Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Back to School: Get Ready with Organized School Records

It's that time of year again - time for the rush to buy school supplies, go to open house, complete all of that pesky enrollment paperwork, and get the kids back to school!

As parents prepare, this is a great time to get all of those IEP documents, assessments, and other school records into order. Organizing your child's files is a great way to ensure that you start the school year out right. With organized files, you are able to find documents quickly, access information regarding your child's needs, and track changes in your child's program. Ultimately, you become a better and more effective advocate for your child.

 Here's our tips for how to do it:

Records to Gather:
  • All of your child's IEPs, including annual IEPs, triennial / three-year reviews, and any addendums or amendments
  • Any assessments conducted by the school district, including protocols and notes from those assessments
  • Any assessment plans or written correspondence related to the district's assessments
  • Any assessments, evaluations or other reports that you have obtained privately / independently
  • Progress reports, report cards, and results from periodic classroom assessments
  • Statewide or districtwide assessment / testing results
  • Correspondence to and from your child's school, teachers, providers, etc
  • Discipline records or reports regarding your child's behaviors
  • Other relevant documentation regarding your child's unique needs and special education program
  • Copy of your "parent rights" that you recieve from the school district
* You have a right to review your child's records from the school district. Make a request in writing in order to review the records or obtain copies.

Supplies Needed:
  • Three-ring binders - you will need at least one large binder (more if your child is older / has a lot of records) for older records and one medium to large one to organize this year's documents as you receive them
  • Dividers with labels. Color-coded ones work well.
  • Inserts with pockets for loose documents
  • Hole-punch
  • Pen or marker
  • Colored paper
Organizing Your Records from Previous School Years:

1. If your child is older, and has many years worth of documents, start by dividing up the documents by elementary school years, middle school years, high school years.
2. Separate the documents in piles by the following categories:
a. IEPs
b. Assessments / Evaluations, Independent Reports
c. Progress Reports, Report Cards, Statewide Testing Results
d. Discipline records, behavior notes, behavior logs, etc
e. Correspondence, communications and emails
f. Other documents
* If your child has applicable medical needs, or other areas, you can add additional categories as needed
3. Within each category, put the documents into chronological order
4. Make labels for each section of your binder using the file dividers. The labels should correspond to the above categories. i.e. Make labels for "IEPs" "Evals" "Progress" "Behavior" "Correspondence" "Other"
5. Put documents into sections in chronological order, using a single colored sheet of paper between each separate document.
* Dividing records by category has the benefit of enabling you to easily find information in your child's files and track changes in IEPs, etc from year to year. Other methods could include dividing by school year; or simply putting all documents in chronological order with an index.

Tips for Setting Up a System for Current School Year:

1. Start with labels for your second binder that match the categories discussed above. Throughout the school year, you can add documents to these categories as you receive them, which will make it easy to transfer them into your archiving binder when the year is over.
2. Add an additional divider labeled "Notes." In that section, add blank paper or some format to use as a log or journal throughout the year. Make notes of any phone conversations, meetings or other discussions with teachers and staff regarding your child's educational program.
3. Insert a folder that can be used for forms and other communications that you need to sign and return.
4. Use either the front pocket of the binder or an insert to hold a contact list with teachers, providers, IEP case carriers, district administrators, your advocate, and others who are important to the development and implementation of your child's IEP.
5. Add additional dividers according to your needs.
6. If you can print out a school calendar, put a copy of it at the very beginning of this binder.

Remember that the goal here is to make this system easy for you to utilize and access, so organize in a way that works best for you!

Resource of the Week: COPAA's Manual on Restraint and Seclusion

The Right to be Safe In School: Advocacy and Litigation Strategies to Combat the Use of Restraint and Seclusion

This manual is a "must have" for attorneys and advocates who represent students that have been subjected to restraints and seclusion. The manual, published by the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, has two parts - Part 1 focuses on practical advocacy strategies to advocate against the use of restraints and seclusion and Part 2 focuses on litigation strategies and case law related to this issue.

The manual is available for purchase  (and free to COPAA members) on the COPAA website in the online store:

As a PDF:  https://copaa.site-ym.com/store/ViewProduct.aspx?id=1259526&hhSearchTerms=%2522restraint%2522

Kindle Format:  https://copaa.site-ym.com/store/ViewProduct.aspx?id=1318305

iPhone / iBook Format:  https://copaa.site-ym.com/store/ViewProduct.aspx?id=1318263