One year ago today, the United States Supreme Court published its decision in Endrew F v. Douglas County School District, a case which looked closely at the purpose of and established clearer standards for IEPs.
As the parent of a child on an IEP, the decision was an amazing read. Full of compassion and understanding, the Court said things like
An IEP should be specifically designed to meet a child’s unique needs with an individualized education plan
Every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives
In no uncertain terms, the Court was telling schools that check-the-box IEPs that accomplished nothing year after year were not acceptable, and did not provide eligible children with their guaranteed “Free and Appropriate Public Education” (FAPE).
Now there are tools available that parents can use at IEP meetings which track the Court’s decision.
Using the Endrew F. Advocacy Toolkit, which was developed by Understood, parents can download a list of eight talking points that might come up at IEP meetings, as well as a worksheet with which to take notes on key points and responses related to each talking point.
The Toolkit also contains links to helpful government resources, such as the Department of Education’s FAQs about the Endrew F. decision, and a link to the text of the published decision.
When I reviewed the Toolkit I was impressed with how well-researched it was, and how easy it was to use.
The eight questions in the Talking Points tool are clearly laid out in an easy-to-read format, with supporting information available if parents are asked about more detail for each talking point.
The Worksheet Tool is set up with concerns that parents might have, followed by the specific Talking Point that applies. Then there are areas to list examples related to concerns, and space to write under each.
Together, they are an easy-to-use guide for parents to navigate IEP meetings.
There are a few things I might change in the Toolkit, and things that I might do differently with it in an IEP meeting.
I would change some of the Talking Points to questions instead of statements, and I would make those questions not be ones that could be answered by a yes or no.
This puts the onus on the school to be able to clearly articulate what they are doing and in detail.
Talking Point 1: How do the proposed services and supports in the IEP help my child meet grade level standards?
Talking Point 2: Please explain how the IEP is “reasonably calculated” to help my child make progress
Talking Point 3: What behavioral services and supports that my child needs in order to learn are included in the IEP? And then follow up with Who and When questions to get as much detail as possible.
Talking Point 7: What are the challenging objectives my child has the chance to meet?
I would also include a note for myself on the worksheet that each goal would have to have a clear explanation of
- how each accommodations will achieve each goal
- what success looks like for each
- how the goals will be measured and when, and
- how often I would receive reports on progress on the goals
To be clear, my ideas of how I might tweak these tools do not in any way take away from the value of these tools or my high opinion of them. I highly recommend them.