Why is it important that parents participate?
The Power of Parent Participation
Research has shown that, when schools and families work together, student learning improves. The evidence speaks for itself. There is also an improvement in: student outcomes, attitudes toward school, social skills, behavior, and the idea (the ability, the desire, the belief that they can) to challenge themselves.
What amazes me is that, the above is true, no matter the economic status, race/ethnicity, educational background, and age!
Because parent/family involvement is so powerful, it is a requirement of IDEA. Research has also shown that, by strengthening the role the parents play in their child's education, their education becomes more effective.
The law guarantees that parents have the right to consent and participate in EVERY ASPECT OF THEIR CHILD'S EDUCATION (including: evaluation, reevaluation, placement, the IEP, and provisions of FAPE).
Components of Parent Participation
There are eight major components of parent participation. It is important that I know them, as a future teacher (to inform and educate). It is also important that parents know them. Part of my job, as a teacher, will be to inform the parents/guardians of these components.
1. When are parents entitled to be present at meetings?
The question we should ask is, when are they not entitled to be present in meetings? Parents are always entitled to be present at meetings.
One of the six major principles of IDEA is the right of parents to participate in all educational decisions made regarding their child with a disability. The law is very specific about what schools (and me as a teacher) MUST do to ensure the parents have the opportunity to participate, IF they chose too.
- Parents have the right to participate in meetings related to the evaluation, identification, and educational placement of their child.
- Parents have the right to participate in meetings related to the stipulations of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to their child.
- Parents have the right to be members of any group that decides whether their child is a “child with a disability” and meets eligibility criteria for special education and related services.
- Parents have the right to be members of the team that develops, reviews, and revises the individualized education program (IEP) for their child as well as any group that makes placement decisions for their child. **PLEASE NOTE** If neither parent can attend the IEP meeting, the school must use other methods to ensure their participation, including individual calls, conference calls, video conferencing, or even Skype.
**IMPORTANT TO NOTE** Parents are not required to participate, however, that is their choice.
The guarantees of IDEA are that the parent be given the opportunity to participate. The rest is up to the parent (how much they participate, amounts may vary).
**PLEASE NOTE** Partnerships, cooperation, and collaboration between the schools and the families can become highly successful partnerships. If all parties act in a way that shows respect and consideration with the focus on what is best for the individual child, amazing experiences can happen.
2. Notification (including Prior Written Notice) and Scheduling
IDEA requires that the school notify parents in writing that it would like to evaluate their child (or that it is refusing to evaluate the child). This is called giving "prior written notice".
**PLEASE NOTE** It is not enough for the school to tell parents that it would like to evaluate their child or that it refuses to evaluate their child.
The school must also: explain why it wants to evaluate the child (or why it refuses), describe each evaluation procedure, assessment, record, or report used as a basis for requesting the evaluation (or refusing to conduct the evaluation), tell parents where they can go to get information about IDEA, tell parents what other options the school considered and why those were rejected, give a description of any other factors that are relevant to the school’s proposal (or refusal) to evaluate the child.
The school must send written notice to the parents as to the time and place of the meeting as well as the purpose of the meeting and who will be in attendance. **PLEASE NOTE** Parents may invite individuals who have knowledge or expertise about their child.
Scheduling is done at a time and a place that will accommodate all parties.
**IMPORTANT TO NOTE** The school must give the parents prior written notice before it may take action or refuse to take action with regard to: identifying the child as a “child with a disability,” evaluating the child, determining the child’s placement, changing it, anything regarding FAPE (before it provides FAPE, if it refuses to provide FAPE, changes or refuse to change what the FAPE involves-the services and supports the child receives).
**PLEASE NOTE** Prior written notice can come through email if the parents agree to that and if it is an option the school has available.
**IMPORTANT TO NOTE** All written correspondence from the school must be in a way that the general public can understand. It must be written in the native language of the parent or in the mode of communication that the parent normally uses (Braille or large print). If the parents' native language is not written language, the school must take steps to ensure that the notice is translated orally. The school must also make sure that the parent understands the content of the notice.
School must provide prior written notice in a reasonable amount of time (before the school plans to take or refuse to take actions related to the: identification, evaluation, educational placement of the child, or actions related to FAPE).
Actions the school plans to take include:
- when they would like to conduct an initial evaluation of the child,
- when they want to begin or change the child’s identification as a “child with a disability”,
- when the school proposes or refuses a particular educational placement for the child,
- when the school wants to change the child’s educational placement,
- when the school wants to change aspects of the special education or related services that the child is receiving,
- when the school refuses a request from the parents regarding the services their child is receiving, and
- when they deny the parents request for their child to be evaluated.
Prior written notice is also required to inform parents of their rights and protections under IDEA's procedural safeguards, contact information (for the parents) if they need help understanding their rights, and a description of the options that the IEP team considered and the reasons those options were rejected.
*What information is included in "Proir Written Notice"?
Prior written notice must include:
- a detailed and specific explanation of the action proposed (or refused) by the school.
- an explanation of why the school proposes or refuses to take the action.
- a description of each evaluation procedure, assessment, record, or report the school used as a basis for their decision.
- a statement that the parents of a child with a disability have protection under the procedural safeguards (of IDEA) and, how parents can obtain a copy of them.
- sources for parents to contact to get assistance in understanding the provisions.
- a description of other options that the IEP team considered and the reasons why those options were rejected.
- a description of other factors relevant to the school’s proposal or refusal.
**IMPORTANT TO NOTE** It has been said that "prior written notice serves as a vehicle for communication between schools and families".
3. Information Provided to the Parent
Information is provide to and consists of, what I spoke about relating to prior written notice (refer to the above information).
Other information provided to the parent:
- any communication about their child's needs.
- any information regarding their child's educational records.
- any information about moving their child.
- the who, what, where, when, and why pertaing to meetings.
It is extremely important that parents are well informed at all times about every aspect of their child's education. Even if we feel like the parents don't want the information so what's the point. It is my job as an educator, to give them the information, regardless. It is their right as a parent, to receive the information, regardless. Research has shown the value of parent participation in every aspect of their child's education. It is my job to help them feel welcome and important because, their voice matters.
4. Other Methods to Ensure Parent Participation
- Notify parents of the meeting early enough to ensure that they will have an opportunity to attend.
- Schedule the meeting at a mutually agreed upon time and place.
- Be sure that parents know and understand the details of the meeting such as time, place, purpose, agenda, and who will be in attendance.
- If parents are not able to attend, look into individual or conference calls as well as video calls.
- Have interpreters available for those who have hearing impairments or speak a native language.
Legalities to ensure parents are in attendance:
The IEP requirements "under Part B of the IDEA", emphasize the importance of three main concepts:
- The involvement (and progress) of each child with a disability in the "general education classroom which includes addressing the unique needs that arise because of the child's disability";
- The involvement and collaboration of parents, students, and regular and special education teachers, in order to make decisions that support the educational success of the individual student and their unique needs;
- The preparation of students with disabilities for employment and other post-school activities.
**IMPORTANT TO NOTE** Since the parents are not school employees and therefore are not "required" to attend, the law requires schools to invite them and encourage them to participate. Parent participation is extremely valuable and beneficial to the success of the student. However, it is the parents choice to participate or not.
I don't think it is enough to just send out one notice. I think schools should call parents and ask them if they receive the notice and get another, more personal, opportunity to express the importance of their participation in the meeting. Suggest to them other options if they can't physically be there. There is always a solution.
5. Conducting an IEP (team meeting without a parent in attendence)
**PLEASE NOTE** This is not a desirable outcome however, it can be done.
A meeting can take place without the parent in attendance if the school is unable to convince the parents to attend. The school must keep a record (documentation) of the attempts that it made to arrange a mutually agreed upon time and place.
- Copies of prior written notice
- Copies of any correspondence sent to parents and their responses (mail/email)
- Telephone calls and the results of those calls
- Any home visits that were made
**PLEASE NOTE** Schools must do all that they can to encourage the parents to participate. This includes suggesting conference calls or Skype. Documentation is of the utmost importance (just in case the situation goes to court).
6. Use of Interpreters (or other action as appropriate)
Interpreters (or other forms of communication) are used as necessary to ENSURE that parents completely understand the information. These could include: ESL, hearing impairment, vision impairment, etc.
The point is to make sure the parent COMPLETELY understands. It is critical to the education of their child. It can prevent legal ramifications, wasted time, and wasted money.
7. Parent Copy of Child's IEP (and other information)
Parents may receive a copy of their child's IEP and any other educational records, whenever they request, and at no charge to them.
8. Parent Requirements to Participate in the Special Education Identification and IEP Process
- Prior Notice § 300.503 The school must provide written notice in a language that can be understood by the parent. The notice must include reasons why they are proposing or refusing to initiate or change the: evaluation, identification, educational placement, or the FAPE of and for the child.
- Procedural Safeguards Notice § 300.504 The school must give parents a copy of "Parents' Rights"-a full detailed explanation of all the procedural safeguards under IDEA- at least one time each school year, at an initial referral, or at the parents request for evaluation as well as upon the receipt of the first due process complaint (filed by the parent) in a school year and any time the parent requests one.
- Public Information § 300.212 The school "must make available to parents of children with disabilities and to the general public, all documents relating to the eligibility of the State education agency under Part B of the IDEA".
- Consent § 300.9 The parent has been fully informed, understands and agrees, in writing, to a specific activity related to the provision of special education services for their child. Consent is voluntary and may be revoked at anytime.
- Parental § 300.300(a-c) The school must receive informed, written consent before the initial evaluation or a reevaluation of a child for special education services. § 300.300(d)(3) The school may not use a "parent’s refusal to consent to one service or activity to deny any other service, benefit, or activity".
- Eligibility Determination § 300.306 "Based on evaluation and assessment results, qualified professionals and the parent of the child determine whether the child is eligible for services."
- Parent as IEP Team Member § 300.321 The school must ensure that the IEP team for each eligible child includes a parent of the child.
- Parent Participation in IEP Team Meetings § 300.322 § 300.501(a) The school must "ensure that a parent of the child with a disability is at each IEP team meeting or are provided the opportunity to participate". The school must notify parents of IEP meetings early enough to make sure they have an opportunity to attend and must schedule IEP meetings at mutually agreed on times and places.
- Educational Placements § 300.327 § 300.501(c) The school must "ensure that a parent of each eligible child is a member of any group that makes decisions on the educational placement of their child".
- Alternative Means of Meeting Participation § 300.328 § 300.501(c)(3) The parent of a child with a disability and the school may agree to use alternative means of meeting participation, such as video conferences and conference calls
- Opportunity to Examine Records § 300.501(a) "The parent of a child with a disability must be allowed an opportunity to inspect and review all education records with respect to identification, evaluation, and educational placement of the child; and the provision of a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to the child".
- State Advisory Panel § 300.168 "The State advisory panel that provides policy guidance with respect to special education and related services must include parents of children with disabilities."
The Individual’s with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) states: "the parents of a child with a disability must be given the opportunity to participate in IEP meetings with respect to the identification, evaluation, educational placement, and the provision of FAPE to their child".
No Child Left Behind (NCLB) defines Parent Involvement as, “the participation of parents in regular, two-way, and meaningful communication involving student academic learning and other school activities".
- Assisting their child’s learning;
- Being actively involved in their child’s education at school; and
- Serving as full partners in their child’s education and being included in decision-making and in any meeting that will assist in the education of their child.
These two legalities are defined differently however, ideally, they would go hand in hand. Both of these legalities have different aspects that are equally important to the success of the student.
I found a website that listed ten reasons why parent involvement in a IEP is crucial (http://www.specialeducationadvisor.com/top-10-reasons-why-parent-involvement-is-crucial-for-iep-success/).
- Research has proven that parent involvement in education is a predictor of a child’s academic success;
- Communication between parents and the school will give us information as to whether any changes need to be made to the IEP;
- Respect between the school and parents will help everything run smoother;
- When parents keep track of their child's ability to complete class work and homework, they will gain information as to whether their child is understanding what they are being taught;
- When parents can understand and make sure their child's placement is appropriate, they will gain information that will let them know if their child is understanding the curriculum;
- Addressing academic discrepancies early will allow their child to not fall too far behind;
- Working on goals in school and at home (consistently) will help their child be successful in school;
- When parents keep track of their child’s services, they will know whether the school is being non-compliant;
- Parents and teachers share the same goal (I would hope) of preparing the child for "independent living, postsecondary education and employment"; and
- Their child’s future is at stake.
**PLEASE NOTE** Parent participation does not mean that the school does everything the parent wants or the parent does everything the school wants.
This is a partnership where everyone's thoughts are important and sharing is encouraged. After all, the goal is educating the child so that they may be successful in school and live a life to their full potential.
Based on my research, I agree that parent participation is VERY important. I believe that, when parents participate, their children have a greater chance for success. I hope that I will find a way to encourage parents to participate in their child's education. Through this class, I am learning ways to accomplish this. So far, I believe that gaining trust is a key factor. This can be done with nonverbal communication and by my ability to treat others with compassion, dignity, and respect.
Special Education Timeline
15 Days to: Proposed Assessment Plan - Time Counted From: Start counting days when the referral has been made - Exceptions: School vacation days (in excess of 5 days) are not counted unless the parent agrees to an extension (agreement in writing). If the referral is made in the last ten days of school, the PAP must be provided within the first 10 days of the start of the new school year.
At Least 15 Days to: Consideration and decision (on the parent's part) regarding proposed assessment plan. - Time Counted From: Receipt of proposed assessment plan - Exceptions: None
"Early enough to ensure an opportunity to attend" to: Give IEP notification - Time Counted From: Before IEP team meeting - Exceptions: None
60 Days to: Develop the IEP - Time Counted From: When the school receives the parent's written consent (for assessment). - Exceptions: School vacation days (in excess of 5 days) are not counted unless the parent agrees to an extension (agreement in writing). When referral is made 20 days or less prior to the end of the regular school year, the IEP must be developed within 30 days after the start of the next school year.
"As soon as possible" to: Implement the IEP - Time Counted From: IEP team meeting - Exceptions: None
30 Days to: Hold an IEP team meeting - Time Counted From: Receipt of written request from parent for IEP team meeting. (If parent makes oral request, school district must notify parent of the need for a written request and the procedures for filing written request.) - Exceptions: Not counting days between regular school sessions or school vacations more than five school days
30 Days to: Interim placement reviewed by IEP team and final recommendation made by the team - Time Counted From: Date of last IEP team meeting - Exceptions: None
Not less frequently than annually to: Address: the lack of progress toward annual goals and general education curriculum, reassessment results, parent's information about the student, the student's anticipated needs and any other relevant matters. Time Counted From: Date of last IEP team meeting - Exceptions: None
Special Education Timeline Continued
5 business days to/for: Parent to receive copies of student records - Time Counted From: Oral or written requests by parent - Exceptions: None
5 working days to/for: The former school sends special education records - Time Counted From: Request from current school - Exceptions: None
3 years to: Reassess - Time Counted From: Date of last three year assessment and IEP - Exceptions: If the school "determines that the educational or related services needs... of the student warrant a reassessment, or if the student's parents or teacher requests a reassessment".
When student is not progressing an IEP team meeting is held. No exceptions.
Beginning at age 16 or earlier and annually thereafter a statement of needed transition services (a coordinated set of activities) is to be done. No exceptions.
At least every 6 months to: Review IEP for student in residential placement by the IEP team - Time Counted From: Previous IEP - Exceptions: None
2 years to: File for a due process hearing - Time Counted From: "Date the initiating party knew or had reason to know the facts underlying the basis for the request." - Exceptions: This time limitation does not apply if the school misrepresented or withheld information from the parent.
30 days for: Initial IEP meeting - Time Counted From: A determination that the child is in need of special education and/or related services - Exceptions: None
There are specific and important timelines that we must adhere to. It is important that I, as a future educator, know what these timelines are. When I know and understand them, I can relay this important and critical information to parents.
I know from previous court cases that I have researched in this class, that not adhering to timelines can be detrimental to the school, the family and most importantly, to the student. There are legal ramifications if timelines are not met. Time and money is wasted. Students can be deprived of a free and appropriate public education as well as their right for a meaningful and beneficial education.
Pitfalls to Avoid (Troubleshooting and Handling Complaints)
- Know and understand my students (and their parents)
- Keep the lines of communication open
- Use compassion and empathy (put myself in their shoes and try to understand where they are coming from)
- Use professional and welcoming nonverbal communication (as well as verbal)
- Know and understand the information so that I can be helpful to parents and inform them
- Keep parents informed at all times
- Handle questions and complaints in a timely manner
- If I dont know the answer, help them find it