One holiday is over, so before the next one comes I hope to wrap up the ABCs series. Then, in 2016, I will be adding to it. I usually pick my topics based on what readers ask me about, so feel free to send an email if you want something explained. Anyway, today is Q is for Qualifications. Q isn’t a really popular letter, but it still took me a long time to pick a term. But I think Qualifications covers a bunch of common questions that I get, so here goes–Qualifications and the IEP process.
IEP Team Member qualifications
Sometimes we have an experience with our child’s school and it’s so terrible that we find ourselves saying, “Surely this person cannot be qualified to do their job.” But, having spent many years as a people-manager myself, sometimes we mis-hire. It happens. They do well in the interview and then it falls apart. Or, we take on a new supervisory role and have to work with the team that is given to us.
So if we are having doubts about certain team members’ qualifications, what can we do?
First, let the internet be your friend. Get really good at using Google. If the position has a state license or certification, all of that information will be online. The person likely had to be approved by the school board and that information will be in meeting minutes. If the information is not online, you can always do a Right to Know request. You can usually find teacher contracts, position descriptions and whatever else you need on the district’s website. In this day and age of information spreading rapidly via social media, and because we are such a litigious society, I really would be surprised if most positions–teachers, therapists, admins–were not thoroughly vetted and researched prior to hiring. Then again, nothing surprises me.
More importantly, ask yourself why you want this information? What are you going to do with it? A big “gotcha!” at the next IEP meeting?
One area where I get a lot of qualification questions from parents is in regards to PCAs, paras or aides. I’m going to just lump them all together and call them aides for the sake of brevity. Yes, aides are some of the most unskilled and lowest paid positions available in a school…and yet they are a position that can have the most direct contact and impact on our kids. As an aside, I think we should value these folks more and pay them more, but I could rant about that all day. But rather than call into question the aide’s qualifications, stay child focused. What is your child getting or not getting? How is it affecting them? What needs to change? If they are not implementing the IEP, go that route. That is much easier to document and track and have success with. After all, if you get an aide removed and they hire another one…if the supervisor isn’t making them implement the IEP, you’ve gained nothing.
I always prefer to stay child focused and use the IEP process. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a successful resolution to a problem by finger-pointing and questioning qualifications. If I end up in Due Process and asking for comp ed, it’s my attorney’s job to question their qualifications, not mine. So, let’s move on.
Qualifications of programs/strategies/curriculum
Per IDEA and case law, your district is required to give your child specifically designed instruction (SDIs) that helps them meet their goals, which are designed based on their areas of need. And, those SDIs, whatever they may be, are to be evidence-based and implemented with fidelity. Whew, that’s a mouthful! But it’s so important!
Evidence based means that enough research has been done that we have the evidence to know that this program works. But if you are not going to implement the program with fidelity, all that evidence goes out the window. After all, they don’t take data on what happens if people half-ass the program, right?
There are literally thousands of evidence based educational and behavioral curriculums on the market–ABA, Saxon Math, Wilson Reading, and Linda Mood-Bell are some of the more common ones you might hear about. Every curriculum has a publisher–someone has done the research and written the curriculum and has it published and for sale. Again, look it up online. Because what you want to look for is the written protocols and qualifications. Wilson requires that it’s instructors go through some very specialized training…so NO! this cannot be implemented by the bus aide in between bus runs for 20 minutes a day. (yes, I’ve seen that!)
If you cannot find the protocols, look for an 800 number or email and contact them and ask. Or, ask your school. You want to make sure that your child is receiving the curriculum with fidelity, otherwise it’s worthless.
I was chatting with a Mom the other day, and she said that her son’s school told her, “Let me show you how we do Saxon math.” Seriously? And, they were doing it at half pace, so best case scenario was that her son was going to progress 50% as far as his peers in a school year. If your child cannot meet the requirements of the protocol (like covering one full math lesson each day) then it’s an inappropriate curriculum and protocol for them. The team has to find something else.
Look, I know schools don’t have enough money. And sending teachers to expensive training to get certifications, or paying a teacher to do a 1:1 reading lesson with a child for 90 minutes every day is expensive. I get that, really. But if it is what the child needs to make progress, then it’s appropriate.
(And then join me on my journey to lobby for schools and education.)
Qualifications for evaluators and evaluations
This is something I discussed for the Letter E is for Evaluations. You can refer to that post to help you determine if an evaluation or evaluator is appropriate for your child.
So there you go, hopefully this gives you some guidance. As always, I welcome questions and comments.