Updated: Sep 5, 2021
I recently wrote a post about ways that gen ed teachers could bring their A-game to an ARD meeting. Likewise, special education teachers are vital members of the ARD committee, so, in the spirit of keeping the theme of ARD meeting prep, I'll share with you what I've learned over the last 14 years about approaching ARD meetings as a special education teacher. To spare you of redundancy, know that everything shared in the post titled ARD Meetings: 3 Tips for General Education Teachers absolutely applies to SPED teachers as well.
However, as with all things SPED-related, there's more.
My entire teaching career has been in the field of special education, and let me tell you, I've seen A LOT go down in an ARD meeting. If you're in this camp as well, I'm sure you've got stories to tell...stories nobody ever warned that you would be able to tell.
In addition to being prepared, specific & articulate, here are a few bonus tips for special education teachers prepping for upcoming ARD meetings:
Be the Student's Advocate
Depending on your student's age, he/she may not be attending their own ARD meetings just yet. The good news is that YOU, the teacher who is well versed in the student's unique academic needs and abilities, have an important seat at the table and an excellent perspective from a person that is in the arena with the student.
Though often well-meaning, a team of people who don't all work directly with the student may not have insights into what you see happening in the classroom daily. This is your opportunity to be a voice for the student!
Advocacy can look different on each occasion and can be done without hateful confrontation. You'll need to go into the meeting with knowledge of what the student needs and have some ideas about how you can communicate that to the committee on behalf of the student.
Does the student need a specific accommodation that's not currently identified?
Do they need more/less support?
What stake does the student have in his/her education, and what does that look like?
The ultimate guiding question for being a student's advocate outside of their presence is this: How can YOU speak up for what the student needs based on your first-hand educational experiences with him/her?
Believe me, there's nobody better to answer this question than the person that works with the student regularly: YOU.
Be the Specially Designed Instruction (SDI) Expert
As the special education representative in the ARD meeting, you attend the meeting as an expert in the field!
YOU are the teacher that designs or at least oversees the student's progress.
YOU know your student.
YOU absolutely have the ability to speak with confidence and knowledge as the SPED expert.
YOUR forte is in the very field of special education, and as a professional, you've likely kept abreast of best practices, trends, interventions, etc. This means that you can articulate with first-hand knowledge specifics about how the student's disability impacts their progress in both the general education curriculum and progress utilizing the student's current specially designed instruction.
For this to be communicated effectively, confidence is key.
This is your opportunity to share information about progress made over the last IEP year. Being able to articulate current progress and growth gives you a unique perspective within the ARD committee.
Here are a few questions to consider mulling over before you attend the ARD. These will help you be prepared to articulate factually and confidently and set yourself up as knowledgeable about your particular student and their particular specially designed instruction.
How did the student progress over the course of the expiring IEP? Were goals met? If so, what next? If not, why?
What's working? What objective sources of data do you have to validate success? What gains have been made in the student's critical deficits over the former IEP year?
What's not working? What objective sources of data do you have that demonstrate an inefficient or ineffective intervention?
What practices and interventions have been utilized, and how effective were those? What objective data can be presented to support the effectiveness of said interventions?
As an expert in the field of special education, what recommendations will you have going forward?
Parent Collaboration is CRUCIAL
As the SPED representative at the ARD meeting, it's important to remember that IDEA affords parents the right to meaningful involvement in developing their student's IEP. This is not simply the parent showing up to the ARD to hear what the committee proposes. This is focusing on fostering a productive rapport with families so that when it's time to start discussing proposals for their student's ARD, they have a healthy idea about what they'd like to see happen with their student's plan, as well as a clear understanding of progress made thus far.
I'm here to tell you that healthy parent collaboration BEFORE an ARD meeting, like the beginning of the year, is one of the most valuable and productive things you can do for your student. Establishing this collaborative relationship early on lends favor to resolution when sticky situations arise throughout the year. And trust me, those situations WILL arise, whether you're prepared or not.
Under this same umbrella lies the importance of bringing parents into the process of IEP development. Transparent, clear, and objective PLAAFP statements along with draft goals that are all provided before an ARD meeting can serve as a great conversation piece between you and your parents. If you've been working in special education for any amount of time, you know that we have our own language of acronyms. Consider that parents don't always speak our language, so it's important to know that any conversation regarding students is held in a meaningful language for all parties.
With some intentional preparation and effort, you too can walk into your next ARD meeting more prepared. In order to help you in with this, I've put together a FREEBIE! To access the FREEBIE companion to this post, visit my TPT shop (upper right-hand corner) and download your copy today!