IEP documentation….need I say more?
Documenting our student’s progress toward their IEP goals is something that every educator realizes is necessary but, I don’t think it is a task that many of us look forward to. Every week it seems like there is a new requirement, a new form, or more student work samples that need to be organized and saved. The to-do list seems to be continually growing. I realized early on in my career that without systems in place to keep yourself organized, the to-do list can seem daunting. But, alas, it does not have to be that way!
During my first year of teaching there was a big push to make sure that everyone was documenting student progress toward IEP goals and keeping necessary student work samples. My administrator wanted every general education teacher to have a folder for every one of his/her students with an IEP. We needed to keep work samples that showed each individual student’s progress toward his/her IEP goals in the IEP folders. This was an understandable requirement. This was an overwhelming requirement.
Out of 150 students, I had 35 students with IEP’s. I went to work right away creating the necessary folders. I put the folders in my desk drawer, thinking that if they were right next to where I did my grading, filing them away would be no problem. Simple enough, right? .
It turned out to be much more difficult to keep up with filing work into the IEP folders than I thought it would be initially.I realized that I couldn’t file away student work samples without giving my students a chance to look at their assignment and see the comments that I had made. What ended up happening was that I would grade an assignment, pass it back to my students so that they could see it and then collect it again. I didn’t want to single out my students with IEP’s and only collect their assignments to file away, so I just collected them all. After that, the pile of papers would go into a box in my closet that I would sort through “later”. Well, later came on the very last day of the school year when I had to get my IEP folders ready to turn in to the ESE Supervisor. There must have been about 25 assignments stored in my closet. This meant that I had about 3,700 papers that needed to be sorted through so that I could have my IEP folders ready to turn in. It took me hours to dig through this pile of papers to find the student work samples that I actually needed to keep. It was ridiculous. I knew that there must be a better way to go about keeping work samples for my students with IEP’s. Sure enough, there was a better way. It just took me a couple of weeks and an “ah-ha” moment in Wal-Mart to realize it.
Walking through Wal-Mart one day during the summer between my first and second year teaching, I came across a big display of colorful file storage crates. I took one look at those crates and realized that I should keep a file of work samples for every single one of my students. The students could be responsible for filing the work away after their assignments were passed back. I knew it wouldn’t be too difficult to set up a procedure for this. Plus, if the students were responsible for filing their work, they would be able to see their assignment, review the comments, ask necessary questions, and as an added bonus, implementing this system would keep the papers from piling up in my closet.
This is what the crates looked like:
I had to use two crates to accommodate folders for all of my students. I called the folders student portfolios. The portfolios were organized alphabetically by class period. Each time an assignment was passed back that I wanted to keep, my students would file their papers away. I would call five students up at a time and in a matter of ten minutes tops (per class, of course) we were good to go. This saved me hours of sorting and filing time later on. If I needed to pull some student work samples for an IEP meeting, all I had to do was pull that particular student’s folder. This also came in handy for conferences as well. Once I had the portfolio system in place, I never went to a conference without one. I rarely had to use the work samples, but using this system, they were there when I did need them!