Federal and state laws require all public school districts to provide a free, appropriate, and individualized education for all students with disabilities. Students' disabilities range from very mild (requiring minimal support and modification of curricula) to severe impairment (requiring major support mechanisms, modifications to the curriculum, and/or alternative curricula). All special education teachers must be credentialed by the state for the specific instruction or services they provide to students with disabilities.
An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is written for students whose education is affected by their disabilities. The IEP is developed by the IEP team with the participation of the student's parents or guardians. Students in grades TK–12 may take any combination of general and special education courses from the district's curriculum continuum, according to their educational needs and present abilities as indicated on their IEPs.
This chart offers a graphic overview of the curriculum available to students with IEPs. The curriculum has four emphases, each of which is discussed in this section:
Supports and Services across the Curricula
Support-service courses assist students in the functional-skills, applied-skills, multilevel, and general curricula. Each student¬ís needs, as indicated on his or her IEP, determine that student¬ís placement in support-service courses. Mastery of support-service course content is assessed through standards or outcomes and/or the IEP process.
Identification of Students
Special education students are identified as those:
Children with exceptional needs from birth through secondary school are accommodated within the special education program. See Early Childhood Special Education Curriculum for an overview of the preschool program. California Education Code section 56026 makes provisions for older students. A student who is enrolled in or is eligible for a program prior to his or her 19th birthday, and who has not completed the prescribed course of study resulting in a diploma, may continue in the program until age 22.
Reporting Student Progress
Students will receive progress reports at least as often as general education students. In addition, the IEP process can be used at regular reporting periods to monitor students' growth relative to their individual goals and objectives.
Variation of Subjects and Materials
Special educators use approved curricula as recommended by the subject-area department and/or program, but are responsible for modifying the subject content, mode of delivery, and student response in accordance with an individual student's educational needs. The principal means of delivering course content is through the use of basic texts and materials. Teaching strategies recommended by the subject-area department and/or program are used. Teachers make appropriate use of the district's teaching guides and guidelines, as well as standards.