By Meg Flanagan
Three little letters that impact so much.
Three more letters that can change lives.
When you are looking down the barrel of PCSing with an IEP, it can seem daunting at first. It’s definitely not easy. But you can do this!
Take a look at your current IEP (individualized education plan/program). What is the expiration date? When were the most recent assessments done? When is the three-year (triennial) review date?
If the most recent tests and data are approaching three years old, push your current school to redo them as soon as possible. It will work in your favor to have recent, updated data.
If the IEP is set to expire after you move, ask the school to move the annual or triennial review date up to this school year. Arriving in your next school with a brand new IEP will make things a lot easier. The newer the IEP or data, the more likely it is that it will be accepted and used by the new school.
This means data from standardized tests, report cards, IEP progress reports, and work samples. Get it all! If you don’t have copies of these items, request copies from the school. Per the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), parents and legal guardians have the right to access their child’s educational records at any time.
Once you have the documents in hand, build a portfolio in chronological order. Ideally, include older IEPs or data that shows progress or lack thereof, depending on what you are trying to do (exit your child from special education, keep the same IEP goals, or request an outside placement). Hand carry this to your next duty station.
Know the process
You’ve updated the IEP and have a beautiful portfolio. . . and you’ve found an amazing new school. Now what?
Here’s the timeline:
- Arrive and register at your new school. Submit the IEP with your registration paperwork.
- Contact the director of special education. Give them another copy of the IEP and request a meeting once they have reviewed it. Ask that your child’s new case manager and any teachers/service providers be included in this meeting.
- Your child starts school, and the old IEP is being followed with comparable services in place.
- The school creates a new IEP. This will mean that either:
- They do their own assessments and use this data to create a brand new IEP with possibly totally different goals, services, and placements.
- Opt to use or adapt the current IEP based on the tests that the last school recently updated.
- The new IEP is implemented and followed.
The important thing to note here is that the IEP you arrive with must be followed until a new IEP is created. This is because it’s a federal legal document. However, you should also know that only comparable services will be provided during the IEP review phase. Not the exact same things, just similar.
(Please also take a look at the fourth bullet: Create a new IEP. Every school or district that a unique way of writing IEPs or a different program that they use to write them. The new school will create a new IEP. You will have a chance to review and sign or reject it, but a new IEP using the new system will be written. The old IEP will be followed until the new IEP can be agreed upon.)
Now comes the tough part. Sometimes services might be lost in the move. It’s vital that you check out any district that you are considering moving to before enrolling. Make sure that your child will have access to similar therapists, like speech or PT. If not, it’s time to call TRICARE and figure out coverage options outside of school.
Other times services could be reduced in duration or frequency. If you strongly believe that your child will be hurt by these changes, you can refuse to sign the new IEP. You can also request a data review and provide data that proves your point.
If the school cannot or will not provide the services your child need to succeed in school, you can request that your child be placed in another school. That school could be another public school in the same district or a specialized private school. With the private school placement, the public school district will pay the tuition and transportation costs.
The big lesson
The most important thing to remember is that a lot of this is on you, the parent. You are in charge of making sure you pick a district to meet your child’s needs. It’s also on you to hand carry all those documents, and organize them all to start with. You also need to be even more diligent about standing up for your children’s rights in school. Don’t be afraid to call it like you see it and push hard to get your kiddos what they need!