An Analysis of the General Curriculum Requirements in IDEA 97:

An Overview of Issues

  1. The General Curriculum Requirements and the IEP

    As state and local education authorities address the priorities set out in IDEA (Part B, Section 614, 1997), the facility to monitor individual student progress in the general curriculum represents a major change and a major challenge. This general curriculum requirement has several attributes that should be addressed.

    1. Evaluations related to eligibility. The Act (IDEA) states, "Use a variety of assessment tools . . . to gather information . . . related to enabling the child to be involved in and progress in the general curriculum . . ."
    2. Evaluations and Reevaluations. The Act states, "Identify what additional data, if any, are needed to determine.. . . Whether any additions or modifications to the special education and related services are needed to enable the child to meet the measurable annual goals.. . . And to participate, as appropriate, in the general curriculum."
    3. Content of the Individualized Education Plan (IEP). The Act states, "The IEP includes . . . (a) a statement of . . . how the child’s disability affects the child’s involvement and progress in the general curriculum . . . , (b) a statement of measurable annual goals, including benchmarks or short-term objectives, relating to . . . enabling the child to be involved in and progress in the general curriculum . . . (c) a statement of how the child’s progress toward the annual goals (and progress in the general curriculum will be measured . . ."
    4. Membership of the IEP team. The Act states, "The IEP team means a group of individuals composed of . . . a representative of the local education agency who . . . is knowledgeable about the general curriculum . . ."
    5. Review and revision of the IEP. The Act states, " . . . the IEP team.. . . Revises the IEP as appropriate to address any lack of expected progress toward the annual goals and in the general curriculum, where appropriate.
  1. Implications for the LEA
  2. Responding to the "general curriculum" requirements exemplified in the above listed extracts form the Act will require an extensive long-term effort that recognizes:

    1. This is not just an adjustment to the inventory of assessment tools in use in initial evaluations. This is a highly pervasive requirement that is tied to specific instructional services, the curriculum in use in each classroom, and ongoing communications between parents and the LEA.
    2. The LEA implications are extensive. To achieve the functional relationship between the content of most IEPs and the general curriculum, the LEA, and associated state support services will have to make a major investment in : (a) assessment tools linked to specific local instructional programs, (b) pedagogical and curriculum practices, and (c) the staff development practices necessary to achieve the effective implementations called for in the Act.
    3. The investments will vary with the extent of curricular and pedagogical diversity in the state and within each LEA. For example, to ensure the validity in assessment and monitoring implementation called for in the Act, reviews and modifications will be necessary to many of the curriculum-embedded assessment tools available to each teacher in each general curriculum subject area in each classroom.
    4. The general curriculum requirement calls for the generation of valid data on each child. It would be difficult to meet the requirement with more general-purpose instruments or assessment resources that are not linked to validated instructional programs.
    5. One of the major challenges lies in designing procedures that meet the intent of the Act without simply adding to difficulties associated with the development and implementation of each IEP. Most children receiving special education services have a learning disability, and most disabilities are associated with a general curriculum area such as beginning reading. To maintain the focus on the needs of the child and reduce complexity of the IEP team’s responsibilities, we should avoid approaching the monitoring of annual goals and the monitoring of progress in the general curriculum can be viewed as largely overlapping activities rather than separate and parallel activities we increase the instructional focus and reduce the noninstructional investments of the IEP team.
    6. Many of those who pushed for the inclusion of the general curriculum requirement were parents wishing to increase the accountability of schools. It would not be unreasonable to expect this same constituency to monitor and challenge schools and states that do not demonstrate prompt respect for the general curriculum requirements.
  3. Criteria to Guide Activities That Address the General Curriculum Requirement
  4. Criterion 1. Assessment tools and associated instructional practices must have acceptable levels of instructional validity. The major purposes of the general curriculum requirement have very little to do with the labeling or classification of students. The major purposes are (a) the use of data on student progress in the general curriculum to systematically and progressively improves the instructional services that each child receives, and (b) to validly communicate to parents, and all other members of the IEP team, information on the progress of the child in the general curriculum.

    Criterion 2. Assessment tools and associated instructional practices must be exportable. the implementation resources, including staff development procedures, must be cost effective, robust, and consistent with LEA resources. The diversity present in the clients receiving special education services must be addressed in the development and refinement of implementation resources.

  5. Inclusion in District and State Testing Systems
    1. The IEP and State and district-wide assessment. The Act states that the IEP includes: "v)(I) a statement of any individual modifications in the administration of State or district-wide assessments of student achievement that are needed in order for the child to participate in such assessment; and (II) if the IEP team determines that the child will not participate in a particular State or district-wide assessment of student achievement (or part of such an assessment), a statement of (a) why that assessment is not appropriate for the child; and (b) how the child will be assessed."
    2. Participation in assessments. In addition to the above-listed extracts form Part B, Section 614, State eligibility requirements listed in Section 612 also address the monitoring of progress in the general curriculum through participation in assessments. The Act states, "IN GENERAL, children with disabilities are included in general State and district-wide assessment programs." The instructional implications of this requirements are extensive. The general assessment programs provide data for maintaining or changing the general curriculum in the state or district. To the extent that children with disabilities are included in these general assessments, we increase the probability that the needs of these children will be considered in the adoption of new curricula and the associated pedagogy. The Act does not specifically require such consideration in state or district adoption processes. There is little data to suggest that the needs of children with disabilities are systematically considered in the instructional adoption processes. It makes little sense to invest in the resources required to ensure participation in general assessments and then have no plans to use the data generated on the performance of children with disabilities to systematically and progressively improve instructional access as changes are made in the general curriculum.
    3. The "general curriculum" is not a stable entity. It changes based on a complex interaction of forces. Such forces include: changing community values, fads of the education community, research, the content of district and Stat tests, the personal, professional preferences of individual building district and State administrators, marketing pressures form vendors of textbooks and other products, fiscal resources, and technology-based instructional vehicles which can both limit and expand access to validated instructional programs.
  6. Implications for the BD Population: Prevention and Treatment Implications

For the child with a behavioral disturbance, issues related to the general curriculum are important and pervade prevention and treatment; e.g., the research on the causal relationship between failure in the general curriculum and later antisocial behavior. Also, the relationship between success in the general curriculum and its replacement value in interventions designed to reduce behavior problems.

Both the prevention and treatment of antisocial behavior must be addressed. The causal links between the general curriculum and antisocial behavior have major implications for the individual and society. The research suggests a frequent, causal sequence as follows: Failure in the general curriculum generates alienation; (b) the alienated individual is more vulnerable to a range of antisocial activities such as those associated with drugs and gang membership; (c) the consequences of the antisocial behavior include threats to health, (including death), and a criminal record–all with adverse life-long consequences for the individual and society.

Most individuals in juvenile correctional facilities have massive academic achievement deficits. There is a tendency to view such academic failure as the consequence of the antisocial behavior. Given that in most cases the academic failure was evident before the antisocial behavior, then one must consider the academic failure a possible causal variable. For the school system the possibility exists that the schools can have a major preventative role in reducing the frequency of antisocial behavior.

  1. The General Curriculum and the Effective Use of System-wide Resources

Many of the changes in IDEA 97 reflect a need to address the quality of the education experience by increasing student access to, and progress in, the general curriculum. Research in areas, such as reading, support the notion that while instructional programs are effective or ineffective, a single quality effective program will address the needs of a wide range of learners. Student populations such as those with learning disabilities, those in Title 1, and those considered above average can be effectively and individually placed within the one program.

This document prepared as a part of the planning efforts to develop the Utah State Improvement plan submitted October 1, 1998



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