What Are Your Rights to Data and Progress Updates?
For families going through the IEP process, you may be feeling a lot of emotions. Some aspects of the IEP process may make you feel confused or frustrated. One of these areas may be your rights and ability to access your child’s data and progress updates.
First, your child’s IEP should include observable, measurable, and realistic goals to be achieved within the school year. It’s important to note that the goals should include what your child should be expected to complete and learn within that school year. The goals should not be the same from year to year, since your child should have achieved them in the current school year. This means that each year that you meet for your child’s IEP meeting, the goals should be changed and updated from the year prior.
Now you might be wondering, how do I know if my child achieved these goals? It is a requirement in New Jersey’s special education regulations that IEPs contain progress monitoring. Included in your child’s IEP, there must be:
A description of how the child’s progress toward meeting the annual goals will be measured
What’s important to note here is that progress on goals need to be tracked and that the tracking needs to be data based. This means that it cannot be based on anyone’s opinion if your child achieved their goals. There has to be a clearly defined data collection plan, which includes a description how data will be collected and how often.
A statement of when and how reports will be made available to parents
Parents must receive progress reports or updates at least as often as your child’s non-disabled peers. For New Jersey, this means a minimum of at least four times a year, or in conjunction with the typical report card schedule of non-IEP students. However, parents should know they have the ability to request to receive progress updates more frequently. If a parent would like to receive updates more often than quarterly, the frequency should be added into the IEP. Language such as “a data-based progress report on each goal will be emailed to parents within the last week of each month” should be added into the IEP if that is the schedule of progress updates you feel most comfortable with. If this is not added into the IEP, even if it was discussed at the meeting, it is not required and may not occur. Everything has to be written into the IEP to ensure it will occur.
An explanation of how progress will be tracked and defined to determine that the child has met the goal
This last part is one of the most important. It’s essential to be aware that the progress toward goal completion needs to be data based. This means that your child’s goals cannot be tracked using a scale such as “progressing sufficiently” or “progressing gradually”. The data collection method needs to be clearly defined. Are behaviors being tracked by collecting frequency or duration data? Are skills being measured using concrete measures? For example, if one of your child’s goals is “will learn multiplication facts for all single digit numbers from 1 – 9”, your child’s progress reporting needs to reflect when they have successfully mastered each set of times tables; 1x _, 2x _, and so on. At the end of the year, it should be evident that your child is now able to do their times tables up to number 9.
It may seem daunting as a parent to try to arrange and coordinate all of the above areas, however, the IEP meeting should consist of a team with a common goal. If this is not the case, know that as a parent you have rights to access your child’s progress, know if they are achieving their goals, and know what they have learned over the course of the year. If you need assistance or are struggling to have everything you need for your child added into the IEP, an advocate can be a useful resource. Find out more about advocacy services by clicking here.