Summer is just around the corner! Before heading to the beach, here are a few tips to help close out the end of the school year IEP and plan ahead for September’s IEP.
Tip 1: Collect Your Child’s Work Samples
Your child’s teacher is probably busy cleaning out the classroom. This is a perfect time to collect work samples, such as writing journals; completed consumable workbooks (Language Arts, Math); artwork; and work samples that the teacher may have saved in a personal or portfolio file. This information will come in handy to measure progress (or regression) over the summer and the next school year.
Tip 2: Ask for the Raw Data for the Report Card and IEP Goal Progress Report
Your child’s Report Card and IEP Goal Progress Report contain general statements about achievement (e.g., “Partially Proficient – Sometimes Meets Standards” or “Progress has been met towards the goal”). It is important to ask for the actual raw data that the staff relied on to reach conclusions about your child’s progress.
Tip 3: Request a Complete Copy of Your Child’s School Records
Summer is a perfect time to organize your child’s file. This is especially true if you plan on consulting with professionals over the summer. In California, a school district must provide a parent with a copy of their child’s school records within five business days of a parent’s request. Since a child’s school may be closed during the summer, a parent should contact the District Office to request a copy of records.
Tip 4: Consult with Professionals to Discuss IEP Concerns
If you have concerns about your child’s IEP and are thinking about consulting with a private assessor, an advocate or an attorney, it is a good idea to schedule appointments during the early summer plan instead of waiting until late summer or early Fall. It takes time to search for professionals, schedule appointments, gather records, analyze files, conduct assessments, prepare reports, discuss recommendations, and implement strategies.
Tip 5: Submit Request for IEP Meeting
If you need to meet with the IEP Team in early September, then it is a good idea to submit your written request before the end of the school year. In California, an IEP Meeting must be scheduled within 30 calendar days from the school’s receipt of a parent’s written request. However, there is an exception to the 30-day timeline: a district does not need to count the days between regular school sessions (e.g., the summer break). If you submit your written request at the beginning of June, then the countdown will start in June, stop during the summer break, and start again when school is back in session. The early bird catches the worm!
Tip 6: Measure Your Child’s Levels of Performance Before and After Summer
A child with an IEP may be eligible for special education services during the summer, commonly referred to as “Extended School Year” (ESY) services. Decisions about the intensity and duration of ESY services should be based on reliable data. Parents are in an excellent position to observe the extent to which their child’s levels of performance vary with instructional breaks over the summer (e.g., the end of June to the beginning of September). Parents can gather data or work with an educational consultant to measure progress or regression. A logical source for data is the child’s performance on his or her IEP goals and/or benchmarks.
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Caroline A. Zuk, Esq., is a former special education advocate and attorney for children. She has nearly 30 years of combined experienced as a special education teacher, diagnostician and attorney.
PREPARE FOR THE NEW SCHOOL YEAR
As you and your child await the beginning of a new school year, now is the time to review your child’s IEP and determine whether the IEP proposed at the IEP meeting held last school year is appropriate for the new school year. Children, especially younger children, can transform during the summer; physical development, new experiences and opportunities to engage with other children during the summer can significantly impact a child. Before your child begins school, carefully review his/her IEP and determine whether changes are in order.
If you believe revisions should be made, clearly identify concrete examples of how your child has changed. For example, stating, “My child is talking more” is not as helpful as, “This summer, my son starting using adjectives to describe things. I made a list of the ones I have heard him use and I will provide you a copy.” You should also identify what specific changes you are seeking.
Asking for “better goals” or “more services” will leave school staff confused, whereas, asking that a goal be developed in a certain area or that your child receive a particular service will allow your requests due consideration. A school district must provide a detailed response to parental requests to a change an IEP. If the changes are simple, you may be able to make those changes through an IEP Amendment without the necessity of a meeting. However, you are always better served to make a written request for an IEP meeting and cancel the meeting if it is not needed rather than request a meeting at the last minute. In California, a school district is required to convene an IEP meeting within 30 days of receiving a written parental request for an IEP meeting (prolonged periods where school is not in session generally do not count towards those 30 days). Ca. Ed. Code §56343.5.
EVALUATE AND PROVIDE INFORMATION
If parents find that changes in their child warrant changes to their child’s IEP, they should not hesitate to make their concerns and requests known to their school district. (One way to determine whether changes need to be made to the IEP is to mentally walk through the child’s school day to visualize how the child is doing across a wide array of settings, activities and events, and see whether the IEP provides the appropriate level of support for the child.) If you request an IEP meeting, prepare well for the meeting. Carefully review the IEP so you can specifically focus on your areas of concern. If you have documented information that your child has changed, provide it to the IEP team. Parents are also permitted to bring anyone they believe may have “knowledge or special expertise” regarding their child to the IEP meeting. Ca. Ed. Code §56341(b)(6).
THINGS TO LOOK FOR AS YOU REVIEW YOUR CHILD’S IEP
- How has my child’s performance across activities, settings and events changed?
- Are the components of the IEP prepared last school year appropriate for the new school year?
- Should I request an IEP meeting to make changes to the IEP?
- What documentation can I provide that will demonstrate the changes in my child and/or how the IEP should be changed?
- Are there professionals or other individuals with specialized knowledge regarding my child that I should invite to the IEP meeting?
Michael E. Jewell graduated from Brigham Young University Law School and has been a practicing attorney for more than twenty years. He may be contacted by calling (714)-978-0110, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or on the web at www.jewellawoffice.com.
He has represented parents of children with all types of disabilities from autism through specific learning disability and traumatic brain injury and has represented parents in IEP meetings throughout the State of California. He has presented to both parent groups and professional groups. He has represented families at mediation, in due process hearings and in the United States District Court. Mr. Jewell has argued before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Mr. Jewell is married and the father of three children. He lived in Argentina for two years and is fluent in Spanish.