3 Back-to-School Assignments for Parents
A successful school year often hinges on parent collaboration with the school. Here are three ways to start off the new school year prepared, informed, and involved.
You are your child’s best advocate at school — and in life. Embrace that role by taking a strategic and proactive approach to the back-to-school season. Here are three things you can do in August to ensure a successful school year ahead for your child.
1. Request Meetings (In Writing)
By submitting a formal written request for a meeting, you are communicating to your child’s teacher that you are involved, interested, and collaborative. The school team is required to meet with you when the following actions are requested:
Update or initiate evaluations
Be sure your child’s evaluations are up-to-date. Write a request for updated evaluations using a template. Use jargon to get action.
Hold a periodic review
If your child has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan, review it with the new teacher.
Refer your child for special education
If your child does not yet have an IEP or 504 Plan, write a letter stating that you suspect she needs one of these plans.
[Free Download: Sample Letter to Request an IEP/504 Evaluation]
2. Arrange a Classroom Observation — or Five.
Never underestimate the power of classroom observations — by you and other professionals. Observing your child during group work, recess, or homework-assignment time can help you gain a first-hand understanding of your child’s strengths and challenges.
Observations send a message to the school: “I’m involved. I’m here. I’m interested in being an equal partner with the school.”
Observing also allows you to meet the front office staff, principal, building service worker, aides, counselor and others. “Face time” can set the stage for a positive working relationship, and effective problem solving when needed.
Here are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind:
- Observe in various settings at various times
- Keep notes
- Ask the teacher if the observation was a typical snapshot of your child
- Be a ‘fly on the wall’
- Prepare your child to act as she normally does when you’re there
- Hire someone if your child will be too distracted to see you at school
- Maintain a neutral facial expression and nonverbal communication
- Thank the teacher for allowing the visit
[United We Learn: 11 Rules for a Better Parent-Teacher Partnership]
- Talk to the teacher during the observation
- Talk to other students or your child
- Expect to be able to ‘pop in’ to the classroom
- Impulsively email or call the teacher afterward if you are concerned
- Disrupt the classroom or learning
3. Organize Your Child’s Records.
Summer is a good time to sort through paperwork. Your child’s records are either with you at home, or at school. Create a notebook with your child’s current documents in front. Now, go to school and get copies of documents you don’t have.
Inspecting your child’s school records can reveal great information. Most parents don’t think of the school records as ‘evidence,’ and have never peeked inside the file at school. It’s your right to inspect your child’s records and it won’t cost anything but time.
- Use your phone or tablet to take photos of documents
- Use a scanner app to convert paper into electronic documents
- Prepare to pay market rate for paper copies
- Organize the documents you have before you inspect the school record
Inspecting your child’s school record shows the school that you know your rights, and you know how to obtain valuable information.