“I have a draft of a program that we think will give Amy the support she needs to be successful in school. I think this plan will help her make appropriate progress.”
Mr. and Mrs. Sanderson agreed that Amy had a Specific Learning Disability and that she needed additional help in school. Now they wanted to know what kind of help we could give her.
“The plan that I’m going to go over is called an IEP,” I explained. “That stands for Individual Education Plan. If you agree for Amy to have an IEP, we will put this into effect for a year. If you have concerns or are unhappy about how anything is going, you can reconvene this meeting at any time so we can discuss changes.”
Mr. Sanderson began thumbing through the pages of the IEP I handed him. I had written “Draft” on the front page in big letters with a neon green highlighter. In the next 20 minutes I went over the first parts of the IEP and the reading and math goals for the next year.
“Amy has an extra person in her Social Studies and Science classes,” I said as I turned to the Services page on the draft.
“Isn’t that a Mrs. Alvarez?” Mrs. Sanderson asked. “Amy really likes having the extra teacher in those classes.
“Mrs. Alvarez is a special education para. She’s in there for some other students who have IEP’s. Mrs. Alvarez helps all the students, but she especially makes sure that the students with IEP’s are getting any help they need.”
I noticed that the Sandersons had become more and more relaxed, but I wondered if the next part might change that.
“Amy should be in an English and Math class that also has a special education para. The extra help in those classes will go a long way to help Amy be successful. To get her into one of those classes, we need to change her schedule.”
Mrs. Sanderson’s face fell. “Why can’t you just assign Mrs. Alvarez into Amy’s English and Math classes?”
The principal leaned forward. “We would love to be able to do that,” she said, “But there are several students we’re trying to give support to and we have to schedule our special ed paras so that we can make the best use of their time.”
Mr. Sanderson stared down at the service page. I noticed he was slowly nodding his head, but Mrs. Sanderson was still frowning.
I’ll bet she’s thinking about telling Amy that her schedule is going to change.
“We will make sure she stays with the same teacher,” I added, “But we just couldn’t make this work without changing her schedule.
I wasn’t done yet.
“There’s one more thing we need to add to Amy’s schedule.”
Both parents looked up warily.
“As we discussed earlier, Amy is over two years behind grade level in reading and math. We need to add a class that will help Amy close that gap in her skills. The time for that class has to come from somewhere, and I’m recommending that Amy trade out one of her current classes to come to the Learning Center every day to work on those skills.”
“Which class does she have to drop?” asked Mr. Sanderson.
“We have several options. There’s Science, Social Studies, Art, or Spanish.”
“She hates Spanish,” Mrs. Sanderson said quickly. “She failed it last semester.”
Of course she’s struggling with Spanish. She’s struggling with English. Spanish isn’t a conversational class in Middle School. She’s being asked to read and write in Spanish now.
“We’d like her to keep all of her core classes,” I continued. “And I think it’s important for Amy to be in a class that she’s strong in. Her Art teacher is constantly bragging about her work.”
“So you think she should drop Spanish?” Mr. Sanderson asked.
He doesn’t look all that upset.
“I think it would be the least disruptive to her day,” I said.
Both parents looked at each other and nodded.
In the next 10 minutes I reviewed everything we had covered in the last hour, and the Sandersons signed permission for the IEP.
“Thank you for all your help,” Mr. Sanderson said holding out his hand as he walked out.
“You’re welcome. I look forward to working with Amy. She’s a sweet girl, and I’m sure she’s going to grow into an amazing young woman.”
I watched the Sandersons walk out smiling. I gathered up my endless stack of papers and felt the muscles in the back of my neck begin to relax. New placements are always a little tricky in middle school.
It’s nice when everyone leaves happy.