Special Education Series Part 5: Educator Perspective

In this final newsletter of the case conference series, I’d like to dive into the 90/10 rule.  The rule is fairly simple – 90% of your communication with parents should be focused on positive goals, solutions to problems, and acknowledging progress, while 10% of your communication should be focused on problems or issues.  Where things get more complicated is when you begin to think of all the 90/10 rule can apply.  Without getting overwhelmed let’s break it down into two categories, case conferences and general communication.

For case conferences it is important to consider this rule when creating your agenda.  If you are not using an agenda, this is critical.  Positive and effective communication doesn’t happen by chance.  It happens when thought and planning has been put behind the words.  As you are listing concerns and issues that need to be addressed, make sure for each one you are also listing several possible solutions.  Another general rule is the 4:1 ration of positive to negative feedback.  So, for each concern be sure have four positive statements to add to them conversation.  Again, this will require planning ahead of time but will likely make your meeting and future interactions with the family much more positive and productive.  When thinking about a case conference length, generally speaking they run about an hour so make sure at least 50 minutes of that hour is spent on problem solving and setting positive goals, while no more than ten minutes is spent discussing problems.  Be sure to encourage any other staff attending the conference to follow the same rules.

As for general communication, the focus should on what do you have in place as an educator to communicate positive feedback.  Do you have times scheduled into your plans to contact parents only to share something positive?  Do you ever reach out to students in some way only to provide positive encouragement?  Do you ever have planned celebrations when students reach a goal?  Do these celebrations include communicating with the parents?  Communicating when something goes wrong or there is a problem tends to come more naturally in the school environment and is an important part of communication; however it’s the effort you put into the positive communication that will help you to develop a true working partnership with parents and guardians.  And when we know that partnering with families improves student outcomes, why would we not make these efforts?