Access and Success for All Students

The General Education Teacher and the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA)

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was originally passed in 1975. It was known as P.L. 94-142. According to this law, children were to receive a free appropriate public education in the Least Restrictive Environment. (LRE) This cornerstone of the law remains unchanged today. The federal regulations say that to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities are educated with children who are nondisabled; and special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only if the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.” (CFR 300.114)

The law goes on to say that educational placement for students with disabilities is to:

  • be determined at least annually;
  • be based on the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP);
  • be as close as possible to the student’s home; and,

consider any potential harmful effect on the student or on the quality of services needed. Furthermore, a student with a disability is not to be removed from education in age-appropriate classrooms solely because of needed modifications in the general curriculum. To the maximum extent appropriate, services are to:

  • be provided in the school that the student would normally attend if nondisabled;
  • be provided in the general education classroom;
  • include supplementary aids and services to support the student in the general education classroom.
  • be provided, as necessary, during nonacademic and extra-curricular activities; and,
  • be provided with nondisabled students.

IDEA also mandates access to the general education curriculum. The law requires that the Individualized Education Program (IEP) for every child with a disability includes:

  • a statement describing how the child’s disability affects the child’s involvement and progress in the general curriculum;
  • a statement of measurable goals to enable the child to be involved with and progress in the general curriculum; and,
  • a statement of the services, program modification, and supports necessary for the child to be involved in and progress in the general curriculum.

“We value diversity and the opportunity to learn from one another. I am so grateful to have my life enriched by my students.” ~ Kansas teacher

Team Members According to IDEA

  • The student must be invited to attend his/her own IEP meeting beginning at age 14, or younger, if a purpose of the meeting is consideration of the student’s postsecondary goals and the transition services needed to assist the student in reaching those goals;
  • The parent(s) of the child;
  • Not less than one general education teacher of the child;
  • Not less than one special education teacher of the child;
  • A representative of the public agency who is qualified to provide, or supervise the provision of specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of children with disabilities; is knowledgeable about the general education curriculum; and, is knowledgeable about the availability of resources of the public agency;
  • A person who can interpret any new evaluation or assessment results and the implications for instruction of any new evaluation or assessment results; and,
  • Other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the child, including related services personnel as appropriate (invited at the discretion of the parent or the agency). (K.S.A. 72-962)

What to Look for in an IEP

What is the student’s disability? Make sure you understand how the disability will affect the student in your classroom.

Who is the student? What are the student’s strengths, interests and needs?

Who is the case manager? This person will be in charge of the IEP process. You will be working with this person closely to ensure the student has access to the general education curriculum.

What services is the student receiving? Even if you are not providing the services, it’s helpful to know what services the student receives. You will be able to reinforce skills taught by service providers.

What accommodations or modifications do you need to provide? Know your responsibilities!

General Education Teacher Participation in IEP

The law says that at least one general education teacher must be present at the IEP team meeting, if the child is, or may be, participating in the general education environment. The general education teacher is knowledgeable about the curriculum, appropriate activities of typically developing peers, and how the child’s disability affects the child’s participation in the curriculum and activities. General educators assist in the development of the IEP by suggesting:

  • positive behavioral interventions and strategies;
  • supplemental aids and services;
  • program modifications; and,
  • supports for personnel that enable teachers to work with the child.

General and special education teachers both play pivotal and necessary roles. General education teachers provide knowledge about the curriculum. Special education teachers provide knowledge of strategies and methodologies that can be used to reach all students in the classroom.

State Standards and Inclusion

The need to focus on state and district wide assessments need not be an obstacle for a student’s access to the general education curriculum. Linking a student’s specific needs to the standards enables IEP teams to focus on the individual student’s needs. Extended Standards were developed to promote access to the general curriculum for students with severe cognitive disabilities. State Standards and the IEP meeting the needs of all students

  • English and Language Arts Possible IEP priorities: communication, reading and writing
  • Mathematics, Science, and Technology Possible IEP priorities: basic math skills, problem solving, money, and time management
  • Career Development – Personal/Social Development Possible IEP priorities: self-awareness, decision-making and self-determination, health and wellness, interpersonal skills, self-management and organization, arts and leisure
  • School, Community and Work Participation Possible IEP priorities: classroom and school routine, time management, community access, career exploration, vocational, and college experience

Inclusive School Communities: “One of the biggest advantages of having specials needs students in my classroom is the empathy it teaches other students. I feel our special needs students have so much to teach all of us about feelings, caring, patience and empathy.“  ~ Kansas educator

Inclusive School Communities 10 Reasons

Why Educators, students, and families have found many compelling reasons to support inclusive education, including the following:

  • Preparation for Community Life as an Adult – Inclusive schools provide the opportunity for students with and without disabilities to experience diversity as a natural part of life in communities.
  • A Sense of Belonging – Inclusive education facilitates belonging for students with disabilities.
  • Varied Learning Opportunities – Students with disabilities are exposed to a wider range of learning opportunities in general education environments.
  • Differentiated Instruction – Differentiation to meet diverse student needs allows educational teams to expand the ways in which they effectively teach all students.
  • Individualized Education – Individualized educational programs allow students with disabilities to experience the benefits of participating with peers in general education activities, while attending to their specific learning needs.
  • Effective Use of Instructional Resources – Resources, especially instructional personnel, can be leveraged to create more effective and efficient learning for all students in inclusive schools.
  • Team-Building for School Improvement – The collaborative teamwork required for inclusive education builds staff relationships that support school-wide initiatives.
  • Friendships with Peers – As students with and without disabilities interact as classmates, friendships can develop.
  • Parental Involvement – Parents of students with disabilities are more involved with their local schools and communities when their children are included.
  • Support of Civil Rights. – Inclusion is a civil rights issue. ~ Institute on Community Integration

“Schools with successful inclusion programs have faculties that work together. It is recognized that all teachers are specialists who bring their areas of expertise to the table when planning and making decisions about students. Classroom teachers are specialists in curriculum; special education teachers, including related service personnel, are specialists in the unique learning and behavior needs of students. Each specialist learns skills from the others with all students being the ultimate beneficiaries.” ~Access to the General Education Curriculum for Students with Disabilities, Council for Exceptional Children

Co-Teaching and Inclusion

Co-teaching teams typically include a general and special educator who teach the general education curriculum to all students as well as implement Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). Both educators are responsible for differentiating the instruction planning and delivery, assessment of student achievement and classroom management.

Benefits of Co-Teaching

  • Decreased referrals to intensive special education services
  • Increased overall student achievement
  • Fewer disruptive problems
  • Less paperwork
  • Increased number of students qualified for gifted and talented education
  • Decreased referrals for behavioral problems

(according to Schwab Learning, 2003)

Co-teaching is one method of providing an inclusive educational placement. et al. (2005) reported that students with disabilities who spend more time in general education classrooms are absent less, perform closer to grade level than their peers in pullout settings, and have higher achievement test scores. Although students with disabilities were found to perform overall more poorly than their same-grade peers without disabilities, overall the scores confirmed that students with disabilities in general education settings academically out performed their peers who were educated in segregated settings when standard-based assessments were used.

In addition to meeting the education needs “for special education students, being part of the large class meant making new friends”. (Mahoney 1997) ~ A Guide to Co-Teaching by Richard A. Villa, Jacqueline S Thousand and Ann I. Nevin

Using Co-Teaching to Build Effective Inclusive Classrooms

  • Two or more people (general and special education teachers) share teaching responsibilities within a general education classroom.
  • Both teachers interact with all of the students at different times. Federal Regulation § 300.208 allows for “funds provided to an Local Education Agency under Part B of IDEA to be used for the following activities: (1) Services and aids that also benefit nondisabled children. For the costs of special education and related services, and supplementary aids and services, provided in a regular class or other education related setting to a child with a disability in accordance with the IEP of the child, even if one or more nondisabled children benefit from these services.”

Four Approaches to Co-Teaching

  • Supportive Co-Teaching – one teacher taking the lead instructional role and the other(s) rotate among the students to provide support.
  • Parallel Co-Teaching – two or more people working with different groups of students in different sections of the classroom.
  • Complementary Co-Teaching – one teacher does something to enhance the instruction provided by the other teacher.
  • Team Teaching – two or more people doing what the traditional teacher has always done – plan, teach, assess, and assume responsibility for all of the students in the classroom.

~ National Center for Educational Restructuring and Inclusion

Supports Available to General Education Teachers in Inclusive Classrooms

  • Special education resource consultation and collaboration
  • Co-teaching
  • Paraprofessionals (in some cases)
  • Related service assistance (speech, occupational therapy, physical therapy)
  • Assistive technology
  • Universal design
  • Training for school personnel

“All students can and will be successful if you can make the proper modifications. When all students are participating it really enriches your classroom community and makes school that much more fulfilling.” ~ Kansas educator

Ten Recommendations for General Education Teachers in an Inclusive Setting

  • work with other team members
  • welcome the student in your class
  • be the teacher of all students
  • make sure everyone belongs to the classroom community and everyone participates in the same activities
  • clarify shared expectations with team members
  • adapt activities to the students’ needs
  • provide active and participatory learning experiences
  • adapt classroom arrangements, materials, and strategies
  • make sure support services help • evaluate your teaching

~Michael Giangreco

“Everyone is different and that’s what makes our school so amazing.” ~ Kansas educator

Multi-Tier System of Supports (MTSS)

MTSS is a framework to help schools and teachers give every Kansas students the right type of support to learn, grow and succeed. Students with disabilities can receive supports at any tier level.

MTSS has three tiers of instruction and support.

  1. Tier 1 includes the instruction and support provide to all students.
  2. Tier II (Supplemental) serves students needing more help. Extra instruction and support are provided to these students in small groups.
  3. Tier III (Intensive) is for children who need intense support in order to succeed. Extra instruction and support for these students are provided in even smaller groups.
    ~ MTSS Helping Your Child Grow, Learn and Succeed

“Every day, I see amazing friendships being built in the classroom.“ ~ Kansas educator

MTSS & Students Receiving Special Education Services

“We can expect to see students receiving special education supports at all levels within the system. General and special educators work together to contribute to its success, and special education is delivered as a part of the MTSS.” ~ Questions and Answers about MTSS and Related Funding

MTSS & Inclusion

“Multi-Tier System of Supports (MTSS) creates a culture in a district/building in which everyone is responsible for the learning of each student. General and special educators work closely together to instruct students, to collect and analyze data, and to plan, organize, and deliver appropriate supports for student learning.” ~ Special Education within a Multi-Tier System of Supports

Differentiated Instruction Supports Inclusive Education

Differentiated Instruction is a philosophy and an approach in which teachers and school communities actively work to support the learning of all students.

For differentiated instruction to work, teachers must assume that all students are competent learners.

Differentiated instruction means “shaking up” what goes on in the classroom so students have multiple opportunities for:

  • taking in information (content)
  • making sense of ideas (process)
  • expressing what they learn (product)

The most important element of differentiated instruction is to know the student. Understand their interests and learning styles.

Differentiated Instruction within MTSS

 Instruction by content, process, and product recognizing that “one size doesn’t fit all” because each student has unique needs. According to Tomlinson and Imbeau (2010), a fundamental goal of teaching is to maximize the capacity of every student. It is typical for teachers to think of their students as a group (Brighton, Hertberg, Moon, Tomlinson, & Callahan, 2005), but it also makes it nearly impossible to address individual student differences when we think “the students.” Teachers should ask themselves, “What is this student’s next step in learning essential content today? How can I help each student understand and contribute to his or her next step in learning?” (Tomlinson, & Imbeau, 2010). Kansas Multi-Tier System of Supports Differentiated Instruction within MTSS

Keys to Differentiated Instruction

Meaningful activities

  • Developmentally appropriate
  • Connected and relevant to life experiences
  • Authentic
  • Engaging
  • Respectful and fair to all students

Flexible grouping—groups based on:

  • Student learning preferences and interests
  • Background experiences
  • Academic level
  • Readiness

Student choice

“When you allow students the choice of working alone or working with others, you address their need for belonging. When you put students in charge of choosing which activity to complete you address their need for power and freedom. When you offer students creative ways to show-what-they-know, you address their need for fun. The more we address these needs, the more we foster intrinsic motivation in learners.” ~ Judith Dodge, Differentiation in Action, 2005


“…. The scaffold is the environment the teacher creates, the instructional support, and the processes and language that are lent to the student in the context of approaching a task and developing the abilities to meet it” (adapted from Wilhelm, Baker and Dube, 2001). ~ Making a Difference: Meeting the diverse learning needs with differentiated instruction

In a differentiated classroom, the teacher proactively plans and carries out varied approaches to content, process, and product in anticipation of and response to student differences in readiness, interest, and learning needs. ~ Tomlinson, 2001

Benefits of Inclusion

  • Access instructional strategies including peer tutoring, cooperative learning groups, and differentiated instruction
  • Develop interdependence
  • Gain skill acquisition and generalization
  • Learn flexibility
  • Learn new language/communication skills
  • Learn to celebrate the strengths & unique traits of others
  • Develop meaningful friendships
  • Develop leadership skills
  • Master skills by teaching others
  • Have the same choices and opportunities
  • Access materials and instruction in various ways
  • Benefit academically from the review, practice, clarity, and feedback provided
  • Gain skills necessary to support friends through challenging times
  • Increase awareness of the needs of others
  • Share a sense of belonging
  • Prepare for life in an inclusive society
  • Experience a diverse community on a smaller scale
  • Learn respect 
  • Meet individual needs by working together
  • Enhance self-esteem 
  • Develop appropriate social skills
  • Are empowered to make a meaningful difference
  • Accept and appreciate for individuality
  • Increase self-esteem when there are higher expectations 
  • Increase understanding and acceptance of diversity

*All students are general education students.

*Special education is specially designed instruction designed to meet the individual needs of students who have disabilities.