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Sensitivity in Sharing Negative Test Results with Parents in IEP Meetings

written by: Cheryl Gabbert • edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • updated: 7/12/2012

Sharing negative test results with parents during IEP meetings is one of the most unpleasant parts of teaching special education. There are a few ways to make this situation easier for parents. Using sensitivity when speaking to parents about poor test scores is imperative during IEP meetings.

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    Sharing in a Caring Way

    When parents of children with special needs have signed forms to have their child tested for an upcoming IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meeting, whether it be for placement or qualification purposes, that parent is on pins and needles. This is the child they love, and parents know that the results will predict their child's future to some degree. Maybe the special education teacher or specialist has reported test results hundreds of times, and this is just one more IEP meeting, but to the parent who is listening, this is their child's life. This is why all special education teachers and members of the IEP team must use a caring and considerate manner when reporting test scores to parents.

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    Before the IEP Meeting

    Before the IEP meeting, it's best to have "all your ducks in a row". If test scores will be discussed, review the scores immediately before the meeting so that you will be better prepared to answer any questions that may arise. If you have a portfolio of work samples, bring them along and share some positive items with the IEP team and parents. When the meeting time comes, you will be able to talk about the child's "creative artwork" or other positive work samples the child has completed in class. This makes parents feel proud of their child's achievements in your class. Also, gather together some samples of things that may illustrate the deficits that will be discussed when reporting the poor test scores. In a sensitive way, you will need to back up the child's problem areas with work samples if possible. This will show a relevant and practical illustration of where the child is in terms of achievement.

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    During the IEP Meeting

    When the time comes to share the test results during the meeting, begin on a positive note. Smile as you share some interesting and unique qualities about the child with the IEP team and parents. This will help you to convey that you care about the child and want the best for him or her just as the parent does. Begin the test score reporting process on a positive note. Share the most positive things first, and talk about the amount of progress that has been made, if you have been working with the child for a while. When you start to share the negative scores, be sensitive and allow the parent to ask as many questions as they wish. Be prepared to share work samples if needed. If a parent becomes emotional, offer support by letting them know you understand their concerns. Never be matter-of-fact with a parent, as if this is just one more kid with a bad score. Remember, this is someone's child, who this parent loves more than anything. When the scores have been shared, end on a positive note by ensuring the parent that you will be working hard with the child to make great strides in the areas of weakness.

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    After the IEP Meeting

    Follow up the IEP meeting with a parent conference. This will give you the chance to talk to the parent one-on-one so that you can answer any remaining questions that the parent may not have thought of during the meeting. You can also relax a bit with the parent and share some practical things that can be done at home to help the child make improvements in the areas of challenge. Be sure to keep the parent informed with notes, calls, and other methods of communication. By letting the parents know that you are there to help their child, you will begin to develop a trusting relationship that will benefit the child you are working with, and alleviate much of the parent's anxieties.