How Parents of Children and Youth Are Involved in the Assessment Process (page 2)
Addressing Parent Questions and Concerns
In the prereferral system for special education services, there is an assistance team consisting of regular classroom teachers and special educators in the school building meets to discuss parent or teacher concerns about a student’s behavior or academic work and, following a problem-solving approach, plans one or more interventions.
During the implementation of the intervention, the teacher or, when appropriate, the parent, carefully records its effectiveness. If the first intervention is not successful, the team will identify and implement additional interventions and record the results.
Screening Questions and Decisions
The law mandates screening for all students enrolling in school for the first time and for students who move into a new school district. During the child’s school career, teachers will contact parents regarding their concerns or parents can contact school personnel with their questions as the Snapshot of Alexandra illustrates. Physicians, too, refer a student for evaluation.
Teachers should encourage parents to discuss any questions or concerns that they have throughout the school year. Teachers can assist parents by asking informal questions such as, “What would be helpful for me to know about Alexandra?” or leading questions such as, “Tell me what Alexandra likes to do at home.”
Referral and Decisions for the Team
When questions about a student persist, the student assistance team completes a written referral form and forwards the referral to the coordinator of the special services team. This team consists of the student’s parents, school personnel, and the student, when possible. The team may be known as the IEP team or child study team.
The special services team receives the formal referral delineating questions about the student, which comes directly from the child’s parents, teachers, student assistance team, or the student, who may self-refer. The special services team makes decisions regarding assessment procedures and develops an assessment plan. This plan describes questions the team is trying to answer about the student’s special needs, the tests and procedures the team will use, and the individuals who will complete the assessments. The parent or guardian must sign a written permission before the assessment process begins. As team members, parents contribute information to this process. They may provide copies of medical records and/or educational reports. Parents frequently add observations of the student at home and in the community. They also assist the team in gathering information by using informal tools such as checklists, rating scales, or video recordings.
Eligibility Questions and Decisions
In this step of the assessment process the team addresses the following questions: Does the student meet the criteria for a disability? Does the student need special education to learn and to develop? Parents and other team members must decide if the student’s special needs meet the eligibility requirements as described in IDEA.
The IEP team plans an individual assessment to determine if the child has a disability and to determine what the educational needs of the child are. The child is assessed in all areas related to the suspected disability, including:
- Social and emotional status
- General intelligence
- Academic performance
- Motor abilities
The information collected during the assessment process determines the decisions regarding eligibility. Parents provide helpful information and a unique perspective.
Parents can provide information informally through discussions or contribute information on a standardized instrument. There are numerous instruments that solicit parent information as part of the profile. An example of one of these instruments is the Child Behavior Checklist (Achenbach, 2001).
Questions and Decisions in Planning Services
If the team decides that the student is eligible for special services, the next step involves questions and decisions regarding the student’s program and writing the IEP. One of the rights of parents is to participate with other team members in planning the special education services that their child will receive. During the IEP meeting, the team addresses several questions: What types of special education does the student need? Where should the student receive the services? How should planners coordinate and evaluate the services?
Team members may decide to place the student in the regular classroom with the special education teacher providing consulting services. On the other hand, some parents may question whether their child will receive as much support in the regular classroom as in the resource room. Parents and other team members will need to discuss these difficult questions and make decisions based on the assessment process. The IEP team has 30 days to complete the writing of the IEP after the student qualifies for special education. In planning services the team will make decisions about the types of services that will be provided, including related services.
Questions and Decisions in Monitoring Services
Once the plan is in place, communication between home and school is very important in monitoring services. The assessment questions during this step include: Is the student making progress? Does the program need to be modified? Teachers and parents will monitor student progress by observing the student’s work and behavior or by completing informal assessments. For example, parents, as well as the student’s teachers, can use a log book to enter comments about daily or weekly progress. These informal tools that parents utilize are helpful to the team in monitoring the student’s individualized program.
Questions and Decisions in Evaluating Services
Evaluating the special education services that students with disabilities receive involves two types of decision making: First, the team addresses questions regarding the student; and second, school personnel focus on questions regarding the overall program. Parents should have the opportunity to assist in both types of evaluations.
Evaluating Student Gains
Parents must receive written notification of each IEP meeting concerning their child. The team will address questions regarding whether the student is making gains or if the program needs changing. They will review the part of the IEP form that lists the annual goals and objectives, if appropriate, and discuss the student’s progress. Teams will need to consider whether the student still requires special service(s) to benefit from the education program. Parents may actively participate in the evaluation of student gains by completing checklists, videotapes, parent reports, or other recording sheets. Let’s examine some specific examples of information that parents share during team meetings:
- A father shares information with the team regarding his son’s behavior after school and on the weekend, while the teacher shares information regarding her observations of the student in the lunch room and on the playground.
- A grandmother records by audiotape information about homework habits and other behaviors at home.
- A mother and special education teacher report information that they have compiled together, using observations of the student.
The Three-Year Review
The IEP team must reevaluate students every three years, or more often if the parent(s) or school personnel believes it is necessary. The IEP team meets to review existing evaluation data and identifies what additional data is needed. Once team members gather additional assessment information, they reconvene to discuss the results. Based on the reevaluation assessment information, team members make a decision about the student’s eligibility for special education. If the team makes the decision that the student is no longer eligible, then the student exits the special services system. If the team makes the decision that the student continues to be eligible for special services, then the next step is to write the new IEP.
Evaluating the Education Program
As consumers, parents can contribute valuable information in this assessment step because they are most familiar with the day-to-day operation of the program. Parents commonly provide feedback to school personnel through the use of informal instruments.
© ______ 2007, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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