Gina Robuck, M. Ed., is a former school psychologist, as well as an advocate and parent. She is the author of two articles on our website: one on raising teacher awareness about LD and AD/HD, and another on assessing progress on IEP goals.

This conversation about evaluation, IEP goals, and related topics, between Ms. Robuck and parents of children with learning and attention problems originally took place in 2006 on the parent message board hosted by Schwab Learning, formerly a program of the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, from 2000 to 2007. Because the topic is timeless, we feel readers will find much that is useful and important for their own parenting challenges.

From the broad range of conversations during the week, five topics have been selected that provide a sampling of these interesting discussions.

What kind of information should I provide to an independent evaluator?

nervmom asks:

If you are seeking an independent evaluation, what information would be helpful, for example, classroom work, assessments from school or report cards? Some people advise nothing in order to obtain a clear, unbiased picture, while others feel the more information the better.

From: G. Robuck

In my opinion, the more information the better. If I were personally doing an independent evaluation I would request samples of work as well as copies of the child’s special education and regular education records – evaluation reports, progress reports, IEP’s, etc. as well as report cards, and group administered test scores, health record, attendance. In my opinion, all this information is very important in uncovering the mystery of why the student is having learning/behavioral difficulties and it also helps clarify the student’s learning issues as well as potential educational needs. I just don’t think any evaluator can give a parent a clear, unbiased picture based on little to no information, let alone specific and appropriate recommendations.

How can I figure out if my son is learning at HIS grade level?

henleys4 asks:
My son is in 7th grade learning about plates shifting and causing earthquakes, etc. My daughter is in 5th grade and is learning the same thing. How can I know that my son is learning at HIS grade level? Or do 5th graders touch on this stuff, and then learn it more in depth in later grades? Should I be concerned?

From: Mayleng

Hens, my 4th grader and 7th grader, seem to be learning the same topics as well. 7th just learns it more in-depth and their tests are more difficult where they may have to venture an opinion, write more explanations etc. Both were learning the Revolutionary War in Social Studies. 4th grader has to learn the key points that’s all.

From: mmhm

Hens, It is referred to as a spiral curriculum – the idea that as the subjects come round again they are done at a different level. Although most 5th graders study American History they are not expected to achieve the depth and detail that a highschooler would. If you are concerned that the curriculum is not working well – check the grade level standards. Occasionally you will find a badly articulated curriculum where kids do dinosaurs or the solar system over and over. But in this era of state standards and state testing, it’s less likely.

From: G. Robuck

Hi Hens
Mayleng and mmhm also provided good information as well. My suggestion is to get a copy of curriculum guides/expectations/standards (whatever they call it) for 7th grade students from the public school. Should you be concerned? Well, I certainly can’t say no. In my experience with the kinds of educational settings your son is in, they do not cover the same curriculum content a regular education class would. Curriculum is most often presented at a slower pace with less depth and classwork/homework. But, you know I think your son should be in a regular education environment with appropriate support.

How can I get the school to help my child with AD/HD?

cmdm asks:

My plug … would be to cover ADHDers like my dd [daughter] who is a “504+++” or “IEP lite” and how to navigate schools that don’t “get it” – the kids who fall into borderline gray areas but cannot thrive without school supports…. What kind of suggestions & guidance would you have to make it easier and the process more effective for them?

From: G. Robuck

Successful navigation depends on 3 things (of course, this is totally my opinion): 1) Understanding a little about social psychology and why school folks do the things they do; 2) Understanding ADHD and how it impacts learning, behavior, and performance in the classroom; and 3) Understanding Section 504.

From: healthy11

SO, why do you think school folks do the things they do? The other two areas have plenty of documentation for us parents to “read up on” and understand more clearly, but the first one is a puzzle to most of us…

From: JoiK

As a teacher and a mother of an ADHDer, I found that I did not know as much as I thought I did about ADHD. As a teacher, we, more or less, think that you give the child some extra room, some time to move around, and extra time to work. After my child was diagnosed, I began to read and found that I did not know as much as I thought. My job has become to educate parents and teachers as well. Fortunately for me, I have counselors who want to help these children as well. We have made it our goal to get them to the front of the room and participating in class.

How can I get help for my child who struggles with writing?

Deeyana asks:

I have a child who is struggling with writing sentences. All year long my child has been punished for not being able to write (hand writing is OK). In this state demands and expectations of writing are very high. And children are expected to complete all writing assignments on their own (with no help from teacher). Teachers this year did not make the effort to help my child. We try our best at home, but this is not enough. My son will be 8 years old in another 2 years. The demands on writing will not be decreasing.

Today my son spend his last day of school, sitting on the floor with a blank writing worksheet, while the rest of the class sat on their desk and ate cake and ice cream. This can not continue, I need to get him help. Tonight I will put in writing a long list of complaints and will turn this in with an IEE [Independent Education Evaluation] request letter by the end of the week.

From: G. Robuck

I find it very disturbing that your son has been punished for not being able to write, especially on his last day of school. How terrible for him. If you are able to get an IEE I would suggest that you request an Occupational Therapy evaluation to determine if there are deficits in your son’s fine motor skills or visual motor skills that may be interfering with his ability to write. You may also want to look into the Handwriting without Tears program at There is also another writing program called Step up to Writing. …You can find out more information at There’s also lots of links at this URL that includes understanding dysgraphia, teaching writing skills, and technology resources for writing – Another helpful URL is It has loads of information about graphic organizers and the writing process. Happy reading!

How can I find good IEP (Individualized Education Program) goals for improving writing skills?

cobyseven asks:

I am looking for decent IEP goals for writing for my 6th grader. She can write, but cannot organize topics for reports. The school has included a goal for increasing content across the curriculum. What would be adequate wording for organizational writing?

From: dihicks6

I was able to get some of these into my gs’ [grandson’s] writing objectives:

(STUDENT’S NAME) – IEP Goals for Writing Expression

BCR= Brief Constructed Response (paragraph)

ECR= Extended Constructed Response (multi-paragraph)

Long-term Goal: (STUDENT’S NAME) will construct BCR’s that address all elements of the question or rubric in an organized manner supported by appropriate detail as measured by a score of 2 on a 3 point rubric 80% of the time in each content subject class.

  1. In all content subject classes, requiring a written response to a BCR, and provided a selection of three appropriate organizers, (STUDENT’S NAME) will choose an organizer to complete a rough draft 100% of the time on BCR assignments.
  2. In all content subject classes, requiring a written response to a BCR, with an organizer chosen by (STUDENT’S NAME), and with teacher check-in, (STUDENT’S NAME) will identify, appropriate supporting details and facts relevant to the topic to complete a rough draft, 100% of the time as measured by teacher checklist and work product.
  3. In all content subject classes, requiring a written response to a BCR, with an organizer chosen by (STUDENT’S NAME), and with teacher check-in, (STUDENT’S NAME) will organize, identified supporting details and facts relevant to the topic to complete a rough draft 100% of the time as measured by teacher checklist and work product.
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