An IEP Meeting--What Parents Should Know

It is important that parents become informed and involved in their child’s education. There are many sources of information and support in your state. However, the more skills you have and the more information you learn, the better you can advocate for your child. Over the past few years we have found that parents tend to make some common mistakes during the Individual Education Program (IEP) meeting. The following is a list of the common mistakes and some suggestions for avoiding them:

1.  Believing the professionals are the only experts.
It can be very intimidating to sit at a table with several educators and professionals. Professionals and Educators do bring a great deal of knowledge and experience to the table. Although most parents do not have a background or degree in education, they have a great deal of knowledge and experience regarding their child. Parents are experts in their own right; they also provide historical information and the big picture from year to year. They know what works and does not work with their child and can be a great asset to the IEP team.

Parents have an intuitive sense as to what is appropriate for their child. After working with parents for eleven years, I'm still amazed at how parents are usually intuitively correct about what will work for their child. I encourage parents to follow their hunches. If something does not sound right, check it out.

2.  Not making requests in writing.
Any request a parent makes needs to be in writing. This includes requests for assessments, IEP meetings, correspondence, related services, etc. Written requests are important because they initiate timelines that the school district must follow in response to your request. This will also create a paper trail. When you write a letter be sure to send it certified mail. When you have a discussion by phone with a school official, write a letter that briefly outlines what you talked about. Documenting your conversations helps prevent miscommunication.

3.  Not being familiar with Prior Notice of the Procedural Safeguards (34 CFR 300.503)
All sections of the Procedural Safeguards are important to parents. This particular section gives parents some leverage during the IEP meetings. Whenever parents make a request for their child in the IEP meeting, the IEP committee is required under Prior Notice to provide the parents with written notice with a reasonable period of time. The notice must include the following:
A description of the action proposed or refused.
An explanation of why the agency proposes or refuses to take the action;
A description of any other options that the agency considered and the reasons why those options were rejected;
A description of each evaluation procedure, test, record, or report the agency used as a basis for the proposed or refused action;
A description of any other factor that is relevant to the agency’s proposal or refusal.

Prior Written Notice is sent home every time the Service Page is changed. This page holds all the information that changes a child’s time in and out of the class, as well as the types of services. This also includes any changes to a child’s Least Restrictive Environment (LRE).

4.  Allowing the assessment information to be presented for the first time at the IEP meeting.
Parents are entitled to have the assessment information explained to them before the IEP meeting. I encourage parents to have the person who administered the assessment give them a copy of the report and meet with them to explain the report several days before the IEP meeting. I go so far as send the reports home three days before the meeting. This enables the parents to think through the information before making decisions for their child. If all IEP decisions are based on the information from the assessment, it only makes sense for the parents to be knowledgeable and informed about the assessment results in a way they can understand.

5.   Accepting goals and objectives that are not measurable.
Measurable goals and objectives are paramount for your child’s IEP. Without measurable goals and objectives, it is difficult to determine if your child has had a successful school year. In working with parents, we have encountered many IEP goals and objectives that are not measurable.

All goals and objectives should come from assessment data. Assessment has four different components: 1) Formal assessment (i.e., WIAT, Woodcock-Johnson, Brigance), 2) Informal assessment (i.e., classroom work), 3) Teacher/parent observation, and 4) Interviews. After the information has been collected about the student it is compiled into an assessment report. Recommendations on how to work with the student are listed toward the end of the report.

After the assessment has been completed, the IEP committee determines the student’s present level of performance (PLOP) and states what the student is currently able to do. The committee then develops the IEP goals and objectives. The goals state what the student is expected to accomplish by the end of the year. Objectives break the goals down into increments. For example:

Based on the Brigance and classroom work, Johnny is currently able to read on a fourth grade level with 90% mastery.

By the end of the school year Johnny will be able to read on a fifth grade level as measured by the Brigance and classroom work with 80% mastery.

By October 1, Johnny will be able to read-on fourth grade, second month level with teacher assistance as measured by the Brigance and classroom work with 80% mastery.

By January 1, without teacher assistance, Johnny will be able to read on a fourth grade, sixth month level as measured by the Brigance and classroom work with 80% mastery.

A method of determining if your goals and objectives are measurable is to ask someone who is not on your IEP team to read them (i.e., a teacher, another parent, advocate, etc.). Then ask “Hypothetically, if you were to go into the classroom, would you be able to see my child working on these goals and objectives?” If someone outside of your IEP team cannot answer “yes”, then the goals and objectives are not measurable.

6. Allowing placement decisions to be made before IEP goals and objectives are written. Many times after assessment is discussed, the IEP committee will determine the child’s placement. Goals and objectives are always written before placement is discussed. To ensure that the child is placed in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE), the IEP committee must determine: Which of these goals and objectives can best be met in the general classroom?

With any remaining goals and objectives that cannot be met in the general class-room, the committee determines: Which of these goals and objectives can be best met in the general classroom with modifications and support?

This line of inquiry continues until all placement options have been decided upon for all the goals and objectives. The committee must always start with the LRE and then work toward a more restrictive environment only as necessary. IDEA is very clear that the IEP committee must always consider the general education classroom as the first option for students with disabilities.

7. Allowing your child’s IEP meeting to be rushed so that the school staff can begin the next child’s IEP meeting.

This practice is particularly common at the end of the school year when we are frantically trying to have IEP meetings for all the students who receive special education services. IEP meetings may be held one right after another. There is no problem with this practice as long as the members of the IEP team feel that all issues have been adequately discussed. Many times, however, parents feel rushed. It is important that all issues are adequately addressed before ending the IEP meeting. When the teachers have not planned adequate time to address all relevant issues, request that the IEP team meet again at a more convenient time to further discuss your child’s education.

8. Not asking a lot of questions.
It is very important to ask questions and lots of them. Educators use many terms and acronyms specific to special education. Parents may become confused when these terms are used during the IEP meeting. This can add to the frustration that a parent may already be feeling when they do not under-stand what is being said. It is important to ask what the terms or acronyms mean. Unless a parent has a background in special education, they are not expected to know the terms and acronyms.  Informed decisions cannot be made when parents do not understand what is being discussed.

At some point in time everyone has made all the mistakes listed above. I have developed the habit of debriefing after every IEP meeting to discuss the team performance during the meeting. As a team, we have gradually accumulated information and developed skills and we continue to trust our intuition. This has helped our team at all our IEP meetings. It’s well worth the extra time. If you have questions talk with your IEP team.

Supporting Parents with IEP process

As a parent, you have the right to participate in all of your child’s IEP meetings. In fact, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the federal law governing special education, lists parents first on the list of required members of a student’s IEP team.

They play an important role in decisions about where and how their child will be taught. This is referred to as “placement.” This term covers not only which classroom or school your child is placed in, but also which services will be included in their IEP. Services can include things like one-on-one sessions with a speech therapist or the use of assistive technology.

“You may not be an expert about special education, but you are an expert about your child.” IDEA says that the IEP team cannot change a child’s placement without giving a parent a chance to challenge that change. During the process (which is called dispute resolution), the student has the right to remain in their current placement.

Parents participate throughout the IEP process. A parent’s input is important throughout the IEP process. This starts with their child’s first evaluation and continues right through to the transition plan in his high school IEP. The school knows your child as a student. Some members of the team may only know him “on paper"—through test results, for instance. But a parent represents their child in a very personal way.

Helping the team assess your child’s skills: The IEP is based on something called “the present level of academic achievement and functional performance” (known as PLAAFP, PLP or PLOP). In short, this means they need to how your child is doing now so they can measure his future progress. A parent’s input about how your child functions at home is valuable to PLOP. Parents might share that their child has meltdowns while doing algebra homework but has no problems with other kinds of math. These observations help the IEP team figure out weaknesses, strengths and level of academic skills.

Coming up with educational goals: Once PLOP is established, parents with the rest of the IEP team are required to write measurable annual goals for your child. Your input can help define and refine goals so they’re realistic but still ambitious. Annual goals give students and teachers something concrete to work toward. They also help hold the school accountable for addressing student’s needs.
Parents--Keeping an eye on services and supports: Your child is supposed to receive supports and services that are tailored to his needs. But it’s easy for a busy special education department to apply a “standard” set of supports and services to all students with a certain disability. As a parent, you can make sure the IEP is designed with your child in mind.

What if you’re concerned that the promised services and supports aren’t being provided? Follow up with someone on the team your child’s teachers, special education director or anyone else you feel comfortable talking to. Approaching the school in a collaborative spirit is usually the best way to start. But you can take more formal steps (such as writing a letter of complaint) if you don’t get the answers and action you believe are necessary.

Parents create continuity.

Parent’s role as a member of the IEP team is valuable from start to finish. Your child’s teachers, special education providers and schools may change. But as a parent you remain a constant in your child’s life. You’ll watch him learn, stumble, adapt and succeed.

When your child reaches high school, he’ll be expected to participate as a member of his IEP team and help develop a transition plan. He’ll take the lead as you shift from being his primary advocate being his “coach.”
Through it all, you can support your child and help him develop the self-awareness and self-advocacy skills he’ll need in the future.

August Pinterest Pick 3 Linky (freebies)

I have new home for the coming year. No more looking. I'll post pictures of my room later this week. The Pinterest links that I have are things that I plan on using with my kidoos.

Somethings I kee going back and forth on like with student data-should it be binders or folders. These are the things that I keep thinking about while pinning.

This is the data folder set-up that I used last year. It worked great-student were able to keep their data and track their progress with it. I could take the folders to meetings, show to parents. rock a principle's world. The pain/difficult part with adding pages, so that new pages were in the same place. But students loved having their RTI or personalized materials in the front. I never once found those materials anywhere but where I out them. I also color coded them--making each group have their own color. FYI: cutting duct tape with kill a pair of scissors.

 The point of data folders is having student friendly graphs. Last year, I used both my own and found something that would work. One thing I want to do this school year, is do a better job of tracking which ones work. Depending on what data you need to keep track of-these ladies may have it. Plus, they have Common Core grade level tracking sheets that are a plus to have.

My new position is K-3. I have not ID about needs and hours but I don know from working the kinder and first is finding good assessments that can be used all year is hard. This set is free. Amber Monroe explains in her post how she creates data folders in her first grade classroom.

The Pinterest Picks for this month have freebie items attached to them-make sure to grab them. Be sure to stop by Teachers pay Teachers for a great sale. My store will you any extra 20% off anything in my store.

Have a great week!

About Me

Welcome to my all thing special education blog. I empower busy elementary special education teachers to use best practice strategies to achieve a data and evidence driven classroom community by sharing easy to use, engaging, unique approaches to small group reading and math. Thanks for Hopping By.

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