Sunday, March 21, 2010

It is IEP season....are you ready?

With many schools reviewing and writing new IEPs for the next school year this spring, are you ready to be an active, contributing member of the team?  Here are some tips for parents in preparing for the important meeting……

   1. Make sure you have your documentation ready to go.  Be prepared with all IEP progress checks, report cards, and any other testing information like the NECAPs etc.
   2. Review what these documents say, and make sense of them before you go to the meeting.  What do the results all mean?  Is your child making progress in a way that is measurable and functional?  Can you tell that he or she is making progress or not?
   3. Write a list of any questions that you have so that you don’t forget to ask them.
   4. Make sure that when the teachers review progress at the meeting that they are using specific examples and measurements of progress.  Just saying that “he has come a long way”  or “ she is doing great in class” doesn’t cut it.  By how much have they improved?  Has his reading level gone up ½ a year?  Can she multiply fractions or not…to what degree can she do it?  Etc…  Remember to always ask for measurable and specific examples of progress.
   5. Make sure the IEP is updated appropriately.  Present levels of performance need to reflect the year’s growth (or lack thereof), add new strengths and needs as appropriate and make sure that all goals and objectives are rewritten.  An IEP shouldn’t be the same year to year—progress is not being made if it is, signifying that the programming is not appropriate.
   6.  Do you have concerns about regression of skills over the summer, or that extra time is needed to catch up?  If so, make sure you have a discussion about Extended School Year services.  If your child will regress during the summer months without school programming, make sure you ask for specifically what you think is appropriate for your child.
   7. Remember….document, document, document.  Take your own notes from the meeting and get copies of the school’s notes.
   8. If you are uncomfortable going into a meeting alone, remember that you can bring someone with you to the meeting for support.
   9. Remember, you have 14 days to sign the new IEP.  Do not sign on the spot.  Take the document home and review it and make sure you are comfortable with it.  Have someone else look at it and give you a second opinion.

Don't be afraid to ask questions of the school team.  It is part of their job to make sure you understand what is going on and what it all means for your child.  If you have questions, let me know and I can try to help!  Good luck.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Firing Teachers?!?!?! It Might Just Work!

So, maybe it is a little drastic, and maybe it won’t hold up in court because of the union…..BUT… sure did get people’s attention, didn’t it?! Sure, the firing of all of the teachers at Central Falls High School in RI might seem a little like overkill, but as a constantly underperforming school, maybe a complete shake up was necessary.

If you have a school that has a majority of truly inspired, dedicated, and talented teachers, I really doubt student performance would be so bad. I think creative and dedicated administration and faculty could have pulled together and put forth the proper effort to right the ship. This, unfortunately, was clearly not the case at this particular school. I don’t think this happened because a couple of teachers were doing a poor job. It seems to me that there existed a pretty negative culture and uninspired mentality, and that in order to really get some results, drastic measures had to be taken. According to a Newsweek article, at this school, “half the students drop out of school, and proficiency in math measured by state exams stands at a pitiful 7 percent among 11th graders. Under state pressure, the local superintendent, Frances Gallo, tried to improve scores by requiring teachers to work 25 minutes longer each a day, eat lunch with students once a week, and agree to be evaluated by a third party. The teachers, who make about $75,000 a year, far more than average in this depressed town, balked. They wanted another $90 an hour. So Gallo took a brave and astonishing step: she recommended firing all 74 teachers. Her boldness was praised by Education Secretary Duncan—and supported by President Obama.” Read more at

Sometimes, reality is harsh. An extra twenty five minutes, and some lunch time....really???   Maybe those teachers will renegotiate their priorities and careers. The quality teachers will return because they believe in children and want to do the hard work, but maybe the deadwood will find something else to do.