Annual Reviews and Itinerant Teachers: The Bind that Ties

2 Mar

I wonder if there are other counties that have the same problem that we do. I can’t imagine that a county would NOT have this problem, and if you don’t, please share with me how you avoid it!

Basically we have a huge number of students with IEP’s in our county who get all sorts of services such as speech, OT, PT, VI, DD/HH, APE and others I’m probably missing. From February on, teachers in the county are scheduling their annual IEP reviews and inviting parents and service providers to come to these meetings in accordance with the due process outlined in the IDEA. The problem is that these itinerant service providers, wonderful as they are, can not be in two places at once. They can either deliver services to a child OR attend an IEP, but not both. In past years, they pretty much spent the last 2 months of the year going to annual IEP reviews and providing very few services to students.

So here is a question for you parents: which would you rather do: have all of the people providing services at your child’s IEP, or have them continue to provide services to all the students in the county?

This is an eternal dilemma with regards to the law that is largely hidden from parents. The due process that is written into the law to protect parents and serve students often seem to work against each other. The law says we have to serve students but it also says we have to conduct annual reviews and develop IEPs that include the parents and all service providers. The problem is that itinerant service providers frequently have caseloads of 50 – 100 students each or even more. We only have two physical therapists and two adaptive PE teachers that serve all the schools in the county, so they simply can not be so many places at once and at no point are the service providers all in the same place at the same time. So for my students, the IEP might be the only time that the itinerant service providers have a chance to meet and collaborate on a specific student. But if they are there, they aren’t providing services.

Teachers, how would you feel about having all of your meetings after school in order to get all of the itinerant services to participate? I bring that up, because it is the only way I can see of avoiding the conflict between providing services and attending the meetings.

As a parent. going after school might be only slightly more convenient but there’s still the issue of childcare for the student and his/her siblings. If there has been sufficient communication throughout the year, having the itinerant service provider at the meeting might not be so crucial as long as a good written summary is provided.

There is probably some way to streamline this process using some of the current technology in order to accommodate all of the diverse schedules. Using the telephone to aet up a teleconference is one way of doing it. Using web tools might also help provide access, especially if providers are at other schools thus cutting down on travel time and expense.

Ideas?

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3 Responses to “Annual Reviews and Itinerant Teachers: The Bind that Ties”

  1. Tandy March 2, 2009 at 11:45 pm #

    I teach K-6 resource in a smaller district in Southeastern Arizona. I always schedule meetings for afterschool. It’s the only time most of the people required can be there. Usually if there’s one scheduled during school hours it’s because the parent requested it, or OT/PT or Speech scheduled it without my knowledge, and yes this has happened to me many times. I know very well how hard it is to get services for students. We have an OT that comes in from several states over once a month. She also works with several other schools in our area. THis means that we have to schedule IEP’s for her students when she is available and hope she doesn’t double book a meeting and I end up with no one there. The rest of the time we have a health aide who works under her direction on weekly visits. We also don’t do all of our IEP’s at one time of the year. They are done as their last IEP is about to expire (I usually schedule them 2-3 weeks prior to their expiration so I have some wiggle room to reschedule if necessary), so I have several a month. I try to get them in from September to March or April if I have to. I can’t imagine having only two or three months to get all of my IEP’s in. That’s insane. Especially since I usually have to go and hunt down the parents in a home visit afterwords because they don’t bother to come no matter how many times they have been notified (I had parents blow me off to go Christmas shopping, talk about priorities). Thankfully my caseload this year is much more managable than it was last year.

  2. Sam March 5, 2009 at 2:50 am #

    I’m one of those itinerant teachers, vision to be specific. Like the comment above, we also do IEPs throughout the year. I always want to attend IEPs and with sufficient notice my schedule is flexible enough to move things around. At the very least to attend a portion of an IEP meeting.
    The students on my caseload have varying needs and service requirements. Everything from 360 hours a week to consult. The students who are classified as visually impaired are generally the ones that require more services (go figure). There are a small number of students who I see regularly; I’m familiar with all their classes, their teachers, their families, and their lives. These are the students for whom I write the majority of the IEP, etc. Of course I always attend these meetings.
    The students who I see only once a month (consult) are either so high functioning that they don’t need much from me, or are multiply disabled. It’s these IEPs that I am often not even invited to. I know there are SO MANY support services, I don’t take it personally. But I do want to attend the IEP meeting or at least part of it. Side note: I wish I could figure out a way to get to know these kids better too. Because I only see them once or twice a month, I bring my vision expertise, but the classroom staff are the experts on the child. I feel like being able to attend the IEP meeting gives me a little more insight to the student.
    Personally, I’m not big on after school meetings. Because I’m traveling and covering students from k-12, I don’t have a prep period, or an early-out teacher communication time, and I also cover the day from the early start of secondary schools to the late release of the elementary schools. I do virtually all of my prep outside of school hours, at home. I just want to be able to take the teacher hat off when school is out. Is that terrible? I know we’ve all got large caseloads and endless paperwork, and what about the teaching? Not saying I wouldn’t do an after school meeting, I haven’t had the need in my area.
    Vision teachers are a weird hybrid. We’re itinerant, but we also have students who are classified as visually impaired. I’m always trying to improve the professional relationships with the classroom teachers.

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  1. IEP ideas for Parents: 8 tips for avoiding a butt-long (and ugly) IEP « The Life That Chose Me - April 2, 2009

    […] tactic in my county and it has some very real, very painful and very detrimental consequences. I’ve talked a bit before about how the itinerant teachers are in a bind when it comes to having IEP meetings.  Feedback from […]

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