Monday, September 23, 2013

IEP Writing Lesson #2: Every IEP is an English 101 Term Paper

Next up on the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) writing mini-series train(wreck) is: “spelling/grammar/name errors” and “old/irrelevant information.”

Spelling/Grammar/Name Errors
These mistakes are pretty much the most rage inducing for me. I can’t say much more about this area other than: do you seriously expect me to believe that someone couldn’t take an extra ten minutes to re-read their work and hit the spell-check button on their IEP writing software? My Type-A eyes glow red writing about this. Do accidents happen? Absolutely, but not being mindful and correcting them is not okay. Spelling errors are lazy, and while some people may not be familiar with certain grammatical conventions, colleagues/supervisors are there to proof-read if there is any doubt. Even Microsoft Word can tell a writer if there are fragments and grammatical disagreements. That ten minutes of proofreading is going to look really appealing if you ever get an angry phone call from a parent (or advocate) who found the name “Demarcus” in their child’s IEP instead “Suzanne” because the writer copied/pasted un-checked work. Write every IEP like your freshman composition professor is standing behind you (I know you just checked btw).
<3 Oxford comma

Old/Irrelevant Information
While no longer as much of a problem within my building (because my team and I go over IEPs with a fine-tooth comb and I expect teachers to do the same at annual reviews), finding old/irrelevant information in IEPs from students transferring in from another site in the district or out of district is a huge problem. It is sadly commonplace to find Present Levels of Educational Performance (PLEPs) that haven’t been updated in years. This can include: wrong dates (“As of September 2010…”), referring to past grades (15yo Lily is no longer a “sixth grader”), old test scores (always have the most up-to-date data), incorrect physical/medical information (like medication name that a child no longer takes—best to leave them off completely), out-dated related service info (worst when a child no longer receives that service!), and more.

Since the IEP is a current educational “snapshot,” it should always contain the most up-to-date information and should be edited and updated at every meeting held for the student. Even if it’s just a quick amendment meeting to update a goal, make it a habit to also update the child’s curriculum-based measurement/DIBELS/AIMSweb/semester grades/number of office referrals or suspensions/strengths/preferences/etc. I understand that this could be tedious, but it doesn’t have to take a long time if you have easy access to the necessary info (or have the teacher making the edits) and will become second-nature, especially if the framework is already there. Whenever my Committee on Special Education (CSE) chairperson makes a new meeting agenda, we pop through each child’s IEP, change document and service “start” dates, clean out old data/scores, and make sure there’s no info older than the last annual review (within the year)—before writing any new information. The benefit of this is twofold: you get a current, compliant document, and if the child were to ever leave your school, the new building would have a very representative document and clear picture of where the kiddo is functioning. Err’body wins!

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