To be fair, the meeting wasn’t a full IEP review – it was to evaluate his progress since the IEP was approved, to go over the assistive technology assessment, and to review a request by us to have the Monster retained in the second grade. But the phrase “IEP Meeting” usually strikes such fear into the hearts of the parents of children with special needs, and…
Well, some times, the process works the way it should.
So, before I get into the nitty-gritty… I like this bunch of people who are the membership of the current IEP team. The staff at Gateway is fabulous and show openly and frequently how much they love the Monster. They are constantly about what is best for the Monster – not what is “appropriate”, not what is “fair”, but what is “best” for him. They tell us, honestly and openly, what is and isn’t working, those places where they have concerns, and ask us not only for our input, but for our validation of what they see daily.
The AT assessment confirmed that he’s a good candidate for having a device to help him communicate. The part where we (my wife and I, and the AT assessor) had a difference of opinion was on the matter of the end goal – she kept trying, firmly, to reassure us that the use of a device isn’t meant to forestall any speech development on his part, whereas we just want him to be able to communicate in “his own voice”, whether that voice is generated by his vocal cords or a machine. The woman even brought the specific device they’re going to issue to him, and turned it over to the school, with a proviso for training for both the staff and us in a few weeks.
The middle of today’s meeting really was pro-forma. We arrived to find paperwork that we’d not received five business days in advance (the progress reports), but that wasn’t anything that’s being considered for any purpose – we weren’t revising the goals at all, but just going over how the Monster’s doing with the new goals. (And let me be honest, as the parent showing up at these meetings. I prefer things to be done in line with the law. BUT… seriously, if we’re just talking about the reports, that they’re not having any bearing on something that’ll affect the rest of his educational career? Feel free, as long as I have time to read them while we’re sitting there. And, moreover, I also know I can email any of them later if something occurs to me when we’re re-reading the reports, or schedule an informal conference.) And he’s doing very well, actually, and making progress already, which is a good thing.
But then we got to the matter of retention.
Last year, when the Monster was transferred from MWS to Gateway, the IEP said, “[The Monster] is a first grade student,” based on the end-of-July revision. After Baltimore schools had closed for the year, and when Gateway had already re-opened for the summer. To us, that meant that he’d been retained… which was appropriate, as he’d not made any progress against his IEP, which is the definition of failing for a student with special needs, and would normally mandate retention. At the IEP revision meeting this spring, the IEP stated instead that he was a rising third grader, meaning that he’d be on the hook for standardized tests and, more importantly, being moved into a different classroom in the fall. The latter, more than the former, is a non-starter for us. So I drafted a letter, where we insisted on retention and…
…Well, smack my ass and call me sparky, but it was a non-discussion today. The IEP coordinator got to the agenda item, looked at it and my letter, turned to us, and informed us that the decision is made – the Monster is being retained in the second grade, that we’re absolutely right. No fight, no nothing… when I’d been all ready to argue, typo last year or no, that he met the criteria for retroactive retention. So he gets to repeat the second grade next year, which means he gets to stay in the same classroom. Yay.
Seriously. When the system works properly, it’s a beautiful thing.