Pre-IEP Meeting: The School

So, you’ve received your Annual IEP Meeting invitation in the mail. Now what? There are a lot of questions to be answered about what the school’s responsibilities, what you should do and what you should expect. I’ll break this down into two parts: the school’s responsibility and the parents’. This post will cover the school’s side.

I am writing specifically about the annual meeting in which a new IEP is created. This usually takes place in the spring and is not to be confused with an initial evaluation to create the first IEP. I’ll try to cover that in the future, but feel free to contact me with any questions you have about the initial evaluation and eligibility requirements for special education placement.

The law mandates that the IEP must be reviewed annually, but it can be reviewed more than once during the year at any time per a parent’s or the school’s request. Reasons for an extra IEP Meeting might include new information after independent (non-school) evaluations, to add a behavioral plan, etc.

The process usually starts with a formal written invitation to come to the school for the annual meeting. The case manager (special education teacher) schedules the meetings and sends out the invitations to everyone who is relevant to the child’s educational development. They will then contact you 2 more times to ensure that you are aware of the meeting date, time and location. This might be another note sent home with the child, an email or a phone call.

Next, the special education teacher begins to collect and compile data on the current goals. The case manager will gather information from every teacher whose input is pertinent toward the current or proposed goals (PE, art, music, etc) either in person, email or a short list of questions they ask them to answer and return. These questions depend on the goals and help to monitor progress towards those goals. So, sometimes you will not hear from the PE teacher because that class is not determining progress toward a reading goal. However, you would receive information from that class if your child had a behavioral plan with behavioral goals that is inclusive of all school situations. The teachers often meet together to discuss the student’s progress toward current goals and go over ideas for new goals and interventions.

After the teachers have met and gathered information to discuss the child’s current levels of performance, progress toward prior goals, and new goals, they then plan for the meeting. The new (by new I mean over 10 years old) computer program makes writing and editing the IEP so much easier than the hand-writing in triplicate method I initially used years ago (makes me feel old!). The teacher/case manager will complete as much of the new IEP as possible before the meeting which will expedite the process. There is some debate about how much should be completed before the meeting as the goal of the meeting is to create the IEP, but with the computer software, any changes can easily be made during the meeting when goals are rejected and changed.

After the case manager has contacted you three times, gathered information, collaborated and filled out the IEP, s/he has to make their sub plans to enable them to spend the day(s) in meetings. It is important to keep in mind that the teachers/staff are sacrificing time with their students to meet with you, so please help to keep the meeting brief by keeping unnecessary conversations to a minimum. Of course pleasantries can be exchanged, just be aware of being overly chatty about things that do not pertain to the specific task at hand.

There are other school personnel that will be in attendance or at least give information to the teacher to bring to the meeting. The special education director and/or the building principal will always be invited and are often in attendance. Anyone who provides one-on-one or small group instruction will either give an oral or written present levels of performance report. They will also be asked to voice any concerns that need to be discussed and problem-solved at the meeting.

As you can see, there are a lot of people who contribute to the IEP construction and there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes. The teachers often put in a lot more (extra) hours around IEP time to ensure that each child on their case load has a proper IEP that addresses the child’s individual needs, strengths, and challenges. It is so important for parents to understand how large their role is in the process as well! My next blog will cover the parent’s role.

As always, please call Education Champion if you have any questions or are interested in any services. IEP Reviews need to be scheduled at least 1 month before the IEP to ensure that it is done properly and not hastily.

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