Ever wonder why IEP meetings all sound the same even though they’re designed to serve the needs of very diverse students? Let’s change the narrative. Here are five ways administrators can make IEP meetings productive, synergetic, and data driven to give diverse students exactly what they need.
1. Fill the gaping hole in professional development.
According to National Center for Education Statistics data from 2015, 62.5 percent of all students with disabilities spend most of their day in the general education classroom. So general education staff need to know how to work with students with disabilities. But in order to be truly effective in the IEP process, they must also be knowledgeable of the IEP itself. Consider a sustained professional development model that takes place over a year, rather than a one-and-done, to maximize efficacy.
Pro tip: Look to your district’s special education office to provide this professional development training.
2. Include special education data and teachers in the PLC process.
School professional learning communities (PLC) often trend toward data analysis and instructional efficacy. These collaborative sessions can improve when special education teachers are involved, too. Special education teachers can help analyze assessment data. Also, they can assist in making sure that general education teachers include appropriate strategies while working with students with disabilities.
3. Review progress monitoring programs.
Many districts require that any programs purchased or used by their students be research based. Yet the special education teacher is often responsible for monitoring whether students meet IEP goals. Progress monitoring methods should be reliable and valid. Therefore, a school and district should also ensure that special education teachers have the resources and knowledge they need to effectively and informatively monitor progress.
4. Prioritize common planning.
We all know the value of common planning time for co-teaching teams. Do your teaching teams also review progress monitoring data for IEP goals and objectives? IEP goals are essential to the IEP. But they’re often an afterthought. Effective IEP goals, the goals that detail what the student should accomplish over the next year, should be derived from data and progress monitoring throughout the year. If your teams aren’t reviewing progress throughout the year, then they won’t know if their instructional strategies are working.
5. Establish norms for IEP meetings.
Establishing school-wide norms for IEP meetings will help school staff effectively communicate with parents and students (and each other). Consider asking parents for input to help inform your meeting norms. They’ll have valuable input. Also think about making attendance for entire meetings mandatory. Avoid the drop-in IEP meeting, where members come, quickly discuss the student’s progress in their class, and then leave. As a result, you’ll run a focused IEP meeting that is centered on students.
IEP meetings can seem tedious and ineffective. But they don’t have to be. By implementing the above ideas, administrators can ensure that IEP meetings are constructive and also a great use of their staff’s time. And that inevitably helps students.
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