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  • Writer's pictureGina Wurfel

Special Education Minutes Madness!

Ever feel like this when trying to get progress monitoring data on your child? Has your school told you they are getting service minutes when they aren’t? Does the school even have service minutes logged for your student?

Unfortunately this scenario is common; your student is supposed to be getting x amount of minutes from OT, x amount of reading support, and x amount of instruction from a special education teacher. But your kid is telling you that they spend the whole day in a co-taught classroom but no specific push in or pull out services. They can’t remember the last time the OT saw them, and their reading skills are not improving. If they are getting services, the service amounts aren’t helping. You think they should be getting more support. But there doesn’t seem to be any way to know for sure….

What can you do to make sure your kid is getting the service amount they need?

Write it in the IEP!

Not only are IEPs meant for short and long term goals for your child’s educational progress, but they also are meant to keep the team accountable. So if your child is supposed to get 30 minutes a day of reading intervention, there should be a statement in the IEP about how that will be documented. It’s not enough to say “student will be able to read 65 words with 2 errors in 3 out of 5 timed trials”, but you also need to document when that support is happening. This is part of the progress monitoring process.

If your school district does not have an online or computer based tracking system for tracking SPED minutes, then they should be coming up with another way to document the number of minutes spent. There should be specific timeframes for how often the parent will receive updates on service minutes provided as well as a timeframe for how often progress data is collected.

For example, maybe the parent gets an email every 2 weeks with the total number of minutes logged for OT, another one for reading intervention, and another one for minutes spent working with the SPED teacher. Maybe every month, the parent will get an update on exactly how the student is going on their goal, for example “Met with Lucy for reading intervention 3x during the week of ___. We worked on reading out loud and she was able to read 35 words with 0 errors during timed attempt.”

It doesn’t have to be a formal or informal evaluation every time, but just a couple sentences (or a table) with what is being done.

Schools will not want to keep track of this that often because it takes up a lot of time, teachers have a lot of students, etc. All of these are legitimate, but also not your problem. But ultimately, it will save them time because you won’t have to call a progress monitoring meeting, it will require less prep from everyone when the IEP meeting comes due (all the info will be right there, documented), and the student’s progress will be laid out clearly so that it will be very clear if the goal needs to be modified or has been met. Nobody likes spending time in IEP meetings debating whether or not a goal was met, so being proactive now is better than spending hours later.

Now, the school might not see it this way, hoping that you don’t ask them for data. So, the responsibility is going to be on the parent to do regular follow ups with each service provider and the special education teacher/case manager. Personally, I set a calendar reminder to do this every couple of weeks. I email each of the providers and request a short summary of what they have worked on.

What do you do if you ask for the information and it isn’t provided to you? This is where you would call a meeting to discuss data review. Make sure you note that the reason you are calling a data review meeting is because you haven’t gotten responses to your request(s) for this information when you contacted service providers directly. Make it clear that the school could have avoided scheduling a meeting on everyone’s calendars if they had just responded to whatever method of communication you have agreed to use.

It is your right to call meetings to review data any time you want to, although I would not recommend doing so excessively. But if your school shows they have no interest in communicating with you regularly, you have to do what you have to do.

Hopefully, after a few of these meetings, the school will start just responding to your requests. If they do not, then there are additional steps you can take.

  • Write a letter to the school stating your concerns and that you want to regularly track your child’s progress. Make note of how often you have requested this data (with dates), who you requested it from, and what the response was.

  • Send a copy of this letter to the state department of education, as a part of a formal complaint. Most state departments of education have a form or online portal available for this process and you can upload what you have.

  • Request a mediation session. You do not need to be in the process of due process to have a mediation, although it is voluntary for both parties

Read your procedural safeguards document and make sure you know what your rights are during the special education process. If you do not have a copy, request one from the school’s SPED coordinator or your child’s special education teacher. You can also always find these from your state department of education and often your school district’s website.

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