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Making the IEP Work for You Part Three: Progress Monitoring

Making the IEP Work for You Part Three: Progress Monitoring

When designed individually and implemented effectively, the Individualized Education Program (IEP) is an important tool that helps assure a student's success in education. PEAK is excited to share Part Three of this three-part series, Making the IEP Work for You, where we explore key components of the IEP including: Evaluation (Part One), How Families Can Get The Most Out of This Valuable Tool (Part Two), and Progress Monitoring (Part Three)! If you missed the first parts in the series, don't worry! You can still access Part One and Part Two!

Making the IEP Work for You, Part Three: Progress Monitoring

Making the IEP work is sometimes the hardest part of the whole IEP process. Monitoring, communicating and adjusting the IEP as needed are the real keys to success.

First, all the IEP team members (including parents) need to have a common understanding of the special education and related services listed on their child's IEP, what the services mean and how they will be implemented. It's important for parents to ask a lot of questions to clarify this. For example:

  • What does direct service, indirect service, or consultation mean?
  • How are they alike and different?
  • What data did you use to determine the type and amount of service my child requires to make progress on the IEP goals?
  • What kind of data tracking process will you use to check on progress?
  • How will we assure that services are providing supports without getting in the way of my child's participation in the general education classroom and curriculum?
  • How will we have on-going contact about progress on IEP goals?
  • If the standard communication method of the district does not meet my need for information, can it be individualized for my child?

Schools sometimes send checklists home stating the student's progress or lack of progress toward IEP goals.  However, these forms can be misleading and do not always give parents enough information about their child's progress. As members of the IEP team, parents have the right and responsibility to stay informed and involved through out the school year, not only at the yearly IEP meeting.

Your child does not need to live with an IEP that does not work. The school district must hold an IEP meeting once a year, but additional meetings can be held as needed throughout the year. If you believe your child is not making meaningful progress, you have the right (and responsibility) to request a meeting to discuss adjustments to the IEP. The IEP can be changed to try new accommodations, modifications, or other supports.

Making the IEP effective is essential to making the school year successful for both the student and the IEP team. Communication among team members is critical to ensuring progress for the student. To assure effective communication between you and the rest of the IEP team throughout the school year, be sure to address the following questions during the IEP meeting:

  • Who will the main school contact be for you as parents?
  • How quickly will the contact reply to you?
  • Can you as the parent have direct contact with the special education service providers? (Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists, Speech Language Pathologists, etc.)? 
  • Can you the parent observe at school?
  • What are the protocols for school observations, volunteering in the classroom, etc.?
    • [Note: Know that schools often have varying policies about volunteering and observations; however, the school policies can be adjusted to meet the parent's need for information as an IEP team member. Parents should not be denied access to their child's classroom.]

Having accurate and on-going data to monitor how the student is doing and inform important decisions is necessary for ensuring progress. Document the things that work and the things that don't work. There is no need to 'reinvent the wheel' year to year.

Parents need to be aware of "progress monitoring," which is a promising new process being used in many schools. Progress monitoring is considered to be a best practice by the U.S. Department of Education. It is a scientifically based process that teachers use to regularly assess students' academic performance, evaluate the effectiveness of instruction, and enable teachers to adjust the instruction if needed. Use of progress monitoring can help assure that a child is getting what he needs to be successful throughout the school year because it allows adjustments to be made quickly if something is not working.

Remember that, as a parent, you are the only constant member of the IEP team year to year throughout your child's school experience. Your child will experience many different teachers and service providers. It's important to maintain high hopes and expectations for your child. Then you will be a positive example for your child and the other members of the IEP team.

For more information on monitoring your child's progress and being an effective IEP team member, check the following resources:

Copyright 2013 © by PEAK Parent Center, Inc. All rights reserved. Permission to reproduce may be obtained from PEAK Parent Center.
Photo of student reading the newspaper included under a Creative Commons License by Lichfield Live.