Preparing for Your Child's IEP Meeting
In theory, everyone at an IEP meeting has the best interests of the student in mind. But what you, the parent, thinks best for the student may differ from what the district representative or your student’s teachers think. So going into an IEP meeting, you want to be prepared if there is a disagreement about what’s appropriate for your child. The best way to do this is to know your child’s records inside and out. So before your next IEP meeting, ensure you have all relevant documents and review them thoroughly. The following documents are critical:
Evaluations. Know your child’s evaluations. If you have obtained a private evaluation or evaluations, thoroughly review the recommendations section(s). The recommendations of professionals are among the best guidance and evidence you will have. Ask yourself whether the recommendations in each evaluation are consistent with recommendations and observations in other documents concerning your child. Further, look at the testing that was conducted on your child. You do not need to have details such as test scores committed to memory, but make an effort to know what each test is testing and, generally speaking, how your child performed on that test.
Prior IEPs. Analyze your child’s IEP from last year. Did he/she/they meet the goals set forth in the IEP. Was the class size appropriate? Are there additional supports the child might need to succeed? Is there anything that has surfaced in the past year that last year’s IEP did not address? The IEP currently in effect (if there is one) will undoubtedly serve as the baseline for the new IEP, so it is important that you examine the prior IEP critically prior to setting foot in the IEP meeting.
Progress Reports. Make sure you have all progress reports from the past year. Review them closely, particularly if they include any teacher/provider narratives, as narratives are often the best way to flesh out areas where your child is struggling. Compare the reports with your child’s IEP and evaluations. Are there areas where your child is struggling? What is the reason for this?
Teacher Communications. If you regularly communicate with your child’s teacher, or the teacher regularly posts updates on communication platforms like Classroom Dojo, Pupilpath, etc., review the communications from this year. What has your child struggled with? Any surprises in these communications? Anything that would require follow-up with the teacher before you attend the IEP meeting?
Your Child. If you haven’t done so recently, try to have a discussion with your child about how the school year is going. Ask specific questions. Review recent assignments or progress reports with them. Try to ascertain what the classroom environment is like and what type of supports might be necessary to help your child succeed.
Finally, if you don’t have all of your child’s educational records, you can request them. The IDEA gives parents the right to review records of their children. Records are to be provided upon request “without unnecessary delay and before any meeting regarding an IEP,” hearing, resolution session, and in no case no more than 45 days. Address the records request to your child’s principal (if in public school) or the CSE/CPSE. If you child does not have an IEP, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 entitles parents to review the educational records of their children upon request. This includes report cards, transcripts, disciplinary records, and class schedules. Schools must comply with a FERPA request within 45 days of receiving the request.
I personally find thorough preparation as an excellent way to reduce anxiety going into a big meeting. So get those records, read up, take a few deep breaths, and go advocate for your child at the next IEP meeting!