Are you a parent of a child with a learning disability? The deck is stacked against you for achieving a quality, special education IEP. Learn how to get the best possible program for your child.What is an IEP?The special education IEP (Individualized Education Program) process was created by the Federal law called IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) to ensure that students with learning disabilities would receive an appropriate education. The IEP process can be confusing, stressful, and sometimes terrifying to parents. The process comes to a head at the IEP meeting, so this is often the most stressful part of the IEP process.Why is this process so difficult for parents? Through a series of 3 articles, we’ll look at the IEP process, why the deck is stacked against parents, steps to take to even the odds, the IEP success method to follow for an effective IEP meeting, and how to prepare for IEP 911.What are the IEP Process Steps?Identify that a problem exists and it cannot be solvedEducate yourself about the IEP processAssess and test the studentAnalyze the test resultsPrepare for the meeting / get and give input in advanceMeet to review information and create (or deny) an IEPEvaluate the plan and alternativesExecute the plan or alternativeMonitor progressManage transitionsNegotiate changesRepeat the process, at least annuallyThe IEP – Why are Parents at a disadvantage?1. You are usually outnumbered.2. The other attendees are speaking a language that is difficult for you to understand-educationese, legalese, and medicalese.3. Your child is one of many students. This is their job, but your child. This sets you up for emotional reactions.4. Because you are emotionally involved, it is harder to be objective. You feel you have more to lose; it’s easy to become defensive or lose your temper.5. The people sitting across from you are people you learned to respect, obey, and / or fear as a child. Principals, medical people, teachers. You may not see yourself as an equal.6. You are asking for something. It is implied that anything you ask for will take away from another student.7. Some of these people attend dozens of IEP meetings every month. You may go to one or two a year. They have experience on their side.8. The school personnel earn a salary while they attend these meetings. You may give up some salary to attend.9. The school district has an attorney. You may know of an attorney!10. If the school rejects the IEP, you may feel as if you have just lost your lifeline.11. If you have argued before, threatened legal action, complained about an IEP and on and on, the relationship inside the room might have moved over to confrontational or adversarial. The above are true even if you are in a cooperative, collaborative meeting and all working together. You can continue the list from here if you have moved over to an adversarial meeting!12. You may not be sure what is “wrong” with your child.13. You have no way of judging if the school’s recommendations will help your child or not.14. If your child attends the meeting, hearing certain things may upset your child, then you.How do you even the odds?1. You need to prepare for the IEP meeting and review test results before the meeting.2. You need to be organized and to have everything written down.3. You need to study negotiating before the meeting.4. You need to bring a short list of topics you want to discuss such as a particular teacher / problem, etc.5. You need to come ready with a written plan (See Part II and III).6. You need to cite or quote the evidence and experts as proof of the validity or correctness of your plan and follow the IEP Success Method in Part II.7. You need to understand the legal basis for what you are asking for.8. You need to stay calm and bring someone with you to take notes so you can focus on the meeting.9. If the meeting focuses on negatives, you need to redirect the meeting by pointing out your child’s strengths. Discuss successes your child had outside of school.10. If necessary, you need to bring an advocate or a relative with you who can be less emotional but is acquainted with your child.11. If you are confused or not happy with the entire IEP, you need to remain calm and state that you need time to review the IEP before you sign.12. If there is any area you are unsure of, you need to postpone decisions you are unsure of until you do the research.Next: Part II will discuss the special education IEP Success Method and IEP Meeting Mottos.
Statistics have shown that children with at least one parent involved in their education are more likely to be successful in school. In today’s society, that responsibility usually falls upon the mother. Just look at your child’s PTA. How many men volunteer for PTA president? (OK, a few, but what is the % of the board?)If you are a working mom, you already have enough on your “To-Do List”, without adding #10 – Volunteer in Susy’s classroom today”.Working Moms already have a many responsibilities, and with the responsibilities comes guilt for not doing it all. As a working mom, you want to be in two places at once – at work and with your child. It is a difficult choice. As a mother, you want to be available for your child, especially when it comes to his/her education. Yet, you don’t always have time to volunteer in the classroom or go on field trips. Here are 10 simple ways you can volunteer without sacrificing a lot of time from your day.1. Ask your child’s teacher if you can correct papers at home? Teachers need help correcting spelling tests, cutting out pictures for art projects or other weekly assignments. These things can be done from home. Your child can bring them home for yo and then you can have her return them the next day. This not only helps the teachers but allows you a little insight to what is happening in the classroom.2. Volunteer to provide paper products (cups, paper plates, napkins) for class activities. Many activities require additional supplies that the teacher must provide. Offer to donate these supplies as needed. You can just add them to your grocery list throughout the year.3. Offer to make posters for the PTA /School fundraiser This is always a welcomed offer. This is something that both you and your child can do and it can be done at home, on the weekend. The school or PTA will even provide the supplies.4. Offer to email parents about upcoming class and school activitiesParent communication is so important, and emails are the newest and fastest way to inform parents. Emailing can be done from home and allows you to be aware of activities as well.5. Offer to bring water for outdoor activitiesJog-a-thons, Field days, P.E. – there are many times that schools have functions outside and the students need water. Offering to provide the water helps everyone and continues to support these crucial physical activities for students.6. Offer to provide cookies or other baked activities for the PTA/School Carnival This is another option that can be done with you child – either by baking it or buying it. Either way, it includes you child. He/she will be very excited when their item is chosen.7. Run for PTA Secretary/Auditor/Parliamentarian These are offices that do not require a lot of outside work, other than a monthly meeting. The meetings are typically in the evening and provide you with a much needed insight to the activities of the school, with access to key people. i.e. school principal8. *Attend your child’s school evening activities/performance. ALL OF THEM, if at all possibleThese are important events in your child’s life that will be remembered. Let your child know, that even though you can’t be in the classroom, his events are important to you.9. *Attend your child’s Teacher Conferences Make sure that you have communication with your child’s teacher. they understand you are a working parent, they are too. However, your child needs to know that you talk to their teacher. It shows support for the teacher and for your child’s education.10. *Spend 15 – 30 minutes a night talking to your child about schoolThis can be done when driving home from after school care or while cooking dinner. Ask your child questions, but not the regular – “How was school?”. The answer will be fine, and don’t be fooled, it wasn’t but they aren’t telling you.Try these 5 questions, and see how much more yo will learn about your child’s day and how much more yo feel a part of what they did at school that day.*”Tell me something funny that happened at school today”*”Tell me the most interesting thing that happened at school today”*”What book did you read in class today?” or “What book is the teacher reading in class?” “Can you tell me about it?”*”What math problem did you have the most challenge with today?” or “What math problem was the easiest for you to do today?”*”Who did you eat lunch with today?”There are many more questions and variations of these questions and the list could go on and on, however, the point is, change up the question and don;t accept “fine” as the answer.BONUS – Read to your child every nightThis is crucial to the success of every child and all parents can do it. As your child gets older, just read together. Share the books you are reading and encourage each other. Reading is the key to educational success.Being a part of your child’s education is one of the most important thing you can do as a parent. Sometimes it is a challenge. Working Moms, whether by choice or circumstance, have a difficult time trying to juggle it all. But there are ways to set an example of how important education is for your child by being a part of it. It is not quantity, but quality that matters. Just know that your child is watching you and learning by your example. Start setting the example today!
IntroductionI’ve talked up this article for a while, but made no real moves to write it. I have had a pre-write done for weeks, but still, no real effort had been put into its production. Well, I have finally hopped to it. I’ve spent a large portion of a day (in addition to the weeks of prewriting both on paper and in my head) writing this article, a practice inspired in part by Glen.This article will explore the frustrations of students and teachers alike with “No Child Left Behind” and its effect on the classroom. It will discuss the growing irrelevance of American curriculum to the average high school student. It will give my opinion on what a high school diploma should symbolize.Every day, in at least one of my classes, someone complains about school. It’s pretty typical. I complain about school all the time. No matter what the specific complaint may be, anywhere from “I hate this assignment!” to “When am I ever going to use math?” All the complaints boil down to the same basic thing: A majority of high schoolers feel that the education they are receiving is not relevant to them and what they want to do with their lives at that point.In a lot of ways, their concerns and protests are not unfounded.The ProblemWith the advent of “No Child Left Behind” schools across the nation are being forced to teach their classes towards a test. It is in this that our schools are failing its students. When the only reason you go to school is so that you can pass one test one year and another the next and on and on until you graduate, the material becomes irrelevant, pointless and discouraging.Take, for example, my district and school experience. “No Child Left Behind” passed when I was in middle school and was fully implemented for my sister’s grade. In my case, I only had to take the WASL (Washington Assessment of Student Learning) in 4th, 7th and 10th grades. My sister will take the WASL every year until she graduates.That being said, in high school now, while the only WASL experience is in 10th grade, if you are in an underclassman non-honors class, your entire curriculum will be centered on the WASL. Luckily, I have been in the honors English class and dodged that bullet there. But my friends who were not in that track often complained about the chronic practice tests, the obnoxious exercises they had to complete that had little to do with English class except that it was on the WASL. Math class was much the same up until Geometry. You learned things that would be on the WASL. Science classes will have to change around their curriculum now that there is a science assessment to deal with.This year, post-WASL, my classmates are noticing a difference in classroom behavior. A great example is the Physics class and my Honors US History class. There is not a set-in-stone-need-to-get-this-done-by-this-date curriculum. There is an outline of subjects and areas that need to be covered, but there isn’t a timeline. If the class gets distracted about another topic during the class period that encourages the students to think for themselves, it is allowed to continue. The experiences in these classes that do not teach towards a test are much more positive for the students and quickly become their favorite classes, the ones they get excited to go to every day. And when these students are excited about their classes, they do better and they learn more.I can empathize with this a little more now that I am in a Pre-AP English class that is preparing me for an AP test next year. It sucks. We do these ridiculous things that I will probably never really do again all for the sake of a test. When I compare this year with sophomore year English I haven’t gotten anything out of this year that will last and be memorable.Making Education Relevant”No Child Left Behind” has screwed with American education in more ways than one. But to me, sucking the vitality out of the American classroom has been one of the most grievous wrongs it has committed. Tests are not a valid way to keep up with students and make sure they are doing okay. You want to have no child left behind? Then the solution is simple: A bigger education budget so that schools can afford to hire more teachers so class sizes can be smaller.In order to have no child be left behind, the student cannot be able to fall through the cracks. Unfortunately, in American schools today where class-sizes are literally bursting at the seams with upwards of forty students, it is all too easy to disappear from school and have not one teacher notice. Tests won’t hold American teenagers in the classrooms, personalized attention will. With smaller class sizes and more involvement by each student in a classroom, each student has a larger stake in their education. It becomes a personal choice encouraged by the teacher.The focus on education has been shifted to content, content, content. Suddenly, knowing what years the Spanish American War took place in and the main players makes you educated. I disagree with the concept that the details of education are the important parts. We have taken the complete wrong perspective.When I look back on the classes I’ve taken thus far, the ones that stand out the most are not the classes where I learned a lot of facts, but the classes where I learned how to think. I think that it is too easy to say that the point in English class is to read these authors, write this much and learn these words, that the point in Social Studies/History is to learn about these wars, these cultural movements, these dates and these people, that the point in Science is to learn about the periodic table, these biological mechanisms and these laws of physics and that the point in Math is to learn these theories, how to write proofs and how to solve for x. That’s ridiculous. Those are not the things I will remember years down the road and I guarantee they are not the things adults remember about school now.I will remember how English class taught me to organize and articulate my thoughts well. I will remember how Social Studies class taught me to evaluate and analyze historical and present day situations honestly to see what really happened and whether it was positive, negative, or both. I will remember how Science class taught me to appreciate and understand the world around me. I will remember how Math class helped me to further understand the world around me and to think logically. Those are the things that matter. Who cares if American students aren’t learning specific details? The question we should be asking is: Are they learning how to think responsibly, creatively and effectively? I’d have to say that the majority of high schoolers are not. And it’s not their fault. It’s the system that’s in place.ConclusionIt is the unfortunate truth that a high school education is not relevant to a lot of students today. Classrooms in America today teach details, specifics; not skill sets, methods of analysis or presentation of ideas. This is not the teachers’ faults. They are being forced to teach to a test that is incapable of testing these invaluable student assets. So what else can be expected?Teachers are growing continually more frustrated with this every day. I am privileged enough to hear several of my educator’s moanings. They wish that the “damn WASL” wasn’t such a huge part of their lives. They are restricted in class now in ways they never were before. These state tests are putting strain on our teachers making it more difficult for them to reach out and be the inspirational teachers we all (will) remember from our high school experience. When “your students have to pass this test or we’re all at risk for our jobs” is continually pounded into your head, you begin to lose the drive, the desire to say “screw the WASL” and emphasize the things that really matter.It’s a shame.I’ll tell you what can be expected. Parents, adults, people who can vote and who care about the future of America: Stand up and say something for those of us who cannot. We deserve more.For teens who are experiencing this in public schools and are growing steadily more frustrated, I encourage you to write intelligently about this issue. How has this act affected your life? In the next few days I’ll be posting something about “No Child Left Behind.” It will explain what the act puts in place, how it was advertised and how it works. If you feel inclined to speak up, do so and tag your article: teens on No Child Left Behind [http://technorati.com/tag/teens+on+No+Child+Left+Behind]. Let’s see how many we can get on the subject.