Thursdays on the blog, Chuck Noe will be sharing posts from his Comments that Parents Hear series.  Chuck will be checking in throughout the week to respond to your comments and questions…

Recall the Law

” Sec.  300.320  Definition of individualized education program.

(a) General.  As used in this part, the term individualized education program or IEP means a written statement for each child with a disability that is developed, reviewed, and revised in a meeting in accordance with Sec. Sec.  300.320 through 300.324, and that must include– …  (3) A description of–

(i) How the child’s progress toward meeting the annual goals described in paragraph (2) of this section will be measured; and

(ii) When periodic reports on the progress the child is making toward meeting the annual goals (such as through the use of quarterly or other periodic reports, concurrent with the issuance of report cards) will be provided;”.

The Response

The law does not list any specific methods of measuring progress.  Teacher observation is one way to measure progress but it can be very subjective, which Webster defines as “placing an emphasis on one’s own moods, attitudes and opinions”.  An example of subjective teacher observation might be “I think Johnny has a better attitude today” or “I think Janie’s handwriting has improved”.  Although it might be important to have the teacher’s observations as PART of the measure of progress, you will probably need additional “objective” information.  Webster dictionary defines “objective” as “not influenced by personal feelings or prejudice, unbiased.”  “Objective” measurement might look like this: “I know Johnny is making progress toward demonstrating a positive attitude in the classroom because he made eye contact with me 4 times today, raised his hand and asked 2 questions,“ etc. or “Let’s look at Janie’s handwriting work samples over the last 3 weeks to determine what progress she has made in writing legibly”.

One way to address the issue of “teacher observation” is to say something like: “Can you describe to me what you specifically will be looking for when you are observing to see if Joe is behaving appropriately in the classroom?”  When the teacher lists that she will be looking for Joe to stay in his own space, ask permission before leaving the classroom, address the teachers by “Mr. or Mrs.”, use his pencil to write on his paper and refrain from peeling the outside off layer by layer, etc. you can respond with, “So you will be keeping track of how many times you observe each of those behaviors so we can document how well he is learning from your instruction?” (That then becomes “data collection”, a another way to measure progress!)  It is very important to make sure that you have a good Present Level of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance, PLAAFP) in each area so that the ARD/IEP team can decide what is “sufficient progress” in each area.  For example if you haven’t established how many times Joe currently leaves the classroom without permission, it will be hard to determine if he making progress.  Another important step is to write the goals so that they are measurable and specific.

A few other ways to measure progress are:

Standardized Tests:  This could be a specific test that is given at the beginning of each school year, such as the Brigance, so that you the scores can be compared to document progress.

Peer Interviews:  If you want to know if Emily is making progress on her goal of “initiating play interactions with a peer” you might want to ask her classmates, “Mark, has Emily ever come up and asked you to play with her on the playground”?

Parent Observation/Data Collection/Interview:  If a student has a goal to feed himself with a spoon and Mom can observe him at home making progress, then we begin to see not only that he is mastering the skill but that he is demonstrating it in a variety of settings.  Remember that your child has a right to make progress that is sufficient to enable them to achieve the goals by the timelines in the IEP.

Possible Comments for Parents to Make in Response

“I/we know that my child has difficulty with ( ….).  I do not see that the PLAAFP shows his current performance level in this area so that we can decide what is “sufficient progress” in this area.  We need to add this information to the present levels statement.”  If the team is not able to do this then, you can request that another meeting be scheduled after someone has been able to collect and document your child’s current level of performance.

“Please describe to me what you specifically will be looking for when you observe my child regarding his performance on this goal?”  “I am requesting that (data collection, work samples, standardized tests, peer interviews, parent observation/data collection/interview, or x be used in addition to teacher observation.”

“I am requesting that the performance level be reported to me every X weeks.”  (I recommend that this be done every 2-3 weeks, especially in the beginning.  If progress is not being made, that may indicate that a change in instruction, techniques or methods is needed.  Waiting 6-9 weeks can mean a lot of wasted time with actions that are not working.)

This article was written by Chuck Noe, PRN Education Specialist.