Over the past 13 years, I estimate I have sat in on more than 300 Individualized Education Program meetings, also known as IEP meetings. They are celebrations of learning, demonstrations of the dedication we put into our students, but they can also be intimidating. IEP teams operate under a team approach in that each member of the team has an equal voice, including the parent. It’s imperative to come to the table ready to do your part.
The number one question I get from my general education colleagues when an IEP meeting is coming up is “What should I bring?” So, let’s take a look at the top three things you should bring with you to an IEP meeting!
A Cumulative Folder
Each student has a folder or some data collection that tracks them from year to year. This collection of data tells their grades, enrollment data, and attendance, and it also contains progress reports and comments from previous teachers.
Bringing this data to the meeting allows the team to discuss trends in the student’s learning and look at a student’s educational history. It allows the team to determine patterns of strengths and weaknesses. Looking at the attendance record is also an important part of the discussion. The IEP team wants to ensure that there is truly evidence of a learning disability as opposed to learning challenges stemming from inconsistent attendance.
Work Samples and Data
Not all the members of the team will be classroom teachers. They could be itinerant service providers like speech pathologists, school psychologists, or social workers. When you come to the team as the general education teacher, you’re essentially operating as the expert of the content that is being delivered to the students. Work samples allow the team to see how students are performing when they are charged with completing grade level tasks.
In many schools, students switch teachers for different content areas, so it is important to collaborate with your team to ensure that you are able to represent how the student does in all aspects of your grade level. Any additional data, including formal and informal assessments, can offer great insight to the team about the student’s learning.
A Way to Take Notes
The IEP team comes with a wealth of knowledge. In addition to knowledge from specialists in the field, you also gain the chance to sit down with families and learn more about the student from their perspective. Everyone at the table can share important information, exchange valuable contact information, and discuss tips and strategies. Not capturing those notes is a missed opportunity to help your student. It is also likely that more than one IEP meeting will occur for this student, so take notes to reflect on the team’s conversations and prepare for those future meetings.
Our students are so lucky to have us as dedicated teachers to advocate for their learning, and although IEP team meetings may seem intimidating, they don’t have to be. Now that you know how to prepare for the meeting, you can focus on being a voice for your diverse learning community.