Compliance: Some people look at it as a dirty word. I look at it as a way for me to know I’m doing my job well. Special education regulations were put into place to protect the rights of students with disabilities. I want to ensure that I’m upholding those rights of the students I’m charged with teaching.
I am fortunate to work in an affluent district, one where parent involvement is above-par. Our students excel, and go on to college after high school graduation. Many of our students with specific learning disabilities do, as well. It’s a great district, and I’m proud to work there.
Nevertheless, there will be students who struggle. Regular education teachers for the last few years have been required to create “action plans” for their struggling students, those that have not been identified as needing special education services. These action plans are informal IEPs in many ways. They require teachers to identify the student’s strengths and weaknesses, and to outline the strategies and interventions that have been put into place to address the child’s needs. They are data driven, and our principal requires that teachers submit them for accountability. The only thing that differentiates action plans from IEPs (in the big picture view of them) is the law. Action plans are kept in-house, and no outside agency will come in to audit them. Our administrators dictate that they be created because it’s the right thing to do.
We are having an audit this year. In my eight years, I remember only one other audit, after my second year. I was green, and I’m sure I made mistakes. I had a phenomenal mentor, one who I still look to for support and guidance, but she couldn’t see that I crossed every one of my “T”s and dotted every one of my “I”s.
Now that I’ve taught for eight years, I have certainly learned from my mistakes. I had an “Ah-Ha!” moment a few years ago (if you’ve read my past posts, you know about my “Ah-Ha!” moments!). I felt like I was working through my IEPs haphazardly, completing the sections I was ready to complete, and coming back to the other ones later. That led to oversights, and there are few things that bother me more than realizing I overlooked something I shouldn’t have.
I created my IEP Sections Checklist to eliminate that problem. What special education teacher doesn’t need a checklist? I use it in an editable Word Document when I’m preparing my students’ IEPs. It’s a quick, thorough reference tool to ensure I don’t overlook anything, regardless of how “haphazardly” I complete it. I am now a mentor to a first-year learning support teacher, and I’ve shared it with her.
In special education, staying in compliance is vital!