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Preparing for Your Child's Compensatory Education Meeting, Part 2
9 Simple Strategies to Track Progress, Get Data, and Make Your Child's Case
by Pam & Pete Wright

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In the last issue of The Special Ed Advocate, we urged you to learn all you can about compensatory education now. You need to expect the school to invite you to a meeting about compensatory education. Meetings about comp ed are IEP meetings. The same rules apply.

In Preparing for Your Child's Compensatory Education Meeting, Part 2, we provide simple strategies to help you get data and track your child's progress since the school closed. We look at different ways to collect data -- how to use your cell phone to make progress videos, how to use short simple checklists to create your own records. We identify perilous pitfalls that may trip you up!

woman and daughter love and support


Fact. Virtual or remote instruction was not an acceptable substitute for the individualized plan of special education and related services in your child's IEP or 504 plan.

Fact. Your special needs child is likely to have regressed (lost knowledge and skills) while the school was closed.

Fact. When children regress and/or lose skills, they need intensive instruction -- usually in a small group and/or one-on-one tutoring several times a week -- to recover from these losses.

Fact. Schools' resources are limited. Schools weren't prepared for the pandemic - they had shortages of school psychs, speech/language therapists, OTs, and PTs for years before COVID-19 arrived.

Bottom line: Expect your child's team to balk at providing intensive instruction and remediation.

Takeaway: The parent who keeps records of the services the school provided during the school closure -- the parent who collects progress data -- will be in a stronger position to advocate for intensive services when school reopens for in-person learning. If you haven't been keeping good records, you aren't alone.

The good news? There are steps you can take now - it isn't too late to start.

It's time to learn something new today! You can do this!

9 Simple Ways to Track Your Child's Progress, Get Data and Create a Record

1. Refresh and Review

Refresh your memory. Review your child's IEP, especially the . . .

  • present levels of academic achievement and functional performance, and
  • measurable annual goals, including academic and functional goals, designed to meet the child's needs"

Your child's IEP goals should be SMART - specific, measurable, use action words, realistic and relevant, and time-limited. LINK TO SMART IEPS.

Your child's IEP goals should be measurable. "Measurable" means you can count or observe it.

Measurable goals allow parents and teachers to see how much progress the child has made since the performance was last measured. With measurable goals, you know when the child reaches that goal.

Make a short list of the IEP goals you want to track.

2. Get a 3 ring binder or spiral bound notebook for your records and notes.

Use your binder or notebook to record your child's school work, homework time, services actually provided. You can also record your observations of your child. Pay attention to changes in your child's behavior and/or attitude (i.e., - difficulty with attention, moodiness, signs of anxiety and/or depression).

3. Use Your Cell Phone to Make Progress Videos

Taking videos of your child may be the easiest way to create a record of your child's progress on a goal.

You made a list of the IEP goals you want to track. Use your phone to record your child's performance on these goals.

Videos are a great way to establish whether your child mastered IEP goals -- or not. You can use progress videos in discussions about comp ed, ESY, and goals in your child's IEP.

4. Use Checklists to Track Information

You can use a simple checklist to track your child's progress on academics, behavior, and school work completion.

Make a table with two columns and five (more or less) rows. Your columns are "Date" and "School Work". (You can draw the table or make a table in a word processing program).

10/20/20 School Work
Goal Learn math facts and skills (general education), 45 minutes.
Service Video lesson: 45 minutes. Worksheet.
Response Jose sat at the computer to watch the math video. Our internet speed is slow so the video stopped several times. He was distracted. Complained about the video. I made Jose sit at the table but he wasn't able to complete the math worksheets today.
Progress Jose did not learn any math facts or skills today.
Notes Jose was frustrated and bored. He used to love math. Now he says he hates math.

5. Track the time your child spends on a school work.

You and your child's team need to know how much time your child actually spends learning. If a child can't pay attention to remote lessons or can't complete the written assignments, you need a record of this so your child's IEP team knows he wasn't learning.

You can also use a checklist (like the one above) to track the time your child spends learning. When you assess the facts about Jose's math skills class, you realize that he sat down to watch a 45 minute video but was quickly distracted. He didn't learn the math facts and skills presented in the video and wasn't able to complete the math assignment (worksheet). You can add positive or negative information about your child's learning in the Notes section.

Progress on math goal: Jose spent nearly two hours watching the math video and looking at the math worksheets. He didn't learn any math facts or skills so this was wasted time, not time spent learning.

6. Make a List: Special Ed and Related Services Offered v. Services Provided

Use your notebook to keep a record of the classes, video or remote classes, instruction, school work assignments provided by the school.

What services did the school agree to provide in the IEP before school closed?

What services did the school offer to provide after the school closed, if any?

What services did the school actually provide?

This list will be useful when you discuss the services your child missed.

Don't rely on the school district's records. The school district's records may not accurately describe the services provided or your child's progress.

7. Set up trials or tests.

You can set up trials or tests of your child's progress on academic goals at home. Here's an example of how to track your child's performance.

Draw a table with five columns and several rows.

 Goal  9/15/20  10/01/20  10/15/20  Goal Met?
Reading comprehension:  Jose will correctly identify the main idea of a passage written at the 5th-grade level in four out of five trials after 4 weeks of instruction.
 Jose correctly identified the main idea in 3 of 5 trials.  Jose correctly identified the main idea in 2 out of 5 trials  Jose correctly identified the main idea in 1 out of 5 trials.  No.

8. Review your child's educational history

Does your child has a history of receiving ESY? If your child received ESY services previously, this may be your best evidence about your child' need for additional educational services.

Does your child have a tendency to lose skills? Does your child have a tendency to regress during school breaks? If the answer is "yes," this tendency is likely to re-occur during the chool closure and will strengthen your argument for ES Y and compensatory education.

9. Contact an advocate or attorney if you need help

Attorneys and trained special education advocates are problem-solvers. They are also good at anticipating problems. It's better to pay $50. to consult with an attorney than to spend hours trying to fix a mistake you made because you didn't know how to deal with the current crisis.

Recognize Pitfalls

COVID-19 did not change your child's rights. The IDEA (the federal special education law) did not change because the school is currently unable to provide an appropriate IEP with in-person instruction during the pandemic.

Your child is still entitled to an IEP and a free appropriate education. Your child's IEP must be individualized to meet your child's unique needs. The IEP must include measurable goals and the special eduction and related services your child needs in order to receive a free appropriate public education.

If you agree to reduced services in your child's IEP, this may reduce the compensatory education services your child will receive later, after the school reopens.

Do not ...

  • agree change your child's IEP to reflect the school's current limitations;
  • agree to change your child's IEP to reflect the reduced services your child is receiving because in-person school is not available;
  • allow the school to retain your child.

Thank you!

Special thanks to Disability Rights of Ohio for their excellent article, Compensatory Education and ESY Discussions After COVID-19: Fact Sheet and to Disability Rights - Texas for suggestions in Back to School 2020 Special Edition Newsletter.

Other Resources

Can IEP Meetings Be Postponed Until Schools Re-Open?

Preparing for Your Child's Comp Ed Meeting, Part 1: Learning about Comp Ed from the Experts

Five Rules for Incredibly Successful IEP Meetings During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Special Education Legal Resources in the COVID-19 Era from Wrightslaw

Survey Results: What Parents Really Think of Special Education During School Closures

Revised: 10/22/20

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