Are parents truly enabled to participate in case conferences? As a former special education administrator, I have sat in many conferences where I watched staff conduct more of an IEP presentations opposed to leading a conversation about an IEP.
As special educators, we are many times inundated with IEP lingo and compliance; however, for our parents who many times only sit in IEP review meetings once, maybe twice a year, this language can be difficult to follow – even if they are familiar with Article 7.
One rule which we encouraged staff to follow is that the parent should contribute to the conversation within the first five minutes of the meeting. This goes beyond a simple introduction. Parents could be prompted to list one to three things they are happy with regarding student progress and then one to three concerns or questions they have about creating a plan for the upcoming school year. If parents are more reluctant to participate, teachers may need to work with them ahead of time, either through the use of a pre-conference form or through a phone call. Another idea to get all participants involved in the meeting, including parents, is to give everyone a role such as, time keeper, tracking the agenda, note taker, etc.
The more parents have the opportunity to truly participate in the conference, the more invested they will be to the success of the educational plan. So, do we dare ask how much opportunity the student has to participate in her or her case conference?