Educational Alphabet Soup

As a school psychologist I have learned that while I am fluent in educational acronyms, it often comes across as alphabet soup to parents.  I often times give the same spiels regarding multidisciplinary evaluation team (MET) meetings, Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings, and 504 meetings.  So I decided to say what I normally would to parents in this post below. Special Education Processes (e.g., METs & IEPs) A multidisciplinary evaluation team (MET) is the commonly used terminology in Arizona when referring to the special education evaluation process.  Alternatively, it may be called a psychoeducational evaluation or just simply a special education evaluation.  But I honestly cannot think of a district in Arizona that I have come across that does not refer to a special education as a MET. And the name is quite accurate and descriptive of the process.  That is because a special education evaluation must be comprised of a general education teacher, special education teacher, parent, district representative, and an individual to interpret the results.  Sometimes the district rep. and the individual to interpret the results will be the same person (i.e., school psychologist).  And for a MET where specific learning disability (SLD) is the only eligibility being suspected, the MET may only be comprised of the school psych, parent, general ed., and special ed. teachers; so there is typically a minimum of 4 people present.  Moreover, METs must ALWAYS be a team decision.  That said, there are certainly times where the team does not agree and, in those cases, various appeals can be made (for further information regarding appeals see my post here – specifically the paragraph, “So school-based METs are always conducted by a team for further information).  In the end, the beauty of METs is in that they are always a team of various (multidisciplinary) professionals.  And the policies/procedures/regulations of METs always fall under IDEA and state regulations. Following a MET, if a student qualifies for special education services, they are provided with an Individualized Education Program (IEP).  An IEP is a lengthy document (typically ~15+ pages) that contains the following:
  • The child’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance
  • Annual goals
  • Child’s progress towards the annual goals
  • Statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services
  • Statement of program modifications or supports for school personnel
  • An explanation of the extent, if any, to which the child will not participate with nondisabled children
  • Statement of individual accommodations
  • The projected date, frequency, location, and duration of those services and modifications
In contrast, a 504 does not fall under special education (IDEA).  A 504 contains the following:
  • Specific accommodations, the names of who will provide the accommodations, and name of the person responsible for ensuring the plan is implemented
Obviously, there is much more in an IEP than a 504.  However, that does not mean an IEP is better.  The best thing for all students is to provide them with Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE).  There are multiple unintended consequences that can arise when providing a child with an IEP that truly does not need it.  It would be akin to teaching your child something they already know.  That 1) does not promote new learning 2) may make them feel “stupid” since they may feel “you” need to be instructed on something they already know 3) may make them over rely on additional assistance 4) keeps them away from their general education peers which may manifest in social-emotional problems or 5) could make them feel bad they have a “disability” when in fact they may not or not to the degree that requires specialized instruction.  As a reminder those are unintended consequences of providing a child with special education services (an IEP) that truly does not need one.  Otherwise, there are many benefits of an IEP for children that do require one.