Should students who have disabilities be taught the same curriculum as other students?

You are probably aware that Federal law, specifically the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), requires that students who have disabilities "be involved in and progress in the general education curriculum" [614 (d)(1)(A)(i)(1)(aa)]. This means that each student's IEP (Individual Education Plan) must include information about specific accommodations needed to assure that students who have disabilities meet the same curricular expectations and standards as their peers.

Factual Information

As noted in the following Teaching Matters Brief from the The Access Center, access to the general education curriculum applies to all students who have disabilities, including "the small percentage of students who have significant cognitive disabilities...." (p. 2). The report not only provides an overview of current federal requirements relating to access to the general education curriculum, but also includes strategies to improve access for students who have disabilities.

You may also have heard about Response to Intervention (RTI) and its use in identifying students who need more instructional assistance, including those students who may qualify for special education services. RTI is important in any discussion of access to the general education curriculum because it is a method for assessing a child's instructional needs in the general education classroom through intensive progress monitoring. While RTI is not the focus of this question, you will want to make the important connection between RTI and students' access to the curriculum. The National Association of State Directors of Special Education has published a white paper on RTI that provides an excellent overview of RTI components and the importance of a unified system of education.

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