How to Work Effectively with Your State Advisory Panel

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I was just appointed to our state’s advisory panel.

What’s the best way to work with the panel to encourage change?

Congratulations on your appointment! This is good place to be if you would like to encourage change.

My first advice is to blend in as soon as possible and watch for several months.

Here are some more tips that will be helpful as you serve.

Read the minutes of past meetings. If you can access the minutes of past meetings, read them to get a feel for the interest of the other members.

Network. Get to the meetings early and stay late so you can have some social conversation with other members as they arrive and get ready to leave.

Read the federal and state law concerning the Advisory Panel. Re-read it often. This will give you the ground rules under which your committee must operate. Knowing the rules is the first step in using the Panel effectively.

Find out how the agenda is developed. Work with this process to get items that concern you on the agenda.

Do not stop your own advocacy efforts. Continue to work outside the Panel as well as within it.

Take notes at the meetings. Take notes not only about what is being discussed, but also about what comes to mind while you are listening to discussions. You will be surprised at how many ideas you get.

Be prepared. If you get an item onto the agenda, or make some other presentation to the Panel, be prepared. Think of each member’s background and prior knowledge as your prepare. Provide handouts or outlines to the Panel, so that members can refer to them during or after your presentation.

Plan for your replacement. While you are learning the ropes, you also need to keep in mind that your term will come to an end. Find several key people who you want on the panel. Ask them to come to meetings as a guest so that they can get to know the system and become effective members themselves.

Good Luck,


Read Sue’s article:

The Most Powerful Tool in IDEA 2004: Your State Advisory Panel

  1. Congratulations! I’m in my third year (last year) of my appointment and I have learned a LOT. My advice would be to study the materials sent before each meeting thoroughly. If your group is as active as ours, you will need to turn yourself into a sponge. Do your homework and be an active participant, but don’t “hog” the floor. Listen more than you speak. Bring potential issues before the group using the method(s) listed in the bylaws. For example, we have many issues in our state, but here are two: kids being sent home repeatedly without documentation, along with the issue of the special ed kids being let out before the bell rings for transportation purposes (making them lose a significant amount of acculumative education time). These are called “emerging issues” and are brought before the group by members for consideration. Good luck!

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