IEP Notes: Be Sure the Team Records the Details
The American novelist Flannery O’Connor once quipped that many a best-selling novel could have been prevented by a good writing class. We certainly don’t wish for IEP notes to be prevented; however, we do hope the people writing IEP notes will make a deliberate effort to record accurate and pertinent details concerning a child’s progress—no vague writing allowed!
Typically, school district personnel fill out the IEP notes as an IEP meeting progresses. Rarely, if ever, are the notes read in parts to the parents as the team conducts its meeting. This can be a problem for the parent if, at the end of the meeting, the parent discovers that the person writing the notes has been using vague sentences such as “the team discussed English class.” When details are not written into the IEP notes or when the recorder uses passive voice writing (no identifiable subject in the sentence), then the notes are not really being used to record what happened at the IEP meeting.
Here are two sentences adapted from actual IEP notes:
1) “The team discussed Joey’s math progress.” Do you have any idea whether or not Joey is doing well in math from this sentence? Does this sentence make a case for Joey getting extra help in math?
2) “David’s two most recent math test grades were 68% and 50%, as reported by teacher. He typically completes 50 % of his homework with approximately 20% accuracy, as reported by parent.” Do you get a better idea of how Joey is doing in math from these sentences? Does this offer evidence that Joey might need math intervention?
Don’t be afraid to have seemingly negative statements noted in your child’s IEP. If your child is doing poorly in school, you must have that recorded in great detail in the child’s IEP in order to justify your case for greater academic intervention by the school. You are not a bad parent if your child is failing. That needs repeating: YOU ARE NOT A BAD PARENT IF YOUR CHILD IS FAILING.
Are you a credentialed teacher in your state? And, are you the teacher who stands at the head of your child’s classroom? No? Then your child’s education is the primary responsibility of your home school district and the credentialed teacher who stands in front of your child every school day. (Of course, offering your child at-home help with homework and donating some of your time to the classroom, if you are able, is part of what makes the village work for the child.)
Quite clearly, David, from our example above, needs math intervention, and the test scores offer ample evidence as to why. The scores are also a record of how he is doing now; these can be compared to future test scores to measure progress (or lack of progress).
Which statement do you want on your child’s IEP notes? You want the second statement of actual details of how a child is performing on appropriate schoolwork. You may need to ask to read the IEP notes as the meeting progresses, or you may need to directly request that the team add details that the team discusses. Do not assume that the person recording the notes is recording details. When you hear a detail that illuminates at what level your child is performing, ask that the detail be recorded in the notes. If the team is doing its job of keeping you informed (i.e. if teachers are sharing examples of your child’s work on a regular basis and at the meeting), then you should be asking for the details, in writing in the IEP notes, a lot during a meeting. If you aren’t hearing any detail to record, then you have a bigger problem—no real information. That’s a whole different posting.
Also please note: A parent can record an IEP meeting if they feel the need to do so. I never attended an IEP meeting without expecting to record it, and I made sure the team knew that from the first day of school. I got into the habit of telling the team that recording would be automatic and routine with our family. By suggesting that recording would be routine, I hoped to bring down the fear factor in school district personnel. In my letter of intent to record I used language such as: “I plan to record this IEP meeting on (date) at (time) as a matter of routine and for my records, as usual.” You’re not trying to scare anyone, you’re just letting them know that you’re the type of person who likes to record. Check with the laws regarding notice of intent to record in your state, but giving notice in writing at least three business days in advance is usually sufficient. In California 24 hours advance notice is required. It is always best to put this in writing to the IEP’s case manager.