Parents and teachers share responsibility for educating students. However, families are truly the child's first teachers. Consequently, parents can offer valuable insights into their child's learning strengths, interests, styles, and needs. Active participation by parents in the individualized education program (IEP) process (for example, by sharing goals, successes, and concerns and by providing follow-up on progress) offers one way to establish partnerships between parents and educators. Partnerships between parents and educators result in improved educational and social success for children and youth with disabilities (Callison, 2004). In this article, we offer suggestions for actions parents can take to help develop parent-educator partnerships.
Are you an effective partner with your child's IEP team? Let's think about what effective parent-educator partners do. First of all, they share a commitment to making positive educational and social outcomes for students their primary focus. Like all team players, they play on the same side and realize that working together takes practice. Partners communicate regularly. They learn to rely on one another and to trust one another. Finally, partners share the credit for successes and they share responsibility for challenges.
To encourage partnerships with your child's IEP team:
- Share your hopes and dreams for your child and work to
develop a shared vision for your child's future.
Share what you know about your child's strengths, talents, and interests.
Discover how members of the IEP team view your child's strengths and weaknesses, both academically and socially.
- Share your family's culture, celebrations, and traditions.
- Take a list of questions to your child's IEP meeting or send them to your child's IEP team before the IEP meeting so the team can be prepared to answer them.
- Share your most available times for meeting and conferencing about your child.
- Let the IEP team know the best way for the school to give you information and feedback about your child's academic and social progress (e.g., phone, e-mail, student planners) in addition to the annual IEP meeting. Complete and return forms promptly.
- Include your child in the IEP meeting whenever appropriate, or bring a picture of your child to share with the team.
- Become familiar with the academic and social expectations for your child's grade and classroom(s), and use the IEP team to identify how you can help your child reach his or her goals.
- Agree to reinforce school rules and behavior expectations at school and at home.
- Agree to check your child's school work and homework daily and provide a consistent time and place to complete school work.
- Give positive feedback and show appreciation for IEP team members.
- Volunteer to coach other parents of students with disabilities in how to partner with their child's IEP team.
Your local Parent Resource Center has additional information on partnering with your child's school. Workshops entitled Creating Collaborative IEPs are available through many Parent Resource Centers in our region. For more information on this training, contact Judy Hudgins (804)-371-7421 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional ideas on family-school partnerships may be obtained from the National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education (www.ncpie.org).
Callison, W.L. (2004). Raising test scores using parent involvement. Lanham, MD: ScarecrowEducation.
Date: February/March 2007