For all districts around the country that did not completely close, Special Education has not stopped. Districts and Special Education teachers have scrambled to ensure students are receiving services and supports. For those that may not be involved in Special Education or how the United States provides services for students with disabilities, Individualized Education Plans (IEP) are documents that summarize a student’s Special Education services, goals, and information. Each year, annual IEP meetings must be held, which are meetings of service providers, parents, and stakeholders in a student’s education meet to determine how the student is doing and how to adjust their IEP to best facilitate their learning. There are federally mandated timelines and procedures that must take place to ensure the IEP meeting is conducted, written, and implemented. Thus, the IEP document is the basis of all K-12 education services in the United States.
Just days ago, the United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVoss, stated no waivers would be provided to amend the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) during this time (Note: IDEA is the federal law that specifies federal mandates that must occur related to IEP’s in their creation and implementation). Therefore, districts still need to provide IEP services and continue holding IEP meetings as if school was being held normally. Each district has its own policies regarding IEP meetings that are extremely important to review before holding online IEP meetings. This may be intimidating at first, but they can be held like any other IEP meeting we would be holding in brick and mortar K-12 schools. Ultimately, the goal in this post is to provide several recommendations on how to get ready for an online IEP meeting in an efficient manner and then tips and tricks for holding an effective online IEP meeting. It’s also important to note that many of these tips are translatable to IEP meetings that occur in-person.
Tips for Getting Ready for an Online IEP Meeting
- Ensure you have a Google Drive or folder available for all documents and IEP’s relating to the student. Keep all of the documents in one place to stay organized. Digital organization is key.
- Utilize Google Forms or SurveyMonkey to develop a survey to ask teachers questions regarding the student’s present levels. Include questions relating to each section of the present levels page.
- Use the student information system your school is using to analyze the demographic data, grade book, and transcript of the student to help complete the information page, transition two, present levels, and goal progress.
- Gain access to view student work in their online learning management system they are using in their academic classes (i.e., Seesaw, Google Classroom, Schoology, Canvas, etc.). This can allow case managers to gain access to work samples of the student to help with present levels and goal progress.
- Email your student/parents a transition survey (if they are in high school) for them to complete to help complete transition page one.
- Draft the majority of the IEP and send out parts of the IEP beforehand for the parent to review (follow your district’s rules regarding drafting IEP’s before meetings).
- Schedule the meeting at least 2 weeks in advance, if possible. Use Google Voice, email, or use *67 to call parents/guardians to schedule the meeting.
- Invite the student if they are of middle school and high school age. Even though it’s an online meeting, they need to be included because it is their IEP to support them.
- Follow up email with pertinent documents. You will be required to send them a follow-up email after you have scheduled the IEP on the calendar with pertinent documents and a link or phone number to join the virtual meeting. Do this ahead of time.
- After the meeting is over, send parent the full agreed-upon IEP via email (be sure to review district protocols)
- Be sure to have a signature program available for e-signatures or protocols in place to obtain and document verbal and written consent.
Tips for Conducting an Online IEP Meeting
- Review district online IEP protocols. Some districts have a script case managers can follow.
- Provide an agenda to the meeting participants and the parent/guardian in separate emails before the meeting begins.
- Provide a start time and end time along with the agenda through the calendar invite. Ensure everyone is on the same page regarding time specifications.
- Be sure to order various meeting participants so they can all provide input. Provide possible time limits to ensure the meeting stays on task and on time.
- Before the meeting begins, the very first question is to ask parents/guardians their main concerns regarding their student. Be prepared for questions about online instruction.
- Case managers should share their screens throughout the virtual meeting to review pages of the IEP with the participants of the meeting. Reviewing the IEP as you go is the best method to ensure transparency.
- Take your time if the parent/guardian did not go through the draft IEP that was sent beforehand.
- Ask confirmation questions if you are unsure of the parent/guardians’ feelings/perspectives towards proposals in the IEP.
- Have a notes template that is flexible. Include the IEP meeting agenda as it will be much easier to fill out during and after the meeting.
- At the end of the meeting, be sure everyone on the IEP team is aware of the consent process (whether it’s through e-signatures of another process outlined by district protocols).
At the end of the day, we want online IEP’s for distance learning to be as smooth as possible. We know its a difficult time for families and for teachers. Therefore, we need to try and make them easy and efficient for all participants. Also, be aware that every district is different and to read thoroughly through the district’s online IEP procedures. Ask questions, if necessary on the procedures even if it is just for clarification. Hopefully, by following tips for getting prepared for IEP meetings as well as tips for the IEP meeting are helpful to K-12 Special Education teachers.
Feel free to comment on this post for more helpful suggestions for Special Education teachers to run effective online IEP meetings. Or, message me on Twitter @mattrhoads1990 and we can continue the conversation there.