Back to School and IEP’s: The Downfalls and How Schools Can Foster Great IEP Meetings Anyway
Back to School and IEP’s: The Downfalls and How Schools Can Foster Great IEP Meetings Anyway.
Unfortunately, back-to-school and IEP’s do not play well together. Why? Well, even though the Individualized Education Program can be considered the first personalized learning tool ever created, it has not been optimized in that way- and has actually created more problems than anticipated. Especially at back-to-school time.
The beginning of the year brings the same old challenges as last year:
- Every parent dreads it because they have to go back to a new set of teachers and re-explain what works for their child and what doesn’t.
- Every teacher dreads it because they have to read IEP’s that contain little practical, applicable information and re-invent the work of last year’s teacher.
- Administrators dread it because IEP meetings create the antithesis of what they aim for– transparency, collaboration and growth.
The ways IEP’s are managed today, whether digital or paper (ugh), have fatal flaws that have not been addressed, and undermine the purpose of any documentation at all.
Here are two negative results of this outdated process:
- The “Clone Effect”: The risk that professionals, no matter how well-intentioned and trained, will copy and paste information to save time. The process is so time-consuming and arduous that it almost doesn’t makes sense to not try and be more efficient. As professionals who have a lot of priorities, teachers must naturally look for ways to be more productive. It happens all the time in healthcare as well- http://library.ahima.org/doc?oid=81008#.V-K885MrKu5
- Tension and Conflict: Research has shown that IEP’s, and the meetings that revolve around them, actually create tension between parents and schools. The documents decrease transparency and cause parents to be MORE confused, less informed and feel less involved. On top of that- the big winner- research has surfaced that compliance does NOT equate to improved learning outcomes. A district could be the most compliant district on the planet, but their students with special needs do not perform any better. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09687599.2013.776493?needAccess=true&
These things need to be considered. And considered heavily. Results- driven accountability is coming down the pipeline, and will aim to tackle these issues. However, we don’t know exactly when that will be, or in what way, shape or form it will appear. But teachers and families have IEP meetings now.
So, what can we do? Use the IEP and the meeting in the most practical way possible-for now.
How to make the best of the IEP and the meetings:
- Clarify -up front and out loud- the purpose of the meeting, to both children and parents. Every, single, time. A child thinking they are in trouble and a parent feeling nervous and defensive is a bad recipe for collaboration and growth.
- Explain your goal for the meeting, and then ask parents and students to share what they would like to get out of the meeting as well. (Give examples as necessary for thoughtful encouragement: “Many parents at the end of this meeting would like to identify one academic goal and one functional goal and understand one thing they can do at home.” or, “Some parents who have a child the age of Johnny would like to focus this meeting on transition goals for after high school.”)
- During the IEP meeting, focus on sections that are most practical for teachers and parents alike: Functional and Academic Present Performance, Classroom Management, Academic Goals, Testing Accommodations, and Transition Goals.
- Highlight strengths first, and then focus on weaknesses second.
- Identify, but do not waste time highlighting, compliance-related sections.
- Provide parents with a resource to increase transparency– check out www.educationmodified.com for more details.
These are just beginner steps, but leaps in the right direction.
FREE DOWNLOAD: Here is a very popular, comprehensive resource to support and help teachers and leaders facilitate productive, collaborative IEP meetings.
Enjoy and Good Luck,
CEO, Education Modified