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Special Education/Grading Students with IEPs in the General Education Curriculum


QUESTION: I have a couple of questions regarding accurate and fair grading for students with IEPs. I understand the following legal considerations when it comes to grading students with IEPs:
•   All students with an IEP must receive report cards regardless of eligibility category or placement.
•   District grading policy applies to all students with IEPs unless otherwise documented on the IEP.
•   Grades are based on mastery of state standards at grade level unless otherwise documented on the IEP. An IEP team may adopt a different grading system and/or modified curriculum for a student with an IEP who participates in the general education curriculum so long as this is a decision made by the IEP team and this decision is documented on the IEP. It is recommended that this be limited to students with severe disabilities as most students with IEPs benefit from equal access to the general education curriculum.  
•   Teachers cannot unilaterally decide to use an individualized grading system for a student with an IEP; this must be a decision made by the IEP team.
•   Teachers must consistently provide students accommodations identified on the IEP.
•   The student must not be penalized with a lower grade for using accommodations.
•   The student must not be penalized for absences that are directly related to the disability.

While IDEA does not have specific provisions on grading students with disabilities, the Office of Civil Rights enforces nondiscriminatory practice under Section 504 and Title II of ADA. Please let me know if I am wrong, but this is what I understand from my research.
My questions are in regard to discrimination and best practice for grading students with IEPs in the general education curriculum. I’d like to present a scenario and two grading options.
A student with an IEP in the 5th grade classroom has math skills that are below grade level. He does not use a modified curriculum or modified grading scale. He is to be graded on grade level standards just like his peers.
The general education teacher has the responsibility of teaching the grade level standard of multiplying two-digit by two-digit numbers. Through informal assessments the teacher realizes that the student requires instruction and practice in sub-skills necessary to reach the grade level objective. The teacher plans instruction for a small group of students who are having significant problems with the grade level objective and she instructs them at their instructional level in order to address those necessary sub-skills. (In my opinion, this is just common sense teaching since you can’t expect a student to master two-digit by two-digit multiplication if he can’t do two-digit by one-digit multiplication.)
Although the student has made significant progress towards the grade level standard, he is still not proficient and is unable to master a mandatory grade level test on this objective.
Which of these two grading options would provide parents with the most informative and accurate report card while still ensuring that discrimination is not taking place? Which option is best practice?
Number grades:  3 = meets the standard, 1 = falls far below the standard
Grading Option A:  The student receives a score of 3 because he has made great progress towards the grade level objective and is scoring 3s on the sub-skills assessments. The teacher also provides a narrative in the report card explaining that even thought he has not mastered this objective, he has made great progress and is scoring 3s on the necessary sub-skills.

Grading Option B: The student receives a score of 1 because that is his average based on grade level assignments and assessments. The teacher also provides a narrative in the report card explaining that although the grade is a 1, the student has made great progress towards the grade level objective and is scoring 3s on the necessary sub-skills.

I feel that both options provide parents with an accurate report but option A takes the student’s self-esteem and hard work into consideration. On the other hand, option B is providing a more accurate grade based on grade level standards.

Would both of these options be permissible or does one violate the law under discrimination?
If both of these options are permissible, which one is best practice?

Thank you,


ANSWER: Marisol,

Everything you stated is correct down to where you offer two scenarios for grading. In my opinion, neither of these is correct. You don't say anything about giving a "2" which usually says "making progress toward standards." This seems to me to be the correct grade based on what you state because:

(1) The student has not met the standards;
(2) The student has made progress toward meeting the standards;
(3) The student has no accomodations in his IEP that state he should be graded on a different scale.

In my opinion, neither a Grade of "1" or "3" is correct. The gade "2" tells what is happening. The teacher should give an explanation in the report card notes of student progress and current level.

I wish you the best,
Tim Runner, Advocate
Advocates for Kids
Phone: (949) 582-3601
You can learn more at my web site:

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Thank you for your response.

The reason I asked the question is because I was having this discussion with a few other people and some of us feel that if a student is working hard and making progress then he should be able to get a 3 as long as we explain to parents that the student is working towards the grade level standard but he is not yet meeting the standard. Some of us feel that the student should receive a grade that truly represents what the student scored on grade level assignments and assessments and that the progress towards the grade level objective should be included in the narrative. It seems logical to give the student the lower grade if that is what he truly earned. However, some of us feel that this will significantly affect a student's motivation and have a negative impact on effort and participation. In the scenario that I explained to you, it would make sense to give the student a 2. I guess my questions is whether a teacher could give a student a 3 as long as the teacher explains this grade to parents?  

Thank you,



I think you are in the realm of District policy rather than the law. Each school district establishes grading policies and standards that it requires its teachers to follow.

I believe a grade of "2" best fits the circumstances described in your question. If I had to choose a different grade, I would say a "3" is more appropriate than a "1". But the "3" requires an explanation.

Tim Runner

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Tim Runner


Questions concerning special education: IEP, assessments, Due Process, mediation, resolution conference, federal law, state law, qualifying for services, residential treatment, special day classes, resource specialists, procedures, having your child assessed, adaptive PE, speech & language, non-public school, FAPE, and tuition reimbursement.


I have been an education advocate representing students and parents for six years. My experience includes: representing my clients in IEPs, SSTs, Due Process, review assessment results for my clients, and mediations. I have represented clients with learning disabilities, autism, Downs Syndrome, cognitively challenged, emotional problems, learning disabilities, ADD/ADHD, and physical disabilities. I have also represented clients to County Mental Health Departments and Regional Centers. My clients range from pre-school to college students in many states.

I have a degree in Mathematics from the University of California with minors in Psychology and Physics. I also studied applied statistics in psychology at the graduate level. I have taught college classes, conducted seminars, written articles for various publications, and testified as an expert witness.

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