One of the best ways to prepare for meetings and track your child’s progress is to put together an annual grade level based Educational Binder.
The binder will help you keep key documents handy, along with details about phone calls and other interactions with the school. Making a binder is a great way to keep information organized and at the ready when you need it. You should create an Educational Binder at the beginning of each school year containing all documents detailed below for each grade level.
A binder can help you prepare for IEP Team Meetings, Section 504 Meetings, RTI Support Team Meetings, and Parent-Teacher Conferences. With an Educational Binder, you will stay up to date on your child’s educational, behavioral, social, and learning progress.
This powerful tool can also help you communicate and collaborate with teachers and your child’s team of professionals, including building level personnel who work with your child (teachers, paraprofessionals, guidance counselor, school psychologist, speech-language pathologist, physical & occupational therapists, assistive technology staff, building level administration, and key central office Directors of Special Education Services, District RTI Coordinator, District Section 504 Coordinator, the School District Superintendent and other key staff).
Below is a list of what you need to obtain to create your annual Educational Binder:
- A three-ring binder (moderate size)
- Seven tabbed section dividers
- A three-hole punch
Start with the Educational Binder Checklist. The checklist has another very important purpose: You can update it as you add new paperwork. As your binder grows, this checklist will help you see what you have updated and when you updated it. Download Educational Binder Checklist
Tab 1: Communication Section
Print and fill out the School Contact Form and put it in the front of this section. The contact form will help you quickly find and reach out to key people with questions or concerns. Record their name, educational position, phone number, and e-mail. Also record the school’s address, phone number, secretary(s), e-mail and web page. Download School Contact Form
Next print the Parent-School Communication Log. Use this log to help you keep track of meetings, phone calls, emails and other important interactions you have with your child’s teacher and school staff, as well as central office personnel. As you fill out each entry, be sure to note what was discussed and with whom, the time of day and date, along with the outcome. Insist that the person with whom you discussed the matter “verbally” compose an e-mail sent to you, summarizing your verbal discussion. State to the school person you spoke with, that you need this e-mail for written documentation to place in your child’s Educational Binder. Print out the e-mail and place it in the communication section. Download Parent-School Communication Log
The rest of this communication section is for letters and other important emails. Put the newest documents on top, behind the communication log. Why keep printed copies of emails? Having a paper version in your educational binder means you will have it on hand for meetings, so you can easily find and reference what was said. WRITTEN DOCUMENTATION IS IMPORTANT! As you file notices, letters, and emails in this communication section, remember to include a brief summary of each one in the communication log.
Tab 2: Evaluations Section
Start this evaluation section with your parent letter for request of an evaluation Download Sample Evaluation Request Letter or the school’s referral for evaluation. Behind the referral for evaluation, place your consent for evaluation. Keeping these two documents together can help you determine if the school completes the evaluation in a timely manner and to your requested expectations.
In your letter requesting an evaluation specify what your expectations are, what professionals you are requesting to perform the evaluation, and the purpose of the evaluation. If the school declines to evaluate, place the letter of decline to evaluate with these two documents. Consider proceeding with a private evaluation or evaluations if you desire several different evaluations (Speech-Language, Learning Disability, Autism, ADHD…)
Next place the school-based or private evaluation report(s) in the evaluation section of the educational binder. If there are several evaluations (done privately or by the school district) place all evaluations here. It’s handy to have this in the same evaluation section as your request for evaluation, so that you can match up each request for evaluation, the outcome of the request for evaluation and the formal evaluation results report.
Tab 3: Individual Education Plan (IEP), Section 504 Plan, or Response to Intervention Plan (RTI)
If you have an IEP place a copy of your Federal IDEA Rights and Procedural Safeguards the school gave you. Download Rights & Procedural Safeguards Each time an IEP Team Meeting is held, the school should verbally go over your Rights and Procedural Safeguards and offer you and additional copy. This is important information read it carefully and inquire for further explanation if necessary. In addition, you can also download the TN SPED Framework Manual. Download TN Special Education Framework
If you have a Section 504 Plan place a copy of the TN DOE Section 504 Manual here. The school will not give you this manual Download Section 504 Manual Familiarize yourself with the policies and procedures of the Section 504 Manual and link these to your child’s Section 504 Plan. There is a difference between an Individual Education Plan (IEP) and a Section 504 Plan. Download Difference Between IEP & 504
If you have a Response to Intervention (RTI) plan Download RTI2 Manual or an RTI Behavior Plan Download RTI-Behavior Manual place them in the educational binder. RTI is the starting point for all educational interventions. The RTI Manual outlines Universal Screening , Tier I, Tier II, and Tier III levels of intervention. Read the RTI Manual and become informed about RTI process and what it means for your child’s education and/or educational interventions. Download TN DOE Supports Manual
Early in the school year, conference with your child’s teacher and inquire about how your child performed on the school-wide RTI Universal Screening procedure at the beginning of the school year. Obtain a copy of your child’s ranking in all areas assessed on the RTI Universal Screener. Inquire if your child meets criteria for educational interventions on Tier II or Tier III based upon results from the Universal Screening.
If your child does qualify for Tier II or Tier III intervention, obtain a copy of your child’s RTI plan of intervention. Note how many times per week and for how long the intervention will occur. Record the name(s) of the intervention program(s) which are used for each academic area. Note the name and credentials of the individual who is performing the RTI intervention. Remember, it is BEST PRACTICES to have a highly qualified, licensed educator carry out RTI interventions, although a school may choose to use a “trained paraprofessional” under TN DOE RTI Guidelines.
All RTI intervention programs must meet rigorous standards as an “evidenced based practice.” If you are unsure about your child’s intervention program consult with a private school psychologist in order to determine if the RTI program is an evidenced based program.
All schools have an RTI Committee where the intervention progress of individual students is discussed on a regular basis. Students are monitored (assessed) for improvement or lack of improvement. Changes in RTI interventions are made based upon Curriculum Based Measurement probes (CBM) or other assessment programs of intervention based measurement.
RTI Progress Reports will be sent home advising you of your child’s progress with response to intervention. If RTI Progress Reports are not sent home, inquire with the teacher as to when and how often you should obtain these RTI progress reports. When you obtain an RTI Progress Report, file it under this tab. If it is vague and you desire actual scores on CBMs or other assessment probes, request this from the teacher with an explanation of what the score(s) mean. You may call a Parent-Teacher Conference (include the RTI intervention provider) any time in order to discuss your child’s progress or lack of progress within RTI.
Changes to the RTI intervention, length of time, program, or personnel can also be addressed. If you are unable to get answers to your questions, or monitor your child’s RTI intervention progress to your satisfaction, it is best to immediately consult with a private school psychologist and allow her to assist you with communication in the educational environment, in order to obtain the data you need to support increased RTI intervention days per week and length of intervention, a change in intervention program, or a change in intervention personnel.
It is important to understand that certification for Special Education Services is made by the results of your child’s Response to Intervention. This is the new law for educational disability determination. However, if you have a private evaluation performed and your child clearly has an educational disability, it is the IEP Team which can make the decision to place your child into Special Education Services immediately. Remember you are a part of the IEP Team and have great input. Documentation within the Educational Binder will greatly assist you with organization, understanding, and control of your child’s academic success.
In this section, file your child’s IEP, 504 Plan, or RTI Plan and the Prior Written Notice (if you have an IEP). File any other meeting requests or notices related to Section 504 or RTI plans here as well. Also, if you wish to request a meeting (IEP, 504, RTI, or Parent-Teacher Conference) file the letter here. Download Parent Request for Meeting form
Insist upon obtaining IEP, 504, RTI and Parent-Teacher Conference meeting notes made by the school during the meeting and place this documentation here, along with your own personal notes from the meeting. Note the date, time, persons in attendance, what was discussed, and the outcome within your personal documentation notes. Note any informal conference meetings held with the guidance counselor, school psychologist, speech-language pathologist, OT, PT, assistive technology, paraprofessional, SPED teacher, principal, or any other educational staff here.
The IEP legally has to be updated annually and the school will notify you of the need to schedule the annual IEP-Team Meeting. If changes are made to the IEP, 504 or RTI Plan put the newest plan and prior written notice on top, behind the procedural safeguards.
However, you may request an IEP-Team Meeting, 504 Meeting, RTI Meeting or other Conference as many times as you wish per year. Be sure to document your request in writing and place a copy of your letter of request here along with the school’s response to your request.
Subsequent to the meeting, you are presented with a proposed draft IEP, 504, or RTI plan and if you disagree with the contents of the proposed draft plan, do not sign in agreement. Consult a private psychologist, attorney, or other professional and send a letter of disagreement, along with your expectations for inclusion of additional services, updated evaluation, expanded goals, accommodations or modifications to the plan or any other element which you feel should be changed. Download Parent Disagreement of Plan form
Tab 4: Progress Notes / Report Card
The Federal Law for the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA), states that you have to be updated on your child’s progress toward IEP goals at least as frequently as you get progress reports on general education curriculum progress. Keep these progress notes and report cards in this section. In addition, you should also receive RTI progress reports and keep them in this section. If you want to keep track of your child’s progress on your own, print and use the IEP Goal Tracker. It can help you monitor your child’s progress toward each annual goal in the IEP. Download IEP Goal Tracker form
Tab 5: Sample Work
Use the Sample Work section to file samples of your child’s homework or class work that show signs of progress or signs of concern. (This is especially important for work that’s noted on the goal-tracker form.) File work samples at least monthly. Place the newest work samples on top, to help you find the most up-to-date information on your child’s progress or lack of progress. This is important documentation of “permanent -products” which can be shared during an IEP-Team Meeting, 504 Meeting, RTI Meeting, or Parent -Teacher Conference. Work samples showing lack of progress can be key to requesting additional evaluation, additional services, a change in the intervention program, extended time, assistive technology, or additional accommodations and modifications.
Tab 6: Behavior & Social Skills
In this section, file a copy of the school’s code of conduct. If your child is in middle or high school, teachers may have also have sent home class-specific behavior plans and rules.
In addition, a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) and Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) which may involve a behavior contract should be placed here. Keep copies of the current FBA, BIP, and Behavior Contract(s) here. Keep copies of behavioral monitoring and behavioral progress here. You have the right to call an FBA / BIP Meeting in order to address your child’s behavior, make changes in the BIP, perform another FBA, or determine if your child’s disability is causing the behavior.
File disciplinary notices, if your child receives any. Why keep these in your educational binder? Because your child has federal and state rights and protection, if the behavior your child exhibits or is disciplined for could be related to the identified disability in the IEP or 504 Plan.
Tab 7: Miscellaneous Information
In this section, place contact information such as your child’s pediatrician’s name and phone number, or other medical professionals whom your child sees. Place the name and contact information of private professionals (Attorney, Psychologist, Behavior Analyst, Speech-Language Pathologist, OT, PT, Educational Interventionists, and other professionals you utilize for consultation or treatment).
Place your child’s records of medical/professional consultation/treatment service here.
Place important resources here, such as book references, web site addresses, and organizations which support your child’s disability or special needs. You can virtually place any miscellaneous supportive information under this tab. You can also note annual specialized organizational conferences (state & national) held regarding your child’s disability or special needs. You can note both state and national organizations contact information and interesting / helpful web-based pages you need to access for information. You can list professionals whom you can consult with regarding your child’s needs or any other miscellaneous information.
Include a Supply Pouch
Since your Educational Binder will be taken to all meetings, you need to take a zippered supply pouch and stock it with pens and an extra set of sticky notes, your business cards, and any other materials (high lighters) which will be helpful during the meeting.