An Advocate’s Guide to Transforming Special Education
Creating Schools Where All Students Can Thrive
In order for me to thrive, my school must…
Involve Me and My Family
The school team engages students in decisions about their own learning and engages parents and guardians as equal and important partners in a child’s education.
> How do the school and district communicate with parents/guardians?
> How are students involved in their own IEP process, and are they learning to independently advocate for themselves within and beyond the education system?
DISTRICT / CHARTER SCHOOL NETWORK
> The district/charter network provides training for psychologists and special education teachers on how to communicate complex topics in an accessible way so that all stakeholders–teachers, students, families–truly understand the student’s disability, strengths and goals.
> The district requires that each IEP meeting concludes with a short survey to ask families if they felt heard and supported during the process.
> The district trains its special education staff how to run IEP meetings effectively and respectfully to gather family input.
SCHOOL / CLASSROOM
> Students share their strengths and interests at the IEP meeting. And in later elementary grades and beyond, they play a more active role in setting their own IEP goals.
> Students can articulate their own goals when asked and use tracking systems designed by the school to keep track of their own progress toward goals.
> The school recognizes that parents know their children best and asks for their input on how to better understand and support their students at school. Parent surveys indicate that parents feel they have a clear voice in shaping the goals at the IEP meeting.
> The school provides native language translation to families who need it, as required by law. The school proactively offers these services to families.
> The school team discusses student goals and needs with the family in a straightforward, candid and accessible way. They avoid confusing jargon or acronyms and take the time to explain the diagnosis and approach. During the initial meeting, the school psychologist explains the disability so clearly that everyone understands, has an opportunity to ask questions, and can explain it themselves.
> Parents and other family members work with educators to use the same strategies at home and school.
> The school team supports students to understand their learning goals and needs. Students are supported to track their own progress and have a voice in developing and monitoring their own IEP.
> The school team and parents work together to holistically understand student strengths and challenges, both in the classroom and at home. Parents participate in developing the IEP, monitoring their child’s progress, and adjusting the plan for support.
YOU ARE VIEWING AN EXCERPT FROM THE FULL CHAPTER IN AN ADVOCATE’S GUIDE TO TRANSFORMING SPECIAL EDUCATION.
The excerpt shows the observable actions that parent advocates should “look for” in a school, organization, or district that is truly doing what it takes to help students with disabilities succeed. Parents can use these “look fors” not only to advocate for their child, but also to push for reforms that are necessary at a broader level.
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Full report English | Spanish
Believe in me English | Spanish
Include me English | Spanish
Find me English | Spanish
Catch me when (or before) I fall English | Spanish
Meet me where I am and challenge me English | Spanish
Know me English | Spanish
Involve me and my family English | Spanish
Stick with me English | Spanish