Thursday, March 24, 2011

Excusing IEP Team Members

There are specific stakeholder positions which must be represented at annual IEP meetings.  Each person, through their respective role,  serves a specific purpose with their attendance in securing legal compliance and ensuring efforts to make decisions in the best interest of the IEP child.  Specific people may not attend every school  IEP meeting; however, each stakeholder position must be represented unless excused.  Before we discuss excusal, note that the required members of the IEP team include:
  • The child's parent(s)
  • At least 1 of the child's regular education teachers
  • At least 1 of the child's special education service providers
  • A school district representative who is qualified to make decisions about curriculum and district resources
  • A person who can interpret implications of evaluation results
  • If your child is 14 or older, someone who can discuss transitional services
  • The child (if appropriate)
  • Other who may have knowledge of the child or who may be invited to attend by the parent or school
A single person could meet more than one criteria above. For example, a special education teacher could serve as the person who can also explain and interpret implications of evaluation results.  Any team member required to attend who cannot attend must be excused by proper documentation and only if the parent agrees to sign off on such excusal.  A parent does not have to agree to excuse any member of the IEP team.  According to the law, an IEP team member can only be excused under two circumstances:  if their area of the curriculum or related service will not be discussed or modified during the meeting, or if the same person cannot attend and their area is going to be discussed or modified during the IEP meeting, their input must be submitted in written form so it can be discussed at the IEP meeting.  As a side-note, the biggest problem presented by an absent person but a submitted report is that little, if any, discussion can take place regarding the written report.  Questions are either left unanswered (which is not recommended) or another IEP meeting must be scheduled.  This delays possible services for the IEP child if changes are needed. 

The excusal notice must be presented to the parent at the beginning of the IEP meeting or discussed ahead of time.  If the excusal is approved by the parent, and signed at the IEP meeting, the IEP meeting may continue.  The excusal form is a part of the child's new IEP paperwork and contains the name of the excused party and indicates if written information is needed by the party for the IEP meeting.  If the parent refuses to excuse a party from the IEP, the meeting must be rescheduled.  There is no exception to this law.

As a parent of an IEP child, I strongly encourage parents to weigh the possible consequences to your child before you agree to excuse a stakeholder.  Your fundamental rule must be to NOT excuse any IEP member from the annual meeting regarding your child's educational needs. Of course, there are always going to be emergency situations, and those can be handled on a case by case basis.

Sources Cited
Wright, Peter; Wright, Pamela; O'Conner, SandraAll About IEPs.  Harbor House Press, 2010, pages 10,14
Siegel, Lawrence.  The Complete IEP Guide 6th Edition.  Nolo, 2009, pages 105-106.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Understanding Instructions

To complete a test, quiz, or even a basic assignment, following directions and understanding tasks is an important step in academic success.  If you do not know what is expected of you, strong performance is not likely. Knowing what words mean is critical for students.  The website "About Homework" is a wonderful resource for students and parents regarding this and other topics.  I have taken this basic information from an article titled, "21 Question Words from Tests."  You can view this article at

  • Analyze:  Explain a concept or process step by step.  This type of question is common in all subject areas, but it is most often asked in science and history courses.  An analysis question is usually an essay question rather than objective in nature.
  • Compare:/Contract:  Show likenesses and differences when you compare two events, theories, or processes. These questions typically appear in science, literature, and social studies courses but can also be found in many elective courses as well.
  • Demonstrate: If you are asked to demonstrate, you must provide proof of your answer by using an example. A demonstration could be a physical action, a visual illustration, or a written statement.
  • Diagram: Demonstrate your answer by drawing a chart or other visual element to illustrate your points. These questions are central to many courses, especially math and science.
  • Enumerate: Enumerating is providing a list in a particular order. When you enumerate a list of items, you may need to specify why items go in a particular order. This is often asked for on science and social studies tasks.
  • Examine: When asked to examine a topic, you will use your own judgment to explore (in writing) a topic and comment on significant elements, events, or acts. Most likely you will be asked to provide your opinion and explain how or why you came to your conclusions.
  • Explain: Provide an answer that gives a “why” response. This type of question is great for determining if a true understanding of a concept has been reached.  This is a question that is great for all subject areas but especially in science.
  • Interpret: This is an extremely challenging task as interpreting calls for the ability to read between the lines and draw conclusions based on what you read.  You will be expected to explain the meaning of an act, action, or passage in an interpretation.
  • Justify: If you are asked to justify something, you will be expected to use examples or evidence to show why (in your opinion) it is correct. You must provide reasons for your conclusions and opinions.
  • Prove: To prove an answer, you must use evidence (this could be numbers) or reasoning to solve a problem. Tests that require proof normally appear on science or math exams.
  • Relate: When you are asked to "relate" you are asked to show some sort of relationship between two items or events. This is a task often asked for on literature or social studies exams.
This is not a comprehensive list of task performance terms, but it is a list of the most common question that you will be asked to be able to do throughout high school.  These are critical thinking challenges. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Danger of Procrastination

"That assignment is not due for another week."  "I can do this tomorrow in study hall." "I don't want to do my vocabulary now.  I just want to relax."
Procrastinating is a vice we all face from time to time.  There are things you should do, however, to guard yourself from allowing procrastinating to become a habit and causing problems in our lives.

Procrastination occurs when we put off a task we need to do (usually not something we want to do or we'd get it done immediately).  We typically find other things to do that we either enjoy better or think are a higher priority than the task at hand.

Learn to be sensitive to the "pulls" that are tempting you to sway from the task at hand.  You cannot stop a habit if you fail to recognize the characteristics of that habit.
If you find yourself doing any of the following, these are common procrastination signs:
  • Crave a snack as soon as you sit down to study.
  • Fail to have the necessary supplies to complete the task when you sit down to do it.
  • Spend too much time (days) to decide on a topic.
  • Carry books around all the time, but never open them to study.
  • Get angry if a parent asks “Have you started yet?”
  • Find numerous "reasons" to not do your work.

Don't be too critical of yourself if you recognize any of these signs in yourself.  You are a perfectly normal student.  You do need to do what you can to avoid allowing procrastination to become more than just an occasional challenge.
  • Set a deadline and stick with it.  There will be many little interrupters that could sway you from the task.  As a student, you must train yourself to finish the task at hand first.  It may seem ridiculous that you cannot work on multiple tasks at the same time, but you need to train yourself to finish what you started.  Part of how others view your dependability will come from your commitment and success at completing a task.
  • In order to complete a large task, set small goals.  Chunking a large assignment is completely acceptable and sometimes preferable.   Taking small steps helps keep you from getting overwhelmed by the big picture.  In addition, motivation for the next step can come from the feeling of accomplishment from finishing a previous step.
  • Set a specific time to complete a task.  Then treat this time as you would an appointment.
  • Set up your own "reward" system.  "If I get XYZ accomplished, I can treat myself to an ice cream cone or an I-tunes card."
  • Appoint someone as a "check-in" person.  Having someone you trust to check in on your progress may be just the help you need to keep focused. 
Procrastination is not a vice that has to become a problem.  Fixing any problems you may have in high school will help you be more successful when you go to college or even into the workforce.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

9th Grade Basic CORE Information

Core classes are courses in high school that are a mandatory part of the curriculum.  They are required for graduation, and most core classes are what colleges look at when determining GPA and/or evaluating the rigor of a student's high school career.  Colleges prefer to see more than the required core classes and also put a heavy emphasis on advanced coursework, even if the final performance is not "A" work.  The thought behind this is that a student is willing to take a chance and push himself/herself outside of what is simply required.  Standard core courses in Iowa are the following:

Math: Four years with a typical sequence of Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II; many schools in Iowa use the integrated mathematics format which can present evaluation challenges for colleges due to its integrated curriculum of algebra, geometry, calculus, trigonometry, statistics, and discreet math in each couse.
English: Four years of content focusing on speaking, reading, listening, writing, and viewing; most schools in Iowa require a semester of speech as a separate component of the English curriculum
Social Sciences: Three years of content including 1 semester of government and 1 year of American History. 
Science: Three years (4 years is preferred) with courses in biology, earth and physical science; other opportunities to complete the requirements may include advanced biology, anatomy, physics.chemistry.

PE is required in Iowa but is not considered a core class.  In addition a foreign language may also be required for a district but is not considered a core class.

When entering high school, all freshmen should look at a four year plan and keep an open mind for changes over the four years in coursework.  Get off to a strong start and arrange a schedule, when possible, with additional courses in the early years.  Check in with the counselor at least twice each year to review progress and discuss possible changes to a schedule.

Be informed!  That is the key.