Access to General Education Curriculum

Under the law (IDEA), students with disabilities must (1) have access to the general curriculum; (2) be involved in the general curriculum; and (3) progress in the general curriculum.

The purpose of special education is to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a “free and appropriate public education” that emphasizes special education and related services “designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living”. Special education services are provided at no cost to the parents and must be provided in the “least restrictive environment”.

What is the general curriculum?

The regulations implementing IDEA ’97 describe the general curriculum as the same curriculum as that established for students without disabilities. The general curriculum can be thought of as the overall plan for instruction adopted by a school or school system. You can find more Michigan specific information on our Curriculum webpage.

What about a separate curriculum?

Special education law makes clear that there cannot be an alternative curriculum used for students with disabilities [34 CFR 300.320(a)(1)(i) and 300.320(a)(2)(i)(A)]. Decisions about personal curricula should never be categorical (i.e., based on a label of disability) but should—like any other IEP team decision—be decided based upon the individual strengths and needs of the student.

What about participation in extra-curricular activities?

Schools do more than teach students to read and do math. Students also eat lunch together, go on field trips, and join school sponsored clubs and sports teams. These are called “non-academic” or “extra-curricular” activities. Students with disabilities must have an equal chance to take part in these other school activities.

Where can I learn more and get support?

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