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OTHER ITA SITES:
Accountability and Special Education
Who is accountable for your child’s education when they have special needs? Over twenty years ago I watched my mother hold the school accountable for my brother’s education. He has Down Syndrome and was not learning to his potential. After completing both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Special Education I was under the impression the school system had changed and I would be able to teach my students to reach their potential.
I could not. Administrative policies and unwritten understandings behind the scene made it impossible to teach what needed to be taught. I became ill from the stress month after month and began calling parents to teach them how they could help their child. There are many laws and policies in effect to help these children, but it’s up to the parents to hold the schools accountable.
Investigate! How do you hold schools accountable for your child’s education? Find out what is truly happening in your child’s school day. Are the therapists completing their sessions? What does your child’s school day look like? Is the Individual Education Plan (IEP) being followed through with? When was the last time you read the IEP? How is your child supposed to be evaluated and what data has those evaluations provided? All of these answers should be provided in writing by the staff that works with your child. Be creative in finding answers to assure open communication between yourself and the school. The key is to investigate through relationship building with the staff.
Get Educated! There are many other questions to ask to assure accountability within the school system, but the key for each and every parent is to become educated and focused on their child’s education. You need to become educated! Do you know what a proper Present Level of Performance looks like on an IEP? Do you know the key components that should be in each and every goal on your child’s IEP? Are you using your parent addendum to it’s full potential? Finding the answers to these questions tailored to your child is the first step in learning how to navigate an appropriate education for your child.
Take Action! When the mechanics of an IEP are learned, the shadiness of the system starts to diminish. It becomes clear what is and is not being done for your child. Now is NOT the time to violate the trust you have built through investigation process. It is the time to begin working with the staff through the difficulties. Parent instincts most of the times are to either become aggressive and demanding or to justify what the staff has been doing. Find your path in the middle. Take steps to work with the team and to become a true active part of the team to remedy the inappropriate parts of your child’s day. You must be firm, but not accusing.
Follow Through! Holding a school and the team accountable is not a one-time action. You must find a way to follow through consistently with you child’s education. This will entail consistent information gathering from the staff. Active participation in decision making for your child’s education and continued education for yourself in regards to both the school system and your child’s needs.
Remember, I was a classroom teacher. Taking these steps can bring your child miles towards success within the school system. Stay positive, yet firm about your choices about your child. Do not blame others for your child’s failures or education path
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