The IEP Is In Effect- Now What?
You have worked so hard to prepare for your child’s IEP Meeting, it came and went, and now there’s a comprehensive plan in effect that you are hopeful will make a difference. I know that you left the meeting feeling a sense of relief, but for many parents that sense of relief is short lived and is followed by the critical questions of…
- How will I know that everything in the IEP is being implemented as it states?
- How will I know if the plan we put together is working or not? Do I have to wait another year to find out?
- Is there any other way, other than relying on what my child tells me or doesn’t tell me, to know what impact the IEP we wrote has on his/her academic performance and school life?
Some of these questions are of particular concern to parents of students with communication deficits. It’s a helpless feeling. Parents have seen time and time again report cards that don’t reflect the true academic performance of their child, either inflated grades or F’s that are due to behaviors versus knowledge. The good news is that there are better ways to evaluate if the plan in place is working or if it needs to be revised.
Although you won’t be able to know one hundred percent of what your child’s school day entails, there are ways to monitor your son’s or daughter’s progress once the IEP is in place and to set up a system with the school of ongoing data sharing. There are also ways to get a good idea if the services are happening with the frequency, setting and time allotment that the IEP team agreed to at the meeting.
We must begin with some foundational understandings about the ways in which your child’s progress will be assessed…
Schools use three primary means to evaluate a student’s rate of progress
- School wide measures, class wide and state-wide measures which are assessments that every student in the school takes unless excused AND
- individual ongoing progress monitoring, which is data collected through differentiated instruction, interventions and to monitor IEP goals
- Formal psychological evaluations which are typically done every three years and administered by a school psychologist and potentially other members of the team such as a school social worker, counselor/teacher collecting data that is used in the report
Collective measures and components of a formal evaluation such as intelligence and academic norm referenced testing will allow you to compare your child’s performance with that of his or her peers. You will have an idea of where your child falls as compared with the norm for the class, school and state. Even if your child is scoring very low in collective measures, it doesn’t mean that he or she is not progressing and that the IEP is inappropriate. You have to analyze where your child started off and how he or she has progressed since the interventions/IEP was put into place. That is why in the case of most students with disabilities, looking at the individual progress monitoring is a more significant indicator of whether or not the IEP is making a difference.
Now that you are clear on the variety of ways progress is measured, here are some tips to stay informed along the way…
- Set up a system where the school shares individualized progress data with you on a monthly basis. Define what will be shared. You want to make sure that the information being sent to you is comparative month to month so that you are looking at apples to apples. A good example of this is analyzing the progress towards measurable goals looking at occurrences of success on five assignments over the course of a four week period. In this case you are tracking a specific skill (i.e. adding fractions) over time and the percent that is being calculated is only valid if the student was given the same number of opportunities each time assessed (ie. 8/10 correct answers, keeping the /10 consistent). In South Florida (Broward, Dade and Palm Beach County) a program called IREADY is utilized to track individual student progress in both reading and math. Counties throughout the country use different skill-based programs, both on and off the computer. You want to request that the school pull a monthly report that shows how your child is progressing in each skill area identified. In addition to the data being collected through interventions, request a monthly update on progress towards measurable goals. Keeping on top of these two sources of information will help you to avoid letting too much time go by and risking long periods of stagnant progress or worse regression. This will help you to be more involved along the way versus reactive.
- Get a handle on how your child is doing in school by asking questions and taking a “knowledge inventory” at home through homework checks and learning based activities. You might not have an educator’s degree, but you know your child best. If the school is saying that your son is able to represent equivalent fractions, informally assess if this is the case through a fun baking project together. I’m certainly not asking you to sit down and give your child a test on top of all of the testing that’s already being done at school. There are ways to assess naturally, such as the baking example, that avoid formalities.
- Another way to get a better idea of what is going on at the school level is to become a parent volunteer. Obviously, not all working parents are able to break away to do so and I realize that! This suggestion is a luxury for most families. But I would be remise to not include it. Being a parent volunteer will give you special insight into the schools inner workings, scheduling, the most experienced teachers and other resources. It’s kinda like an in road. On the other side, don’t set your expectations so high. You’ll set yourself up for disappointment if you believe volunteering will automatically lead to a “YES” to all you ask the school to provide. I say this because I have advocated many times for parents that are employed by the school district. It didn’t seem to work in their advantage anymore than any other parent
- Talk regularly with your child’s teachers and not only the main teacher, but all the professionals that you come in contact with that spend time with your child. You’ll find out a lot just by asking questions and listening. For example, one of my clients had a “check in” conversation with the general education teacher who told Mom that the speech language pathologist (SLP) only pulls her daughter out for sessions “once in a blue moon”. The IEP mandates three sessions per week. When services are rendered they are supposed to be documented in a log, in fact some districts throughout the nation are now using online systems where the service provider virtually checks in and out at the start and finish of each session. If you believe that services in the IEP are not being implemented correctly, ask the school directly how often sessions are taking place. If your child is communicative, ask him each day if he was pulled for services. Ask the teacher daily. Start to keep record in a log. Definitely do not hesitate to reach out to the school ESE Coordinator for guidance. Consider filing a district complaint if the school is unresponsive. I really recommend consulting with an advocate or educational consultant in the early stages of the school’s noncompliance. Based on individual circumstances, an expert can advise you each step of the way and help you determine which conflict resolution option is the best route of action.
We hope this article has helped.
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Krista Barth, Special Needs Advocate