The suggestions below are practical advice, not requirements. ESS and Dispute Resolution staff have collaborated to share their ideas about how to develop, nurture and maintain good relationships with parents, how to make the IEP process smoother and more understandable, and how to help build a culture of ongoing compliance along the way.
Suggestion: Use round tables when possible. Have school personnel wait outside the room or remain standing in the meeting room until the parents arrive so that everyone either enters the room or sits at the same time.
Suggestion: Ask parents how they want to be addressed and then follow their requests.
Suggestion: Have each participant explain his/her role. Example: I am Mary Smith and I teach second grade. My role in this meeting is to answer questions and provide input about grade-level curriculum and grade-level standards. Because I am in the classroom with second graders on a daily basis, I am aware of different learning styles, strategies and behaviors typically seen in a second grade classroom. I know how typical second graders learn and the misunderstandings and pitfalls that they often encounter. As your child’s general education teacher, I can also provide information on your child’s progress and interactions with others. I am here today to help this IEP team as it considers information and makes decisions.
Suggestion: Start the IEP meeting with the focus on the future and how current progress and proposals will help move the student to the desired outcome. Begin the conversation on a positive note by sharing a student’s strengths, accomplishments and progress.
Suggestion: Train the staff who will serve as agency representatives at IEP meetings so that they fully understand their role and responsibility.
Suggestion: Learn and understand the regulations and how they can affect the outcomes of a student’s school experience. Remind and instill in your staff that there is a purpose behind the regulations and that they are not an end in themselves. The regulations exist to guide schools so that there is a common and shared understanding of the student’s present levels, his/her educational needs, the goals, the services to be made available, and the student’s ongoing progress.
Suggestion: Be mindful when assigning the implementation date for a service. Make sure the PWN is provided to the parents after the decision is made but prior to its implementation.
Suggestion: Include in the wording of the PWN the date of the meeting when the decision to propose or refuse the action actually occurred, as the date when the PWN was written is not always the same as the date of the meeting when the decision took place.
Suggestion: If your school uses drop-down menus or PWN templates, supplement the information with specific details to ensure that the school is clearly communicating with parents, particularly when a service is added, removed or changed.
Suggestion: Take time when constructing a PWN so that it is clear and that all statements actually make sense and incorporate the actual thinking of the parties and any decisions that were made.
Suggestion: The IEP team should have a careful discussion about accommodations at every IEP meeting, and the IEP should include sufficient explanation of any limitation for an accommodation, for without an explanation of limitation, the expectation is that the accommodation is made available all the time in every circumstance.
Suggestion: Part of any discussion of accommodations should be about whether or not the student continues to need an accommodation and if it is time to try to wean the student off that accommodation. If the team decides the time is right to wean a student off an accommodation, the IEP and PWN should reflect how, when and for how long the experiment will last, and the documentation should include how data will be collected, who will gather the data, and when and how the IEP team will receive and review that information.
Suggestion: The IEP team should have a careful and deliberate discussion about each proposed accommodation, and only those that are determined necessary to ensure equal access should be included in the finalized IEP.
Suggestion: Sufficient time should be taken at IEP meetings to explain how modifications might prevent a student from receiving a graduation credit for that particular class or subject so that everyone understands and so that parents will not be surprised. Make sure that the IEP team has a clear understanding of the differences between accommodations and modifications.
Suggestion: Train your staff so that they know what specially designed instruction is. Have each special education teacher prepare for each IEP meeting by having him/her write a short paragraph describing the specially designed instruction that will be made available to the student. This information should be shared at the meeting and documented in the IEP.
Suggestion: Carefully and clearly document in the IEP the anticipated amount of time the student will actually receive specially designed instruction, not just the amount of time he/she is in a special education environment. The information on the IEP service page and in the LRE statement should make clear the anticipated amount of specially designed instruction the student will receive and also lay out the anticipated breakdown of time the student will be in a special education environment and how that time will be devoted.
Arizona Department of Education, Exceptional Student Services
Physical Location: 3300 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85012
Mailing Address: 1535 W. Jefferson St., Bin #24, Phoenix, AZ 85007
Tel: (602) 542-4013
Fax: (602) 542-5404
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