Parents often dread the annual review process.

Every year, parents of students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) dread the annual review process. Because of past experiences, these meetings become another disappointing event where parents and students feel unheard and their requests are denied. While the parents will never be able to make decisions on behalf of the district, we can and should do everything we can to present an organized argument and know how to walk away from rejection while still noting your disagreement for the record. Here are some tips for parents. Please remember that as each child’s situation is unique, these are only general suggestions and should not be interpreted as legal advice.

Know why we do annual reviews:

  • The purpose of the IEP is to ensure that all children with disabilities receive a free and appropriate education that meets their unique needs and the purpose of the yearly IEP meeting is to assess if the IEP that was made last year has been effective.

  • We do this by reviewing the student’s performance and specifically reviewing if the student has met their annual IEP goals and how that happened. 

  • Therefore, if your child is unexpectedly not meeting grade level progress or has not met the goals made last year on the IEP then it can be argued that your child did not make appropriate progress and therefore, the IEP needs to be closely examined in order to make sure that the upcoming year will hit its targets.

Know as much as possible about your child’s progress over the past year since you had the last IEP meeting

Know as much as possible about your child’s progress. Credit: CDC
  • Request a copy of your child’s IEP goal progress reports if you have not received them already. Having this information is your parental right. You need to be told if your child has met the annual goals prior to the IEP meeting even if it has not been exactly 12 months yet. If not, you can not meaningfully participate in the IEP team because you don’t have important information. 

  • You will probably get something that looks like this for each goal on the IEP. Almost always, the number of check marks should equal how many report cards have been given since that goal was made. Sometimes it’s easier to just ask for a copy of your child’s IEP with the goal progress noted on the IEP. You can request to see the school records of how they determined the progress shown on this report.
  • If your goal report doesn’t show a concrete way for parents to review progress then make sure you change this to something tangible for the next year such as “Provider Recorded Observations” or “Student written work with provider feedback.” 

Get All the Reports in Advance

  • This includes any new evaluations if they were done, all substantial tests such as the state tests, the PSAT, AP exams, current math/reading/writing levels (if used ie. HMH), the Beginning, Middle, and End of the Year assessments (BOY, MOY, EOY) such as Acadience, iReady, and MAP since the last IEP.  Ask for all of these and expect that you will have at least 7 days to review all this information (see “ Parent Preparation for IEP Meeting” in the Standard Operating Procedures Manual for New York City Public Schools). 

  • Ask for teacher reports that would be in the present levels of performance section of the IEP before the IEP meeting. Oftentimes, this information is read out loud to the parent at the beginning of the IEP meeting and then placed into the section of the IEP. This method does not support meaningful parent participation.

  • If your school is using grade management systems such as Jumprope or Jupiter, please make sure you see all the grades for the past year. If you have not seen your child’s activity in Google Classroom and they do work with this system, it is strongly recommended that you understand how your child uses this and how well it works for your child.

  • If you have not seen your child’s writing, then first look at your child’s notebooks and Google Classroom activity to see what is available. Request to see other work from the school. Request to see all and not a select few.

Gather Your Own Relevant Materials

Each child’s situation is unique. Credit: Jerry Wang
  • You can make your own list of parents’ concerns in bullets or narrative format. Send it to the school to ask them to include it in the IEP. 

  • Status reports with any recommendations from any private providers including tutors, doctors, therapists, and extra curricular activity teachers that describe your child’s struggles as an individual learner, a learner in a group setting as well as strategies that work and don’t work. 

  • Consider sending in and/or coming in with your own ideas of what should be on an accommodation in the IEP.

If you want the Annual Review IEP Meeting to discuss adding services to the IEP, tell the “school assessment team” or “school based support team” or Committee for Special Education as soon as possible.

This can be a stressful time for parents and children. Credit: Kenny Eliason
  • Many staff members mistakenly believe that the district will not add new services to an annual review but this is wrong. In that case show them the Annual Review and Requested Reviews page on Standard Operating Procedures Manual (SOPM) for New York City Public Schools. 

  • Your school’s IEP team includes you, the parent. The parent can request a type of IEP meeting called a “Reevaluation” which can review an actual new evaluation or just review any information to re-evaluate the effectiveness of the current IEP. The parent’s request is enough. 

  • During the meeting, always remember this, parents are members of the IEP team and they are the authority on their child and they are their child’s advocate. No one else on the team has known your child longer than you through the various IEP service attempts year after year. That said, you are a member of the IEP team and you are not able to make the final decision on behalf of the district. There is one person called the District Representative in the room and that person will decide and there is nothing that you will sign to show you disagree or agree. Before that person makes a decision, they are charged with considering the contributions of all members of the IEP team. This means, that as the parent member, you have the right to have your comment considered on every word, every checkbox, and every section of the IEP. 

  • If you do not agree with the district’s decision at the IEP meeting, there are ways to contest it but at the end of the meeting, you should request that your disagreement about X and your disagreement about Y be written down in your IEP Summary section at the end of the IEP and in the Prior Written Notice of Recommendation.

Last tip:

Whenever you run into an obstacle, know that you do have the right to complain. The most formal processes are the due process complaint (aka impartial hearing request), an NY state complaint or a complaint to the USDOE Office of Civil Rights.  However, you can also choose to call P311 at 718-935-2007 to state your complaint about how procedures or rights are violated or your child’s IEP is out of compliance and make sure you get a ticket number. Another method to complain is to email the “Special Education Inbox” at specialeducation@schools.nyc.gov.  It’s better to include a complaint ticket number in your email if you have one. You are also welcome to start by writing something nice about your school if you would like to show that you appreciate the people but you just really need to make this complaint. The end of your email can also include what you wish for as a solution. Complaining outside of your school is hard to do but it’s how we can model self-advocacy skills to our kids. It’s the story we want to tell our children when they are ready to learn that their education was worth the awkward discomfort of complaining. It had to be done.

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