Parents: Homework is the key to a successful Planning and Placement Team (PPT) meeting. If you do your homework properly, you will come to the meeting fully prepared and ready to do business. You will feel empowered and you will become a better advocate for your child.
This is one of the most important things you can do to prepare for a PPT meeting: get a copy of your child’s school records. And read them.
Did you know you can get a free copy of your child’s school records just by asking? Thanks to a Federal law called the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Under FERPA, parents of public school students have the right to obtain a free copy of their child’s school records. This right exists until the child reaches age 18. At age 18, the right transfers to the student. FERPA is a powerful law that gives parents many other rights relating to school records as well. The U.S. Department of Education has a useful web site about FERPA which you can access at https://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html?src=rn
Ask your school principal or the administrator on your child’s PPT team for a copy of your child’s school records. It is a good idea to put this request in writing. Specifically, ask for a full copy of your child’s “cumulative file” and “special education file.”
The cumulative file will contain attendance records, report cards and other general education records going back to when your child began school. The special education file will contain PPT paperwork, special education evaluations and other records going back to when your child was first considered for special education. There will be no special education file if your child has never been a special education student or if eligibility for special education was never considered.
When you get the records, sort them in chronological order starting at the beginning. Then read the records. It may take a while. But it is worth the effort.
Pay close attention to the special education evaluations in the school records. Evaluations are critical. They are the basis for most of the decisions that affect your child’s special education. If new evaluations will be discussed at the PPT meeting, ask to have the evaluations provided to you in advance so you can study them. It is quite possible you will need to find someone who is knowledgeable about special education to explain the evaluations to you.
It is a good idea to keep all the school records in one place. Get a large 3-ring loose-leaf notebook and a paper punch. Put the records in the notebook in chronological order. As time goes by and new records are generated, keep adding them to your notebook. Every time you send a note or a letter to the school, put a copy in your notebook. Any correspondence you receive from the school should be kept there as well. You could even put samples of your child’s schoolwork in your notebook. Be creative.
When you read your child’s school records, questions will probably arise. Make a list of your questions and keep the list handy. You will need it when you prepare your agenda for the PPT meeting.
Parents should come to every PPT meeting with a written agenda. That is a list of the topics and questions they want the PPT team to address.
Think about what you want to accomplish during the PPT meeting. Do you need to ask for something? Is there a problem you want the team to resolve? Do you have questions?
Several days before the PPT meeting, write up a list of your concerns and questions. This list is your agenda for the meeting. Bring copies of your PPT agenda to the meeting and give one to every member of the team before the meeting begins.
When you write your PPT agenda, keep it pithy. Do not go into much detail. A well-written agenda should take no more than a minute to read. Let the details come out during the meeting. Put your name and your child’s name at the top of the agenda along with the date, time and location of the PPT meeting. Be sure to ask to have a copy of your PPT agenda added to the permanent record of the PPT meeting.
Preparing an agenda is a great way to gather your thoughts. But do not wait until the last minute. Write your agenda and put it away for a day or two. Think about it for a while. Forget it for a while. Then read it later. You will probably find ways to improve your agenda.
When it is ready, send your PPT agenda to the case manager or the administrator on your child’s PPT team. Include a note asking to forward your agenda to the rest of the PPT team members so they will be prepared to respond to your concerns at the meeting.
Properly handled, your PPT agenda will be a simple and non-confrontational way to notify your child’s PPT team about the topics you want to discuss during the meeting. Your agenda has another benefit as well. If time runs out and the meeting ends before all the topics in your agenda are addressed, the need to schedule a follow-up meeting in order to finish the business at hand will be obvious to everyone.
By Kevin Daly
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