An Analysis of the General Curriculum Requirements
in IDEA 97:
An Overview of Issues
- 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
- 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 . .
- 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."
- 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 . . ."
- 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 . . ."
- 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.
Implications for the LEA
Responding to the "general curriculum" requirements
exemplified in the above listed extracts form the Act will require
an extensive long-term effort that recognizes:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Criteria to Guide Activities That Address the
General Curriculum Requirement
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
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
Inclusion in District and State Testing Systems
- 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."
- 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.
- 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.
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
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.
- The General Curriculum and the Effective Use of System-wide
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