By Deidre Hayden
The importance of reading, organizing, analyzing, and evaluating your child's school records cannot be overemphasized. The information in these records provides the basis upon which crucial decisions will be made concerning your child's education. In this article, a step-by-step process for analyzing and revising/updating your child's school records is described.
Using the Four-Step Record Decoder process and accompanying form, you will become thoroughly familiar with your child as seen through the close up lens of her school records. When you've completed the process, you will know whether the information in your child's file paints an accurate picture of her learning needs and strengths. The first article on school records explains how to obtain your child's records from the school.
When you have obtained your child's school records, often a stack of documents an inch or more thick, what will you do with them? How can you begin to make sense of all this material written about your child? The four basic steps —Organize, Read, Analyze, and Evaluate — are described in detail below: You may also wish to download the Four Step Record Decoder (pdf), which is designed to help you record pertinent information as you organize, read, analyze, and evaluate your child's school records.
1. After obtaining the complete set of records from the school system, separate the documents into two sets:
2. Make an extra copy of the records. This way you will have an "original" that remains untouched, and a copy that you can mark, cut, paste, and use in whatever way is most helpful to you.
3. Arrange each set — descriptive reports and other documents — in chronological order.
4. Secure the pages in a folder with a clip or in a loose leaf notebook so that if you drop them you won't have to back up three steps.
5. Number each report and make a chronological list that you can add to as new records are generated. The list might look like this:
1. Psychoeducational evaluation
2. Teacher's report
3. Social history reports
4. Psychiatric evaluation summary
|6/8/04||Dr. Marcia Ortiz|
6. Psychological evaluation summary
|8/23/04||Dr. Ronald McPherson|
7. Teacher's report
8. Psychologist's memorandum
1. Read through the entire record to get overall impressions and tones of the school's view of your child.
2. In the margins of your working copy, put a question mark beside the statements or areas of the reports you do not understand or with which you disagree.
1. Now reread the reports and underline the phrases or sentences you feel best describe your child's strengths, those that describe your child's problems, and those that describe the way she learns. As you underline, write in the margin of the report, opposite the passage you've underlined:
2. Using the Four-Step Record Decoder or a similar chart you make, list the phrases or sentences about your child's strengths ("S") and problems ("P") by the following developmental categories. Under the last category, "Learning Style," you will list all of the "LS" phrases and sentences.
3. After each phrase or sentence describing your child's strengths, problems, or style of learning, put the source of the information, and the date of the document in which the phrase or sentence appears. Often you will find trends beginning to emerge. The same observation, expressed in similar language, may occur in several reports, and/or over a period of time.
4. The last section of the Four-Step Record Analysis form is titled "Recommendations." In this section, list any recommendations made by each evaluator or teacher. Recommendations might include services needed, preferred classroom environment, optimum class size, most desirable type of school setting; or recommendation for further testing, specific teaching materials, or equipment.
Using the question mark notations you have made in the margins and your overall sense of the records from your analytical work with them, evaluate them to determine if they are:
Reprinted with permission from Winifred Anderson, Stephen Chitwood, Deidre Hayden. All rights reserved.
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