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Written by:  Michael. R. Marcela, Ed.D.
Date: March 1, 2011

June is just three months away, and you want to ensure your child with special needs is being productive and successful in the classroom, ... and on track to be promoted to the next grade. Although you may have had a meeting about your child's IEP (Individualized Education Program) at the beginning of the school year, it is a good idea to check in with your child's teacher(s) and perhaps other school staff throughout the year.

 

What to Ask

While an IEP generally is updated annually and can be changed only by the team or through a written agreement with the student's parent, it is a fluid document that can be changed whenever necessary. You, the parent, can request an IEP meeting at any time and bring anyone you want to the meeting, including private occupational or physical therapists.

 

A mid-year meeting is important, especially if you have new information to present to the IEP team, or you have a specific concern that should be addressed. Here are some questions/topics you might want to consider bringing to the table:

 

• How are accommodations in the regular classroom being implemented?

 

• Are any changes or additional accommodations needed?

 

• If your child is struggling (with grades or attention issues, etc.), is there any data that suggests why?

 

• What options are available at the school, such as after-school tutoring, that may be helpful?

 

• Is there any data regarding your child's progress toward meeting the annual goals of the IEP?

 

• Is it necessary to change the amount of direct service from an EC Program teacher to help your child make progress?

 

• If your child tends to avoid tasks or work, is a behavior plan or behavior contract necessary?

 

• Are there options for your child to do extra credit assignments?

 

• Are there opportunities for your child to make up any assignments?

 

• Are there opportunities for your child to complete test corrections, retake tests or quizzes or take additional assessments?

 

• Are there other ways your child can practice and/or demonstrate mastery of skills, such as computer programs or projects?

 

• Does the school need to ask for assistance from the EC Department with regard to strategies or resources for learning?

 

Why Communication is Essential

 

Federal or state law and district policies may impact whether an IEP team or an individual teacher can agree to, or implement, certain requests. For example, No Child Left Behind may limit which teacher(s) can directly teach core subjects to students at the secondary level. Also, North Carolina has strict guidelines on accommodations used during standardized testing, and school or district policies may set guidelines on acceptable grading, classwork or homework assignments.

 

However, there still should be many options available to help students maintain or improve their progress within the parameters of regulations and policy. Regular communication with your child's teacher is important.

 

The key to ensuring your child's progress in school and on his or her IEP goals is a cooperative relationship between you and your child's teacher(s) and the school. E-mail or call on a regular basis as an advocate for your child, and be a helpful member of the school community.

 

Be sure to work directly with your child on homework and help teach him or her to self-monitor classroom progress and become responsible for his or her own learning. You may want to ask the teacher for strategies and tips on how to work with your child on specific tasks or activities that support what's being taught in the classroom.

 

It may be unrealistic to expect that one IEP meeting or one parent-teacher conference will resolve all the concerns at once, so consider checking in again before Spring Break. Developing a positive working partnership with your child's teacher and school will help improve his or her performance and ensure progress.

 

Mike Marcela is the accountability specialist with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools' Programs for Exceptional Children. Contact him at michael.marcela@cms.k12.nc.us or call the CMS Exceptional Children Department at 980-343-6960.



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