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8 steps to a successful IEP meeting

Page 3 of 7

By Wayne Steedman

Step 4: evaluating your child's progress

It's important for you to know how to evaluate your child’s progress using empirical methods. There are several ways to do this. Charting assessment results is often the easiest and most graphic way to plot progress. To do this you will have to develop a basic understanding of standard scores, percentiles, and grade equivalents. For a good explanation of how to do this, go to It's  easy to compare your child’s assessment results if he or she has been administered the same tests over time. You will want to compare composite scores and subtest scores using percentiles, standard scores, and grade equivalents. A chart or graph showing your child’s decline or lack of meaningful progress over time can be a very effective means of convincing the IEP team that your child needs more intensive services or a different type of program.

Goals that are repeated year after year indicate that a child is not making progress. Hence, charting goals over several IEPs may reveal a lack of progress even when school personnel report sufficient progress being made. Comparing goals involves not only looking at the wording of the goals but also the criteria for mastery.

A goal with criteria for mastery of 70 percent  accuracy one year and 80 percent the next year may or may not indicate meaningful progress. It depends on the goal and the child. But the same goal with the same criteria for mastery continued into a subsequent IEP would indicate no progress. It is difficult to discern how many repeated goals constitute an inadequate program, but as a rule of thumb 50 percent or more repeated goals would certainly indicate a lack of meaningful progress. You are entitled to view all data the school relies upon to assess your child’s progress. The type of data the school collects is dictated by the IEP in the Goals section titled “Evaluation Methods”. Make a request in writing prior to the IEP meeting for all data relied upon by the school in assessing progress.

One other progress monitoring method is charting Present Levels of Performance. The IDEA requires that the IEP include the child’s current functioning levels in academic achievement and functional performance. If a child has made progress, it should be reflected in the present levels in each succeeding IEP. The present levels should include scores from standardized assessments, classroom based assessments, informal assessments, progress made on IEP goals, information provided by parents, and narrative comments concerning other areas of performance. If the present levels are the same or almost the same one year to the next, little or no progress has been made. You can chart present levels in the same manner you chart test scores and goals.

The more data/evidence you have to support your position the more likely you will achieve the result you are seeking. Do not stop with just the charting of test scores if the charting of goals and present levels will also support your position.

Wayne Steedman is a co-founder and President of Callegary & Steedman, P.A., a law firm located in Baltimore, which primarily focuses on disability law. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland Law School and the School of Social Work, and has practiced law for 19 years with his primary focus on special education. Wayne has represented his clients in due process hearing, state and federal court, and the Third and Fourth Circuit Courts of Appeals. He is admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court. He has presented nationwide on special education law and written numerous articles which have been published on-line and in print journals.

Comments from readers

"My wife and I were victims of an IEP system and a school system that cared more about covering their collective backsides than helping my child. Am I mad? YES! This system was run as a for profit prison that used my child to collect money but only cared about what was best for the school. Once my child reached middle school the "teaching" never materialized and the caretaking began. I eventually had to remove my Autistic child from the system due to lack of concern over my Childs welfare. These people (I won’t honor them with the title of teacher), should quit this line of work and go into something more commensurate with their skill level. Mopping floors and scrubbing toilets would probably be just about Wright. EFMP, what a joke. IEP and special Ed what a joke. "
"Shiela, our doctor's diagnosis trumped the school psychologist in our case. Our Primary Care doctor sent us to a Child Neurologist for a full neurological workup. She sent us to the Children's National Medical Center, Children's Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders for extensive evaluations. Fantastic Team. John's Hopkins also has a great team, I'm told. It's not all about what happens at school, as you know. The right team of doctors can help parents learn about their child. The advice we received at Children's has helped us as a family for over 8 years because we understand our son better with their help. School? Well, we're still working on that. Early intervention is key. "
"My nephew has not been diagnosed with autism but it is apparent that he has the symptoms. We would like to find out more to get him diagnosed. The school has tested him but we feel we need other testing entities. We have friend that have an autistic child 10 years old and the school tested him and their test was negative and eventually he was diagnosed with severe autism. If he doesn't have autism he has something. He is 5 and acts like he is 3. He talks ok but communication is not there. He has a 3 year old sister who treats him like he is a baby. His parents are going crazy and we need to get something started now. His favorite thing are spinning tops. Thanks for listening, Sheila "