The IEP Project – Digital Promise

The IEP Project

Whole Child Strength Based Approach - IEP Project

“Inclusive education is not a privilege. It is a fundamental human right.” —
Ban Ki-moon, former Secretary General of the United Nations

The IEP Project began with focused, collaborative design work with Eric Tucker, President of Equity by Design, that underscored the potential of using learning science research and whole child concepts to redesign the IEP process. A group of educators and designers developed a working prototype of IEP processes grounded in whole-child, strength-based approaches. LVN identified the importance of putting the learner at the center and moving from a deficit-based model to one that elevated a student’s strengths to mitigate challenges.

The IEP Project aims to address how too often, students with learning disabilities face stereotype threat, low self-esteem, and deficit thinking about their own potential. They also may face low expectations due to deficit labeling. For example, while the U.S.’s common core state standards are written to include students with learning disabilities, a culture of low expectations can inhibit these students from achieving high standards and bias their teachers from believing they can perform at higher levels (McNulty, et al, 2014).

From this conversation, the IEP Project emerged and its development was funded through the Educating All Learners Alliance (EALA) and Equity by Design with the goals to:

  • reduce deficit labeling
  • elevate student strengths across a whole learner framework while addressing challenges
  • provide teachers with a guidebook based on research and whole learner constructs
  • ensure student voice is recognized and addressed

The IEP process is a strong entry point to achieve these goals, as it is mandatory by federal law and includes a de minimis Supreme Court ruling in 2017. A group of teachers soon assembled to create the Strength-based Whole Learner Teacher Guide based on research found in our Learner Variability Navigator (LVN) and added new resources. Through the Guide, teachers have easy access to research that identifies factors that matter for learning and corresponding strategies to better understand and address the needs of students with specific learning disabilities and ADHD.

Phase 1: Co-designers
Funded by Equity by Design, Educate All Learners Alliance, the Oak Foundation

Project Leads
Kristen Lambertz-Berndt, Equity by Design
Barbara Pape, Digital Promise/LVP, IEP Project Lead

Brooklyn Lab
Lebryon Corbett
Kelly Diaz
Jared Friedland
Erica Pajerowski
Kelly Radigan
Mary Schlieder
Eric Tucker

Poway Unified School DIstrict, CA
Megan Gross, 2017 CA Teacher of the Year

Pell City School System, AL
Andrew Jackson, 2020 AL Teacher of the Year, i3 Academy

Equity by Design
Arthi Krishnaswami
Peter Cederberg

Klaus Bellon
Ashley Deal
Raelynn OLeary

Phase Two: Co-designers and Collaborators
Funded by the Oak Foundation

Stevie Mayes, Training Executive Director of Michigan’s Council for Exceptional Children
Student and Assistive Technology Professional at University of Pittsburgh

Amanda Morin, Neurodivergent Neurodiversity Consultant | Writer | Educator

Misha Nicolas, ABLE Public Affairs Specialist and Digital Political Strategist

Megan Gross, 2017 CA Teacher of the Year, Teacher on Special Assignment, Inclusive Practices Team, Poway Unified School District

Samantha Schmitt: Equity, Inclusion, & Justice Coordinator Fanny Edel Falk Laboratory School, University of Pittsburgh (PA)

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