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How to approach the school to improve your child's performance

If your child is not thriving so far this school year, despite having an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), it’s time to take action. These 10 steps provide an effective way to address and resolve your concerns with the school.

Who to talk to first and how:

Start with the classroom teacher. To minimize putting her on the defensive and to lay groundwork for a productive conversation, consider these suggestions:

  1. Set up an appointment. Teachers typically have no down time during the day, with internal meetings, extra duties and lesson preparation added in around instruction. Respect the teacher’s time and ask to set an appointment, rather than “catching” her, when picking your child up after school for example.

  2. How you say it is important. Avoid conflict by using good communication techniques, such as “I messages,” like, “I’m concerned about my child’s reading progress,” instead of the more confrontational, “You need to do more for my child with reading.” Consider terms like “I’ve noticed” to acknowledge that you and the teacher see the child from different perspectives. For example, “I’ve noticed his comprehension improves when he reads out loud. Are there chances for him to read out loud during reading groups?”

  3. Have the IEP handy and refer to it . Teachers instruct many students, and often several with IEPs. A refresher on certain aspects of your child’s IEP could be beneficial.

  4. Be patient. Give the teacher and your child a month or so to work out new procedures or instruction methods discussed at your meeting to see if improvement occurs.

If further action is needed:

After a month or more has passed, if you haven’t noticed positive change:

  1. Consider contacting an Education Advocate, such as Cape Cod Advocate. While this may be your only child with special education needs, your child’s team deals with many students, dozens of IEPs and even more parents. With the experience and knowledge of an Advocate on your side, the playing field is leveled, so your child receives the individual attention he deserves and the law requires.

  2. Request an IEP Team Meeting with the team leader, often your child’s Special Education Teacher. If you are unsure, check the Administrative Data Sheet (usually it is the front page of the IEP) for the name and phone number.

  3. Put your request in writing. Outline your specific concerns. An Advocate can assist in providing objectivity, so emotions are kept in check.

  4. Include previous steps taken. Describe the previous meeting with the child’s teacher, the actions agreed to, and the impact on your child’s performance. Again, the advice of an Education Advocate in preparing this document provides much-needed objectivity.

  5. CC: While the communication is directed to the team chairperson, also copy the special education department and the classroom teacher. If sending an email, set it up to notify you when the email is opened, or require a response from the recipient. Alternatively, hand deliver the letter to the school’s receptionist, and obtain a receipt acknowledging date and time of receipt.

  6. Expect action soon. By law, the meeting needs to be scheduled and held within 10 school days. All team members are to be present, including you. Your Education Advocate is permitted to attend the meeting as well, and consult with you as needed during the meeting.

Don’t let another quarter pass with disappointing results. Put our 20+ years of experience to work for you, so your child’s education is given the attention it deserves. Call Cape Cod Advocate, 508.776. 5484, or email our office using the Contact Us form on this website. We want the best for your child, just like you do.

A Parent Advocate is not an attorney. Any advice or guidance in this article should not be misunderstood to be legal counsel.

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