Improving GenEd Teacher Confidence with IEP Meetings

As confusing and complicated as the IEP process can seem to parents and caregivers, general education (gen ed)  teachers may feel the same way. The special education team has strong skills in the area of IEPs and while gen ed teachers have students on IEPs in their classrooms, they are not attending the meetings and writing IEPs as part of their daily tasks. This can leave gen ed teachers feeling unsure about their role in an IEP meeting or what they “should” say. I have had teachers talk with  me before an IEP meeting with wide eyes, asking, “What do you need me to talk about? What should I say?” 

Gen ed teachers serve a key role on the IEP team, as IEPs are developed to help a student better access their education at school. They are essential to providing insight into how that student is functioning and learning in their general education classroom. Gen ed teachers have a unique perspective on our students and what accommodations they will need in the classroom to aid in their success. 

While continued practice and experience being part of IEP team meetings will help grow confidence in this area, the following tips can be implemented to help them feel like a confident and valued member of the IEP team:

  • Prep and Reflect
    • Once you have been given notice that an IEP meeting is scheduled for one of your students, take time to reflect on how that student is functioning in your classroom. Prepare any work samples, points you would like to make, concerns you have, and suggestions prior to talking with the case manager.
  • Review IEP Goals & Progress
  • Talk with the Case Manager
    • Bring up concerns and challenges you have with the case manager. These concerns and challenges can be used to provide input on the proposed goals for the new IEP.
  • List Strengths & Challenges
    • During the present levels overview in an IEP meeting, you will be asked to share the student’s strengths and challenges. Preparing the list ahead of time helps you organize your thoughts and won’t make you feel like you’re in the hot seat!
  • Anecdotes
    • Have a few anecdotal stories in your back pocket to share with caregivers–if appropriate–during the meeting. Caregivers and other IEP team members need to feel like you know the student and are invested in their education. 
  • Work Samples
    • Bring work samples that correspond to the student’s strengths and challenges to the meeting for parents to view. 
  • Brainstorm Proposed Accommodations
    • Prior to the meeting, brainstorm accommodations you believe would be appropriate for the student. Keep in mind that this IEP follows them for an entire calendar year and will need to be specific and clearly understood by that student’s teacher the following school year. Teachers are also encouraged to experiment with any proposed accommodations in the classroom prior to the IEP meeting. This allows you to collect evidence on whether or not this would be an appropriate accommodation for the student.

The last and most important tip I can pass along is to ASK QUESTIONS! Special education staff members are used to writing IEPs and handling IEP meetings and may use an unfamiliar acronym or term. Asking for clarification helps promote clear communication between staff members and enhances the understanding of the goals and services pertaining to that student. Asking for clarification not only helps you better understand your student’s needs, it supports your professional growth.

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