Viral IEP Frustration

19 Sep

When I came across this in my facebook feed this evening, I knew I had some things to say.

 

First reaction– this should never EVER happen. No parent should EVER be blind-sided at their child’s IEP. Ever. This is a pet peeve of mine, but unfortunately many many school districts and their committees set this precise scenario in place, creating an atmosphere of distrust and suspicion. And it is SO easy to prevent! It’s as easy as gravity.

It’s called communication and it happens before the notice of the meeting even goes home. Teachers, you have GOT to talk to the parents. The more you dread talking to a parent, that’s the one you need to talk to the most. My very first year of teaching special ed, I ran afoul of this very rule, and it cost me dearly. But I learned from it. Becoming a parent and sitting at the other side of the tribunal solidified this lesson.

The IEP is a legal document, and much ado is made in our trainings about nothing should be pre-determined before the meeting. Indeed there are court cases that went against school districts for precisely that reason. The IEP was entirely pre-written before the meeting, and like the case in this video, the district didn’t feel like rewriting it and told the parent they were stuck with it. The school says “Take it or leave it” so the parent takes it– straight to court.

I say that as much should be pre-written as possible; WITH parent input! That might mean writing a draft and sending it 2 weeks early and sending it to the parent who will red-line it and send it back. You go back and forth as many times as you need to get something that you both can agree with Or if there are contentious issues go ahead and save those for the meeting, while having everything else worked out. Exchanging the draft in advance allows you to at least establish those things that are agreeable so time is focused on the harder things. Save time, effort and grief. And at this point, everyone can know where everyone else stands. No one is blind-sided.

While I am working my document and going back and forth with a parent, I am also communicating with the rest of my committee..the LEA, the SLP, the OT and everyone else keeping them informed of our progress. It’s important that NO ONE is blind-sided. Surprises at IEP meetings are almost always bad. No surprises. For anyone. Ideally when we all come together, we are ratifying something everyone feels good about and have already done the work on, over time BEFORE the actual meeting. The last thing I want is my meeting to become some sort of tribunal with the parents on one side and the rest of the school on the other. That represents a total FAILURE on my part.

My second major beef is the fact that the case manager decided to kick the can down the road; “Let the high school handle it.” Oh REALLY? Sorry middle school, but you SUCK! I have seen this happen over and over and over and it happened with my own son. The bloody middle school simply passed the issues on. They nodded their heads “Yes! We will do an evaluation before he goes into high school!” And then he goes to high school and it was never done. I’ve gotten file folders from middle schools with all the consents signed and even hearing and vision done and then nothing else. They just let it go and by the time I get it in the high school, it’s too late. I’m having to learn it on-the-go. The consents and screenings are expired and we’re starting over. A total waste of time. I’ve seen a few middle school teachers who had it together. But they are few and far between.

The other issue; testing. I have railed on this endlessly for over 10 years and I’ll be doing it again in the not-to-distant future as our state spools up it’s GAA 2.0. While maybe slightly easier on us teachers, it’s a disaster in-the-making. Standardized tests can not accurately assess students who by definition are exceptional! But the people legislating this crap have no clue and no care about non-standard kids. They don’t even have much for the standard ones, whoever they are.

It’s hard to watch a parent cry. In the interest of full disclosure I have to admit I have made some parents cry. Mostly when I go to middle school meetings as the high school representative. Because middle school– you SUCK! Sorry, but someone has to say it.

It is true that middle school teachers are a bit clueless as to what awaits kids in the high school, and it’s hard to blame them for that ignorance except they could spend just a little time talking to us to get said clue. Too often they have been leading the parent on some sort of fantasy joy ride, telling them what the parent wanted to hear instead of the truth. And so, they all back away from the table during those 8th grade meetings and I have to speak some hard truth. Out come the tissues. I’m not trying to mean or cruel. I need the parent to trust me for the next 7-8 years and I can’t do it by spouting the same lies they have been hearing for the last 3-4. Telling the parent of an 8th grade child who can not count or write his name that he will be going to college in the next four years is simply cruel. And I’ve had to have that exact conversation with more than one parent at more than one middle school with the liars sitting right there. I was rather gobsmacked at having to be the one doing it when the middle school graduation coach is sitting right there. I have no idea what that person gets paid to do, but it wasn’t preparing students. At least the ones I was helping to transition.

If a student has even an outside chance at higher education, I’m all for aggressively pursuing those options. But we have to have some grounding in reality so we can tackle the real issues. And honestly, the present education system focused almost exclusively on college serves most students very poorly. Sure they can simplify an equation but they can’t count change, balance a checkbook or read a credit card bill. There are no common core standards addressing basic consumer math skills. This is why so many apply and even get admitted and then end up in debt for the rest of their adult lives for it.

Getting back to the IEP business, it should not be adversarial and at no time should anyone say “We aren’t going to change it.” If it needs to be changed, then change it. Stop kicking the can down the road, like congress.

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One Response to “Viral IEP Frustration”

  1. Anonymous October 14, 2018 at 11:08 am #

    As a middle school teacher of students with significant disabilities, I have to disagree with some of what you say. Parents don’t always understand or want to think about the future for their child with significant disabilities. It is not always the teacher who hasn’t shared the truth. I can only talk to the parent about ways to make progress or things to try. Parents are not always open to change or higher expectations/lower expectations. I have had IEPs not accepted and meetings re done. I always try and call the parent before the IEP to go over what the draft will look like. In reality, the parent can decide to not sign it and we can meet again. It’s a slippery slope.
    Dee

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