General Education "Innovative Teaching Practices" must be Included in an IDEA-Eligible Student's IEP

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A school district must develop an IEP for a student with a disability even though the instruction the student needs is part of the district's general education program or "best-teaching practices." In Letter to Chambers 112 LRP 37475 (OSEP 05/09/12), Office of Special Education Program (OSEP) Director Melody Musgrove, advised a Massachusetts advocate that school districts "must provide a child with a disability specially designed instruction that addresses the unique needs of the child that result from the child's disability, and ensures access by the child to the general curriculum, even if that type of instruction is being provided to other children with or without disabilities, in the child's classroom, grade, or building."

Ms. Musgrove responded to a letter from the advocate concerned that school districts in Massachusetts consider that some services or types of instruction, such as counseling, social skills training, and modified teaching methodologies are not special education because they constitute best-teaching practices. Thus,the districts decided that these services did not meet the "legal definition" of "special designed instruction" or "related services" and, therefore,  children with disabilities needing those services were not eligible for an IEP. The OSEP Director, however, clarified that: "The IEP Team is responsible for determining what special education and related services are needed to address the unique needs of the individual child with a disability. The fact that some of those services may also be considered "best teaching practices" or "part of the district's regular education program" does not preclude those services from meeting the definition of "special education" or "related services" and being included in the chld's IEP."

Ms. Musgrove concluded by noting:

"OSEP recognizes that classrooms across the country are changing as the field of special education responds to innovative practices and increasingly flexible methods of teaching. While the needs of many learners can be met using such methods, they do not replace the need of a child with a disability for unique, individualized instruction that responds to his or her disability and enables the child to meet the educational standards within the jurisdiction of the public agency that apply to all children."