Access to curriculum - Baltimore City Public School System

Tips for Teachers
Access to Curriculum for Students with IEPs
Students with disabilities need and deserve the same access to rigorous instruction and high expectations as
their non-disabled peers. To fully benefit from these opportunities and meet the standards that apply to all students, they also need
specialized supports that address their areas of difficulty. General education teachers need to combine their expertise in the
content and their knowledge of their students with special educators’ knowledge of supports and strategies to ensure that all
students’ needs are met. All these pieces fit together to ensure appropriate education for students with disabilities .
Analyze the curriculum
Designing effective instruction for a student with an IEP begins with reflecting on the content and skills being taught to all students.
The teacher needs to:
 Identify critical and enduring knowledge of the curriculum. Which parts of the unit or course are the most essential for all
students to know? What pieces serve as the foundation for future learning? What are the assessment limits? What can be
considered “nice to know” but not critical for all to learn?
 Identify tasks that are necessary to reveal the critical knowledge of the curriculum. What must the student do to
demonstrate mastery of the key concepts? What associated tasks are involved but not essential (e.g., if the objective is
organizing and writing a five-paragraph essay, is handwriting the document a key component of the core skill?)
Gather information on students’ strengths and needs
Understanding each student’s learning needs and how the disability impacts access to information, learning of skills and content,
and demonstration of learning. The teacher should:
Review the IEP (especially the “Present Levels of Academic and Functional Performance” section) and other records, such as
work samples, assessment reports, etc.
Consult with special educators, related service providers, the family, and the student him/herself to understand how the
student learns and what supports are effective
Identify all areas where a deficit/support need will impact participation and learning. Where will supports be needed?
Remember that difficulties with reading or written output don’t only impact English-Language Arts, but also affect the
student’s ability to access content and demonstrate learning in Science, Social Studies/History, and even math.
Determine how supports (accommodations and modifications) and services (specialized instruction) will be
used to provide access to the curriculum.
DO NOT change
the content or
level of difficulty
○1 Alternative Acquisition: tools that are intended to augment, bypass, or compensate for motor, sensory, or
information processions deficit (e.g., books on tape, sign language interpreter, Braille, etc.)
○2 Content Enhancement: tools to help students recognize, organize, interpret, and remember information
(e.g., graphic organizer, concept diagram, study guides, mnemonic memory devices, and etc.)
○3 Alternative Response Modes: Multiple ways for students to express what they know or can do (e.g.,
assessment done via skits, role play, simulations, etc.)
Reduce the amount or complexity of material that the student is required to master.
 All possible and appropriate accommodations should have been exhausted before designing
modifications to curriculum. Assessments can be modified only if specified in the IEP.
Teaching designed to remediate the student’s deficits and promote mastery of individual goals and gradelevel content. May include specific interventions (e.g., reading programs), pre- and re-teaching, alternative
strategies (e.g., visuals, manipulatives), and other supplementary aids and services.
 Specialized instruction can be provided by the general educator, special educator, or related service
provider (e.g., SLP, OT).
Inclusive Practices and Co-Teaching
Access to Curriculum for Students with IEPs
Collaborate to put the pieces together
To ensure students’ success, all professionals involved must work closely together. General educators possess
knowledge of the general curriculum and its alignment with state and district wide standards. Special educators and
related service personnel possess knowledge of the implications of disability and the elements of adaptive instruction.
Together they can create the supports that allow all students to make progress and achieve desired outcomes.
Student’s Current Skill Level
Age Appropriate General Education
Consider all sources of data
Curriculum Analysis:
• IEP goals and Objectives
Critical Knowledge and skills
• Current Progress towards standards
• Documented data for success with
High quality, engaging general education
Individualized Supplementary Adis and Services
(Determined by collective input and planning by the General and Special Education teachers, and other related
No Changes to:
• Content
Changes some or all of:
• Content Areas
• Performance Expectations
Changes to:
• Sequence and timelines
• Products/assessments
• Instruction
• Performance expectations
• Sequence and timelines
• Instruction
Specialized Instruction
• Visual, auditory, material
• Scaffolding/chunking
• Alternative methods of
Student Achievement of Rigorous Standards
References: National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials at CAST (2010), Curriculum Access for Students with
Low-Incidence Disabilities: The Promise of UDL, retrieved from;
Nolet, V. & McLaughlin, M. J. (2000) Accessing the General Curriculum, Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press;
Wehmeyer, M., Lattin, D. & Agran, M. (2001). Achieving access to the general curriculum for students with mental
retardation: A curriculum decision-making model. Education and Training in Mental Retardation and Developmental
Disabilities, 36(4), 327-342.
Inclusive Practices and Co-Teaching