EdNewsParent Expert Ann Morrison responds:

Q: How do I make sure my daughter’s IEP is actually being followed?

A: The Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is a legal agreement that details your daughter’s educational plan. It includes information about her learning, the assessment that has been done to determine her eligibility for special education services, and the type and amount of individualized instruction entitled to her.

In order to determine whether your daughter’s IEP is being followed, begin by taking out your most recent copy of the IEP paperwork. Read the section that details the accommodations and modifications she should be given, as well as the statement of service(s) she should be receiving.

Remember that accommodations are changes to how your daughter’s instruction is provided and how she expresses her learning.  Common accommodations include having extra time to complete a test, being able to consistently sit in the front of the classroom, or the use of specific technology. Accommodations do not change your daughter’s curriculum, only how she receives it and how she demonstrates learning.

Modifications, on the other hand, are changes to what your daughter is expected to learn.

Most school district curricula are dictated by each state’s curriculum standards. If your child’s IEP team determines that it is appropriate for her to have a modified curriculum, she should not be held to the state curriculum standards. Rather, her IEP goals should become her primary academic targets. A modified curriculum will generally be appropriate for fewer than 2 percent of all students.

Your daughter’s statement of services details the service provider who should be attending to her, what instructional area they should be working on, and the frequency with which the service should be provided.

One thing to keep in mind is the difference between direct and indirect service.  Direct service requires the provider to see your daughter and administer the service in person.  Indirect service is largely consultative, and does not require in-person contact. In both cases, the service should be provided by the person indicated, not a replacement.  If service is going to be provided by a paraeducator, the IEP should specifically reflect the paraeducator as a service provider.

After you read through the IEP paperwork, you have several options for approaching the school.  First, you can make an appointment with your daughter’s special education case manager and ask how the IEP is being implemented.  Additionally, you can use parent teacher conferences to ask how each of the teachers provides her accommodations or modifications.  Each of the service providers listed in the statement of service should be able to discuss your daughter and either their work with, or knowledge of, her.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.