For special education teachers, individualized education programs (IEPs) require a lot of time, effort, and preparation. Between analyzing data, drafting goals, writing PLOPs and transition plans, and the various other components involved in drafting an IEP, it can be a stressful and overwhelming time. Fortunately, I’ve been able to develop a few strategies that have helped make IEPs a little easier and I’m happy to share them with you.
One way I am able to stay on top of things is to develop a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet for each student and enter any data I have collected each month. That way, I don’t have to enter a year’s worth of data every time I need to complete an IEP. I quantify my data into some sort of scale or numerical value and then let Excel do its thing to find percentages and even create graphics that visually show the data and progress my students have made. From my experience, parents and other IEP team members really appreciate these graphics since simply being presented with numbers can be overwhelming and difficult to understand.
In addition to data entry, we all know how hard it can be to juggle our students needs and teaching workload with administrative tasks. I am fortunate to have supportive school administrators who allow me to clear my schedule of meetings during my planning periods and work on data. To help show that I’m using this time efficiently, I always review the minutes of the meetings I’ve missed so I’m able to add my input and ask questions as needed.
When it comes to conducting student interviews (and especially for transition plans), I typically set aside one day of instruction to review career and post-secondary education goals. After a rich discussion, I pull each student aside for 5 – 10 minutes to go over their plans. Since my students create their plans individually during the class instruction, I am able to use that data to write my transition plans. For me, this method is a lot easier and more effective than trying to pull my students away from academic instruction to write their plans. After all, goal setting skills are critical for our students with exceptionalities.
Finally, my colleagues and I use a standardized checklist with sample narratives that help to provide a synopsis of the student’s progress and any concerns they have. Items on the checklist include questions such as: Can the student write a complete paragraph with the correct structure and mechanics? Has the student had any behavioral successes? What are any academic concerns you have about the student? This really helps and doesn’t take much time to complete – which, as special educators, is something we certainly do not take for granted.
Richard Williams is a special education teacher for students with emotional/behavioral disorders. Williams has worked in general education schools in self-contained EBD classrooms and two special education centers for students with severe EBD. He has a master’s in special education from Clark Atlanta University and is currently working towards a doctorate in special education from The George Washington University with a focus on students with EBD and transition plans and preparations for post-secondary life. In additions to his studies, he is working on two projects: one on the neurological and continuities ability for adolescents to effectively participate in their transition plans, and one on the quality of life outcomes for students with EBD in post-secondary school. An active CEC member, Williams has been a Reality 101 blogger as well as a member of the Yes I Can and Diversity Committees. Outside of the classroom, he is a plant-based lifestyle and animal rights advocate who runs a blog of book reviews and current events. In his spare time, he loves to read and go on hikes with his dog.