IEP meetings are some of the most important facets of an educator’s job. Ensuring that appropriate placement and services are being provided for some our most at-risk students should always be a top priority. It is vital that these meetings are productive, collaborative, and student focused. Sadly, too often these meetings get derailed by emotions, politics, and a fundamental difference of beliefs.
Here are five ways to ensure that your next IEP meeting runs smoothly:
- Frontload Parents with Information Before The Meeting
Parents do not want to be surprised during an IEP meeting, especially in front of the entire IEP team. Results of assessments should be discussed with parents before the meeting takes place. The Special Education Teacher, Support Provider, and/or School Psychologist should call or meet with the family to discuss results / qualifications ahead of time so that they have time to digest the information before the meeting. This way, they can think of questions to ask without being rushed.
- Don’t Speak in Complicated Education Terms
I have worked with parents from all backgrounds. There is a common thread that runs through all of them – they want the very best for their child. Parents need to be an integral part of the conversation. Make sure they understand everything that is being said by using layman’s terms instead of complicated education terms or acronyms. You don’t want to tell a parent that their RSP child scored in the Standard Not Met category, or a level 4, of the ELA portion of the CAASPP and that you are recommending them for more MTSS / RTI.
- Set Time Limits for Meetings
I have a firm belief that nothing productive happens in meetings after an hour has passed. Having a clear time frame will help the team move the meeting along, keeping side bar conversations to a minimum so that the real energy can be spent focused on the child.
- Bring Data and Work Samples to the Meeting
Parents want to see tangible evidence of their child’s progress or regression. Bringing in work samples, assessments, and behavior trackers will give parents an opportunity to see concrete examples of their child’s efforts. These samples of work and behavior bring real data to the table. Without that, an IEP team is just speaking in opinions and theories.
Yes, smile. Always remember that you are meeting with a parent who wants the best for their child and that they are possibly anxious about what the future holds for their family. For initial assessment IEP meetings, parents are in unfamiliar waters. Put them at ease. Even if you don’t agree, always remember to smile, be pleasant, and listen to their concerns. Discourse doesn’t always have to be unpleasant.
Dr. David Franklin, CEO of The Principal’s Desk, is an experienced school administrator, education professor, curriculum designer, and presenter. Dr. Franklin has presented at national and international education conferences as is available for school and district professional development sessions. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.