A new school year is starting and it is time for parents to assess the progress that your child has or has not made during the last school year. With all of the issues that Covid created within our schools, the affect on children with an IEP may have experienced an even greater need to review the IEP (Individual Education Plan). Was there a full IEP meeting last year to discuss results and plans for the new school year. Were the modifications discussed appropriate for return to in-person instruction? Does your school have all of the services and resources that your child needs to be successful?
I would strongly suggest that parents contact their Child Study Team to request a progress meeting for your child if you have any concerns about the accommodations, modifications, services and support that you child needs as soon as you notice a problem. The transition to back to in-person instruction can be difficult for all students, but special needs students have an IEP for a reason and it needs to be monitored to ensure that it is effective.
If your school has on-line grades, you should plan to check your child’s assignments, quiz and test grades. The teachers usually have an on-line web site that lists upcoming assignments and pertinent information that will help you to contact your child’s teachers. Keeping current with homework assignments and checking the on-line grades and completed assignments will give you a good idea on how things are going. You should have a copy of your child’s IEP and you should be having a conversation with your child about how the teachers are implementing the accommodations listed in the IEP. While I believe everything that I said above is a great strategy, keeping track of everything and trying to get information from our children can be difficult and quite time consuming. If you are not comfortable with technology, then everything gets even more difficult. So, what should you do?
The more a parent understands what the teachers are trying to accomplish, what accommodations were written in the IEP, and how successful your child is and what problems your child is experiencing, the better the outcomes will be achieved. However, if your child is getting A’s in their classes, but the scope and pace of the classes does not match the regular education curriculum and state tests indicate that your child is not proficient in the areas tested, I think that a parent needs to ask “what is the impact on my child in terms of career planning?” This is really important as children get into middle school and start planning for and applying for high school programs.
As your school transitions 8th grade IEP’s into a high school IEP, there should be career planning discussions. I strongly believe that parents should start talking to their children about career plans by the time they are in fifth grade. Students are now applying for specific high school programs during 8th grade and the programs they are applying for often use grades, test scores and attendance results from seventh grade. Therefore, it works best when there is an opportunity to spend a significant amount of time in career exploration. Children will change their mind as they get more information and process what is involved in preparing for various careers. If the schools aren’t doing this, it is really important that parents make the time to do this. In addition, if parents are honest about their child’s skills and interests, they have the most knowledge about their children.
The programs I am talking about may be STEM programs, performance arts programs, vocational programs and etc. (you need to talk to your child’s guidance counselor about what is available and the requirements for admission). The key element to keep in mind is that not everyone gets in and most programs use a rubric that depends heavily on academic proficiency and state test results. Parents need to make an honest assessment of their child’s strengths and weaknesses. I have mentioned in a previous blog that I have more than 25 years in corporate America and most of it in Human Resources. In that time I interviewed thousands of applicants and counseled employees about their career plans. The applicants that were hired, and the employees that were promoted in their careers, demonstrated a clearly communicated career plan and backed this up with related skills and appropriate experience. Those that didn’t weren’t hired.
Career choices begin much earlier than just ten years ago. As a middle school counselor in Gloucester County, NJ, I watched the county vocational school evolve into a program that used an high school curriculum to assist students in improving their chances of entering a career in the medical, engineering, business and computer fields. These became the featured programs that attracted the top students from all of the eight grade programs in the county and the number of vocational training slots were decreased. The number of spots for students with IEP’s also disappeared.
The high schools in our county responded by developing STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) programs to retain their top students. The goal of most public high schools is to provide academic programs to prepare students for college, Most of the shops and home economic programs have been eliminated. The picture I am painting is one that does very little to assist students with IEP’s develop a viable career unless they fit into the all students should go to college mold.
Students in Gloucester County, NJ are applying for these top programs during 8th grade for programs that will start in high school. Since their attendance, grades, type and level of classes and state test scores from 7th grade (along with 1st marking period 8th grade results and possibly 6th grade results) are used as selection criteria, the need for early career planning is clearly necessary. What is the plan for students that are not competitive in this process? When should career planning start for those students? What is the role of the IEP in career planning?
The above comments and assertions require a great deal of additional information and planning. Please, start to think about career planning with your children and include them in the discussion as early as you believe that they can participate.