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IEP Help For Failing Grades

Federal Guidelines

On November 15, 2015, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), a branch of the United States Department of Education, issued a policy guidance letter that addresses the district’s responsibility for providing a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) stating:

The special education and related services, supplementary aids and services, and other supports in the child’s IEP must be designed to enable the child to advance appropriately toward attaining his or her annual IEP goals and to be involved in, and make progress in, the general education curriculum based on the State’s academic content standards for the grade in which the child is enrolled.

Very simply stated, this means your child’s IEP must align with the state standards for her grade level and that the supports in the IEP must enable her to access her curriculum. If she is failing her academics, it can be presumed that there is something preventing her from accessing her curriculum. Therefore, there are two important questions that must be asked: “What is preventing her from accessing the curriculum?”  and “How can the IEP team redesign the IEP to enable your daughter to access her curriculum?”

If your child receives a report card that has failing grades, be proactive and request an IEP meeting to address your concerns surrounding your child’s grades. Make sure that your request is in writing and be sure to state who you would like to attend the meeting. If your child is in middle school or high school and failing specific courses, request that the course teacher be present at the IEP meeting.

Presenting Your Concerns to the IEP Team

Whether a student is in general education or special education, failing grades are a sign that something is wrong. If your child is in special education and receiving failing grades, it is time for the IEP team to meet and review your child’s educational program. Questions that should be addressed at this meeting are:

  • Is your child progressing on her goals?
  • Is your child receiving appropriate services to help her access the academic curriculum?
  • Is your child making progress in the general education curriculum?
  • Are the accommodations and modification being implemented across all settings?
  • Are additional accommodations or modifications needed to help your child access her curriculum?

These question will help the team in reviewing the IEP and discovering the areas that aren’t working and that need to be addressed.

Use these question to prepare for the IEP meeting. Review your child’s progress toward her goals and academics. Do you see a decline? If you do, be sure to bring the documentation to the meeting. This may include current grades, as well as older report cards.

As you present the information, state the facts of the situation (using data such as grades), what you feel might be attributing to the failing grades (is the IEP being implemented across all settings?), offer any suggestions you have (does the team need to collect data?), and ask the team for their perspective and what suggestions they have. This approach will open the door for a collaborative effort where everyone can work together to review the IEP and make any necessary changes.

Monitoring The Plan

Do not end the IEP meeting without having the following questions answered:

  • Who is going to monitor the plan?
  •  How is it going to monitored?
  • What type of data will be collected to monitor the effectiveness of the plan?
  • Who will be responsible for collecting the data?
  • How will you be informed of how it is working?
  • When will the team meet again to review?

You want to make sure that there is an accountability aspect to the plan and that you will be part of this. Before the meeting ends, make sure that you know who will be reporting the progress of the plan to you and at what intervals. Will you be receiving a weekly update via a phone call or an e-mail? Make sure that you have that person’s contact number in case you have a concern.

Plan Has Been Implemented But Student Is Still Failing

If your child is still failing, the first thing you want to do is make sure that the plan is being implemented with fidelity. You want to make sure that everything in the IEP is being followed, and that it is being followed across all educational settings. If it is, then it is time to reconvene an IEP meeting and have the team review the plan. Are there any additional supports or modifications that could be added? Does your child need a one-to-one aide to help access her curriculum? Or, is a smaller class setting needed to adequately provide the supports your child needs to access the curriculum.

If a more restrictive setting is being considered for your child, make sure that the data shows that she has been provided with the needed supports in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) and is unable to successfully access her curriculum. If the school staff is able to present data that clearly shows this, then it is time to discuss moving her to a more restrictive environment so that she can be successful. If you feel that the district has not provided sufficient data and they are still insisting that she needs a more restrictive environment, consult with an advocate. An advocate will review the data, review your child’s present levels,  review her academic abilities and will be able to advise you if a more restrictive environment is appropriate. If they find that a more restrictive environment is not appropriate, the advocate will be able to work with the IEP team to develop new ideas to support your daughter in her current academic setting.

As a parent, it is important that you trust your instincts about your child. You know her best! If you find that your instinct is leading you in a different direction than what the IEP team is recommending, then consult a special education advocate. They will help you put your parent instinct into educational jargon and work with the IEP team to create the program your child needs.

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