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Some of the most common questions I’m asked are based versions of the following:

I’m told that since our child isn’t on grade level, they can’t be in the general education setting. Is this true?

The school equates having an IEP with pull-out instruction. Since our child doesn’t need pull-out instruction, they say there’s no need for an IEP.

The assumption that there is a clear connection between being in the general education environment, academic performance, and an IEP is false. A child can have an IEP and still be in the general education classroom, even for all of their instruction. And a child can be in the general education classroom, even if they’re not on grade level.

As an instance of the former, consider a student who qualifies for an IEP under IDEA §300.8.c.13:

Visual impairment including blindness means an impairment in vision that, even with correction, adversely affects a child’s educational performance. The term includes both partial sight and blindness.

A student with a visual impairment may have an IEP listing their needed accommodations and supports (such as Braille textbooks), even if they’re the best student at their school. 

Similarly, IDEA requires that placement in the general education setting is the default. This is one of the central guiding requirements of IDEA:

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. (IDEA §300.114.a.2.ii).

This means that a child’s placement depends on if they can make progress toward their goals in the general educational setting, even if they’re working on material other than their peers, with appropriate accommodations and supports (including an aid or Braille textbooks). Any claim that there’s a close connection between a child’s placement simply in virtue of having an IEP and their academic performance or level is false.

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