Sunday, October 10, 2010

Another Must Read (and Re-Read) Resource to Prepare for IEP Meetings

“If you’re not sure where you’re going, you’re liable to end up someplace else. If you don’t know where you’re going, the best made maps won’t help you get there.”  —Robert Mager, psychologist, writer, educator

We have seen a few IEP's from MVRCS and, as we've mentioned previously, have consulted with individuals who have many years within education and exceptional credentials. The feedback was less than positive, with a few of them being alarming. That being said, while we would welcome the departure of Kathy Kinnon as the Special Education Direction, we don't see that happening. The 'fix' to this issue is to educate our parents of students who are receiving services so that at the very least, parents can document the progress of their children. Many parents find the IEP and special education, services dance incredibly challenging, frustrating, and upsetting. It is difficult to know what you don't know and even more upsetting to find out too late that you didn't know something that mattered. We have come to the conclusion that education is the key, that is educating the parents on how to ensure their child receives the education they are entitled to and deserve. With that as a new mission and purpose to our blog, we will be giving much attention and information that deals specifically with advocating for your children.
 IDEA 2004 requires your child’s IEP to include:
a statement of the child’s present levels of academic achievement and functional 
performance, including how the child’s disability affects the child’s involvement
and progress in the general education curriculum . . . [and] a statement of measurable annual goals, including academic and functional goals, designed to meet the child’s needs that result from the child’s disability to enable the child to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum; and . . . meet each of the child’s other educational needs that result from the child’s disability. 
Sounds confusing, right?

That is why we can't stress enough the wealth of valuable information parents can find on Wrights Law regarding students who require services under Special Education. We have come across a excerpt from the 2nd edition of their book 'From Emotions to Advocacy' by by Pam Wright and Pete Wright that addresses the writing of 'smarter IEP's' and felt the portion on Goals & Objectives incredibly useful. Parents please know that many teachers have difficulty writing and implementing effective goals and objectives for students. The key is to ensure that they identify not only where the child is going, what they need to get there, and how parents and educators will know when they get there. A statement such as 'Johnny will read a passage in 8 out of 10 tries with 80% accuracy' is not sufficient nor effective. In order to document progress, the passage reading level must identified at both ends (i.e. where the student is and where the student will be). Also, what services, support, and/or methodology will be used to try to get the child to their goal. Without this information, a child could receive the same program or instruction repeatedly without the child making any progress. Ideally, the services, support and/or methodology will be altered if your child does make progress within the first try. One issue with yearly IEP meetings is that if the child isn't making progress, the parents may not find out until they are either retained OR at the following IEP meeting. It is important for parents to stay in contact with all staff that are responsible for providing services or instruction to their child to ensure progress is being made.
 Here are some helpful tips and guidelines that are examined in their book and can ensure parents work towards creating an effective and valuable IEP.
The term SMART IEPs describes IEPs that are specific, measurable, use action
words, are realistic and relevant, and time-limited.

S Specific
M Measurable
A Use Action Words
R Realistic and relevant
T Time-limited
SMART IEPs have specific goals and objectives. Specific goals target areas of academic achievement and functional performance. They include clear descriptions of the knowledge and skills that will be taught and how the child’s progress will be measured. Look at these two goals. Which one is specific?

Dylan will increase study skills for academic success.

Dylan will demonstrate the following study skills: skimming written material and use reference materials in social studies class.

SMART IEPs have measurable goals and objectives. Measurable means you can count or observe it. Measurable goals allow parents and teachers to know how much progress the child has made since the performance was last measured. With measurable goals, you will know when the child reaches the goal.
Which of these two goals is measurable and observable?

Owen will improve his reading skills.

Given second grade material, Owen will read a passage of text orally at 110-130 wpm with random errors.

Action Words

IEP goals include three components that must be stated in measurable terms:
          (a) direction of behavior (increase, decrease, maintain, etc.)
          (b) area of need (i.e., reading, writing, social skills, transition, communication, etc.)
          (c) level of attainment (i.e., to age level, without assistance, etc.)

SMART IEPs use action words like: “The child will be able to . . .”

Which of these goals is specific, measurable and includes action words?

Betsy will decrease her anger and violation of school rules.

Provided with anger management training and adult support, Betsy will be able to remove herself from environments that cause her to lose control of her behavior so that she has no disciplinary notices.

Realistic and Relevant

SMART IEPs have realistic, relevant goals and objectives that address the child’s unique needs that result from the disability. SMART IEP goals are not based on district curricula, state or district tests, or other external standards.

Which of these goals is specific, measurable and realistic? (From SMART IEPs 117

Kelsey will demonstrate improved writing skills.

Kelsey will improve her writing and spelling skills so she can write a clear, cohesive, and readable paragraph consisting of at least 3 sentences, including compound and complex sentences that are clearly related.

SMART IEP goals and objectives are time-limited. What does the child need to know and be able to do after one year of special education? What is the starting point for each of the child’s needs (present levels of academic achievement and functional performance)?

Time-limited goals and objectives enable you to monitor progress at regular intervals.

Assume your child is in the fifth grade. Alex’s reading skills are at the early third grade level. Here is a specific, measurable, time-limited goal that tells you what Alex can do now and what he will be able to do after one year of special education:
Present Level of Performance: Given third grade material, Alex reads 50-70 wpm with 4-6 errors.
Annual Goal: Given fifth grade material, Alex will read 120 wpm with only random errors.

To ensure that Alex meets his goal, we will measure his progress at nine-week intervals (4 times during the school year).

After 9 weeks, given third grade material, Alex will read 110 to 120 wpm with 1-3 errors.
After 18 weeks, given fourth grade material, Alex will read 70-100 wpm with 1-3 errors.
After 27 weeks, given fifth grade material, Alex will read 70-100 wpm with 1-3 errors.
At the end of the year, Alex will read 120 wpm with only random errors.

We have just presented a small portion of this chapter but highly recommend it for any parent preparing for or questioning their child's IEP. We hope that you have found this useful.


  1. Does anyone know if a parent could request to have a meeting after 2-3 months to monitor for progress? I'm sure Kathy Kinnon wouldn't be too happy (she'd actually have to work, oh my the Queen!) but at least you could determine if the things were working. It's too bad that for special ed the laws don't require a 2-3 month meeting/review to make sure the student is making progress.
    I've seen a number of their IEP's, didn't see much of this caliber or that fit into this criteria. What would the Queen do if she actually had to write quality IEP's, how would she ever fit in the food parties, trolling the halls, and trying to find people doing things wrong. She needs to go!

  2. Dear SoSad - Absolutely you can request meetings every 2-3 months, or whenever you want to monitor your childs progress. I have written into my childs IEP that there is an informal team meeting every quarter to make sure everyone is on track - student, teachers, OT/PT, etc. You don't want to wait until June to have a meeting and find that Johnny is not making progress.
    I would highly suggest that every parent that has a SPED child have an advocate! I have one child at MVRCS and one child that couldn't make it into MVRCS (maybe it was due to the IEP, but looking back, a blessing in disguise, s/he is now in a private school paid by the city) I would not have been able to fight my case to the Administration, had it not been for my advocate. The public schools tried every trick in the book as to why my child wasn't making progress, and every time my advocate put it right back on them - that it was the schools RESPONSIBILITY to find a way to teach my child. After a 3 hour team meeting, I didn't win, MY Child won. Now s/he is in private school where THEY adapt to my childs way of learning. An advocate can be pricy, but $$ well spent for my child. Check out North Shore ARC - and ask for Karla Murphy. Even if you can’t afford an advocate, it would benefit you to know your rights.

  3. Esq. - Thank you for the insight and information from a parent that has been there! Also, thank you for the information regarding the North Shore ARC, didn't realize they had advocates as a resource. Good to know!
    The schools can be tricky when it comes to out placing a child as it can be expensive for the district. Most would so much more prefer to hire an individual to work with 1 child (and be a resource for the school) than to spend the same money on placing a child within another school. It's a tough situation for everyone. Unfortunately, until the people behind NCLB and IDEA can figure out a way to fund what they are requiring, schools and parents are both put in tough situations. Good for you for prevailing on behalf of your child and for sharing your experiences.

  4. In Kathy's defense Kathy doesn't write the IEP's, we as parents have every bit as much input as the "Team" does for writing an IEP, this is where it benefits your child, we know our children best. Just b/c a child is on an IEP doesn't mean we then can sit back as parents and expect the school to do all the work, it's a tough road having a child with a learning disability but for the sake of the child we all have to be able and willing to work together, I find for the most part MVRCS SPED does do this. There are just as many SPED issues in districts schools, don't think it's any different, it isn't.

  5. Interesting that I posted a comment yesterday and it is gone today. Is that because I did not agree with what you said? Is this a democracy? Or just a case of cyberbulling??

    You will not reveal who you are, yet you can make harsh/and inappropriate remarks about Kathy Kinnon. What if her children read this blog? How would that make them feel? What if YOUR children read stuff like this about you on a blog? In way you are bullying her children, how is that ok? I really don't understand how this is ok and how parents think it is ok.

  6. Anonymous @9:53
    The only post from yesterday that hadn't been posted was the one from 8:09PM but it was done first thing this morning. No posts were deleted or ignored (marked as spam) so if it isn't the one from 8:09PM last night, please repost.
    Again, as long as the content is relevant, mature, and appropriate we post them regardless of whether we agree or not (we'll use post opportunities to respond). We are not like the Board or Administrators of MVRCS who only want our opinions and thoughts to be heard, we created this blog to promote open communication.
    As for the comments regarding Kathy Kinnon and her children, what about the kids who don't receive the services they require at the hands of the Board, Administrators, AND Special Ed department? How do you think they feel going through life with a less than adequate education? Her child required services and they got them, probably more than they needed. Other kids in the school are not so lucky. What about the kids with psych issues who threaten to harm themselves, are you going to feel bad for her then if they do because she chose to ignore the cry for help that the kids sent out? Or what about the kids who have to leave MVRCS for whatever reason and the teachers and students are not allowed to have a going away party for them? Do you think they leave thinking their friends and teachers didn't care about them enough to acknowledge them leaving? Sometimes the other kids don't even find out until the student is gone. Think that makes any child feel good? I too don't really understand how any of THIS is ok nor how the Board, Administration and Kathy Kinnon think that it is.
    Kathy Kinnon is an adult and is making her own decisions. I'm sure her children have heard worse things.

  7. My dealings with MVRCS regarding issues with my child have been nothing short of wonderful. Any parent has the ability to contact the DESE and file a complaint. If there is truly a problem with SPED at MVRCS, this seems to be the way to at least get an investigation underway,not hearsay on a blog. This is taken directly from the site:

    31. What assistance does the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education offer persons who believe that a charter school is not meeting its obligations under federal and state laws and regulations?
    The Program Quality Assurance Unit (PQA) manages the ESE’s Problem Resolution System (PRS). The PRS is the process for receiving, reviewing and resolving concerns from the public regarding students who allegedly are not receiving education services under federal and state laws and regulations as required. Information about the PRS is available at Individuals who believe that any charter school student is not receiving special educational services or procedural protections that by law must be provided to disabled students may access the PRS by contacting PQA Services at:

    Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
    Program Quality Assurance Services, Problem Resolution Intake Specialist
    75 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148
    Telephone: 781-338-3700
    TTY:N.E.T. Relay: 1-800-439-2370
    FAX: 781-338-3710

  8. "I'm sure her children have heard worse things." << That right there speaks volumes to me as to the nature of the person that wrote the post. Tsk tsk.

  9. To Anonymous @ 10:51
    Yes, the DESE does have a complaint proceedure in place but unfortunately, the first step involves approaching the Board (which most parents would agree would be useless except to identify them as trouble makers or alienate them against the board. Should that Board not resolve the issue to the parents satisifaction, they can then file a claim with the DESE. Did you see the statistics we put up in another post regarding the IEP issues and the complaint process with the DESE? We agree that it is unfortunate that we have to have taken this path to resolve the issues we see at the school but the problem is not us trying to adequately educate parents so that they can ensure their children receive an education. We are repeating the statistics here as it is worth knowing:
    Rejected Individualized Education Programs
    During FY'09, the BSEA received 7,252 rejected IEPs, a decrease of 149 over the past fiscal year.

    There were approximately 846 mediations concerning special education and Section 504 matters, conducted by eight BSEA mediators during FY'09, a 6.6% decrease over the prior year. Approximately 84.5 % of the mediations resulted in written agreements.

    There were 609 hearing requests received by the BSEA during FY'09, (representing a slight decrease from 618 requests in the prior year), the vast majority of which were either resolved prior to proceeding to the formal hearing or subsequent to the commencement of the hearing but prior to concluding the process.
    The seven 1 full-time BSEA hearing officers conducted full hearings resulting in 48 decisions.
    In addition to the 48 decisions, at least 35 substantive written rulings were issued by the hearing officers.

    Representation and Prevailing Party (this is where it is really disheartening!)
    Of the 48 decisions noted above, parents prevailed in 6 (approximately 12.5 %), school districts in 36 (75%), while 5 decisions (approximately 10.5 %) involved mixed relief and 1 decision (approximately 2 %) involved relief against another state agency, or a dispute between two or more school districts.

    Statistics with respect to outcome in relation to representation are as follows: (READ: GET AN ADVOCATE OR ATTORNEY!)
    Of the 6 cases in which parents fully prevailed, parents were represented by counsel in 3, appeared pro se in 2, and were represented by a lay advocate in 1; the school district was represented by counsel in all 6 matters.

    Of the 36 cases in which school districts fully prevailed, the district was represented by counsel in all 36 cases; parents appeared pro se in 25, were represented by counsel in 9 and by an advocate in 2.

  10. To Anonymous at 12:10

    Your quote and response of "I'm sure her children have heard worse things." << That right there speaks volumes to me as to the nature of the person that wrote the post. Tsk tsk."

    What truly speaks volumes is that out of all the OTHER comments regarding ALL of the other CHILDREN, you feel that that comment speaks loudest. Obviously your child has never been subjected to any of the examples given. Oh, wait maybe it was your child who threatened to harm themselves (or your child) and you just don't know about it. Is that better????
    We are sorry if her children read this but just as they don't worry about the children they are causing emotional distress to, we can't worry about them. Also, how do you think the kids of parents like Annie O. feel as individuals who have been associated with the school (and verified) have spoken to and about her for advocating for HER children? I'm sure in your mind, that is ok though.

  11. I began reading this blog when first contacted through email. I first thought it was a good resource of information.

    Today is the last day I "waste" time reading from a group of parents, past and present who take this blog to the next level.
    When the feelings of all children are not taken into consideration you lose all credibility. To not care about the children of Kathy Kinnon you have proven your agenda.

  12. To Anonymous @ Oct 12, 8:09pm
    Wrote: "In Kathy's defense Kathy doesn't write the IEP's, we as parents have every bit as much input as the "Team" does for writing an IEP, this is where it benefits your child, we know our children best."

    We can assure you that parents at MVRCS have very little say in what goes into their child's IEP, ESPECIALLY when it does not tie into the decisions or conclusions of Kathy Kinnon. We have seen and heard of numerous parents who have outside evaluations that come back with accomodations that the child requires yet the school refuses to make any changes. Ask Kathy how many children receive 1:1 services - very few if any. Because "they don't do that" - direct quote. Now call the DESE and ask if THAT is legal?
    Parents are not allowed in the school building or classroom, and have very few instances to see the classroom or even the hallways. Anyone try getting into the building after school recently? Have a child that has to go to the bathroom after school (cause they can't go after 3:00 in school), they can't use the school facilities. Yeah, really.
    Back to parents being responsible, if parents can't actually SEE their child in the classroom, they are left to the information provided by the school. Parents should have access to the building and be welcomed into the classroom on a regular basis. I'd like to see a district school try that one.
    Sorry, just my opinion and experiences.

  13. To Anonymous @ 12:46pm
    You are taking our words out of context, it is not that we do not care about the children of Kathy Kinnon, or anyone else's child for that matter, we do care about ALL of the children - otherwise we wouldn't have put ourselves out and have created this blog. All of the children of the school are equally important us but if we're not mistaken, Kathy Kinnon's kids are much older and therefore, are able to form their own opinions and ideas. We are also unsure as to what part of this particular post would be so detrimental to her children? That we prefer she not be in charge of the Special Ed at our school? Boy, imagine how Obama's kids must feel!
    What we find disturbing is your unwillingness to concern yourself with all of the other children who are facing much more challenging situations. We wish you all the best and am sorry that we can not make all of the people happy all of the time (but we are trying!). All the best.
    PS - Not to worry, when it's YOUR child that needs help and you are desperate for information, this information will still be here for you!

  14. "My dealings with MVRCS regarding issues with my child have been nothing short of wonderful. Any parent has the ability to contact the DESE and file a complaint. If there is truly a problem with SPED at MVRCS, this seems to be the way to at least get an investigation underway,not hearsay on a blog"

    Just so you know, I have been there, and I have done just that, as has many other parents have as well. The DESE has probably had more hearings for parents at MV than another school in Malden. They know what is going on, they just choose to turn a blind eye on it.

  15. "Obviously your child has never been subjected to any of the examples given. Oh, wait maybe it was your child who threatened to harm themselves (or your child) and you just don't know about it. Is that better????"

    You don't know that of anyone and step out of bounds assuming it. If our child did have such a problem, we certainly wouldn't be relying on or expecting that ANY teacher or school official to diagnose, handle or treat it. We would include them in the plan that the pediatrician, mental health professionals and WE formulated as a team. If MVRCS did not wish to be on board with the plan that WE thought best for our child, then our child would not continue to attend that school. Would we continue to fight the battle if we thought something was unjust? Of course. We just would not leave them there to struggle while we were doing it if we really thought it was that bad.

  16. We don't know what of anyone? That a child hasn't threatened to harm themselves or another student and the school chose to ignore it? Now you are making assumptions and are wrong.
    What you are failing to understand about the situation is that if the parent is NOT informed and does not know what is going on, THEY CAN NOT DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT. This is why the state MANDATES that any threats or talk of a child harming themselves be taken VERY SERIOUSLY and REQUIRES the school to report it.

    And - "Would we continue to fight the battle if we thought something was unjust? Of course. We just would not leave them there to struggle while we were doing it if we really thought it was that bad."

    THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT WE ARE TRYING TO DO HERE! The school has made 'fighting the battle' near impossible and incredibly miserable for many parents who are just trying to do right by their child. Parents who do not want their children in their district schools (for whatever reason) and have committed themselves to MVRCS for the sake of their children, have a right to have their child educated (just as you and I do) within MVRCS. Because that child has a learning disability or emotional issue should not (and does not) mean that they can not attend MVRCS.