curriculum.
    Please ask your parent center to be sure.

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