Originally, I had planned to share things that parents need to document at school under “normal” circumstances. But then the global pandemic hit and, well, we’re all learning at home now.
So, I was totally prepped to flip this post or trash it completely. Then I got to thinking that even though where we’re learning is different, the things we need to track is really still the same.
4 Things Parents Need to Document at School
If you’re reading this and your child doesn’t have an education (IEPs, 504 Plans or Gifted Education Plans), keep going! Even if everything is going swimmingly, you still need to be tracking a few essentials at school every year.
Use the tracker included in Talk to the Teacher to help!
Parents Need to Document Communication
It’s easy to get caught in the communication trap. You think that the teacher said something at conferences or you’re almost positive that there was an email about that.
Unless you’re regularly tracking what’s being said and emailed, you might miss something or lose track of a critical accommodation that the school agreed to at the last meeting.
When in doubt, track it!
Create a spreadsheet with columns for the date, meeting type, participants/sender and recipient, highlights.
Now, every time you have a phone call, meeting, conference or send an important email you can fill in the chart. Keeping this on your computer really helps to make it simple.
When you’re wondering about something later and just can’t recall the exact info, you’ll be able to go back to the tracker and find right date and communication info. Simple!
You Need to Track Grades & Progress
Fair warning: not everyone will need to pay as close attention as others.
If your child is already struggling with academics, keeping tracking of grades and overall progress is essential. However, even if your child is right on track, having a general sense of how things are going is still important.
Generally, what you’re looking for is progress over time. Every child should be getting better as they develop: increasing in skill level, in complexity of work, or in understanding of topic. Basically, as school gets harder, they can meet the challenge at their level.
What you’re not looking for is a stall or regression in progress.
Here are the red flags:
- Sudden multi-grade level drop
- “Brick wall” preventing moving forward
- Increase in anxiety, anger, or sadness when working
- Increase in disruptive behavior at school
These changes indicate that school is challenging them beyond their level.
If you notice any of these signs, it’s crucial that you document it ASAP. If you have a communication tracker spreadsheet, you could create a new page in that same file for grades.
Note the date of each report card and the grad in each subject for the marking period. If you see grades that suddenly fall, highlight that data and get in touch with the teacher ASAP to learn more.
Lack of progress, or stalling, is harder to see on report cards because it’s a cumulative measure. Instead, you’re going to want to see that your child is meeting with greater success on everyday work samples. Handwriting should get neater, spelling should improve, math skills should get better. There might not be huge leaps, like going from 40% to 100%, all at once. But you should see small, incremental changes over time.
If you’re concerned about stalling, you might want to track daily work or homework over a 2-3 week period. If there is no change in success AND your child is routinely scoring below 65% on assignments, it’s time to involve the teacher.
For in-class and at-home behavior changes, use your best judgement. Keeping hard data, like a daily check-in system, after school is never a bad idea.
Grab a copy of Talk to the Teacher to discover the EXACT emails to send and words to say if you’re worried about grades or progress!
Parents Need to Document Interventions
If something is happening for your child that is outside the “norm,” it needs to be documented and tracked. This includes accommodations and modifications for IEPs or 504 Plans, gifted education, RtI, and small group or 1:1 instruction. You should also note any special social groups, counseling, and therapeutic services your child is receiving.
Knowing what your child is or should be receiving can be helpful to holding everyone accountable.
If your child should be getting three, 30 minute speech therapy sessions per week but is only getting two, you need to know that. Your child could be eligible for compensatory services and the school is in violation of the IEP.
Perhaps your child has been getting 1:1 math instruction for 6 week with very little improvement, you need to know that! Since there’s been no or very slow progress, your child could be eligible for special education testing and an IEP.
It’s one of the things parents need to document because without it your child could be missing essential supports and services.
Here’s what to do:
Once a month, send an email to all the teachers and support staff your child is supposed to be seeing or that you know about.
Confirm that they are still seeing your child for the number of sessions and minutes per session that are outlined in the IEP, 504 Plan, or gifted education plan. Ask if they have any data to share that might give you insights to progress.
If your child isn’t currently on an IEP or 504 Plan, reach out to their homeroom and subject area teachers. Ask how your child is doing and share any concerns that you might have. Inquire about any additional supports or measures that are being taken to help your child succeed.
Make note of their responses in your communication tracker. Save their emails in a separate folder in your inbox.
Repeat every month. Should something change, confirm the change in writing and ask why the switch was made. For students on IEPs, no changes should be made without your consent. For all students, teachers and school personnel should be keeping you informed about your child’s education generally.
You Need to Track Changes in the Program
Things change. We all get that, especially right now. However, it’s important to know when, how, and why those changes are being made. This is one of those things parents need to document.
This goes double if your child has an IEP or 504 Plan.
Learn more about IEPs and 504 Plans!
Federal law prohibits changes to be made to a child’s IEP without express parental consent. Even when schools are physically shut down, you still need to be consulted and give permission.
That’s because parents are considered a critical member of the IEP team. You have equal say and input as all the school staff and teachers. Plus, it’s your child.
For 504 Plans and gifted education, you have less official say about what’s happening. However, schools will generally default to checking in with you to confirm and explain changes. Being transparent is in their best interest.
However, teachers should also be letting you know about significant changes in your child’s daily classroom experience. Every classroom has some variation of small groups, or groups of 2-6 students who work with each other and the teacher on academic tasks. If your child suddenly moves to 1:1 instruction or is enrolled in RtI, you need to know.
This is where those monthly check-in emails come in handy. You’ve already set up a great system to stay in the know about your child’s education.
Use the email scripts in Talk to the Teacher to make communication a breeze!