Special Education & return on investment (ROI)

What does the financial world have to do with your child's education, you ask? As a former financial advisor, I would say that there are a few similarities in the way you should be assessing your child's IEP and progress. Just as an advisor reviews your investments to determine if your stock portfolio needs to be adjusted due to under performance, you should view the IEP data in progress reporting in the same frame of mind.

Past performance isn't an indicator of future results

Advisors review financial analysts' opinions on whether a stock is a "sell, hold or buy". This information fuels recommendations on what to do with stock positions. Analysts look at, among other indicators, a company's management and growth strategies. Review past performance information on your child and compare it to now. Let's suppose that assessment given 3 years ago, and repeated again last week, shows a higher percentile. Plot this data point on a chart and show it to the IEP team. A drop in skills is either skill regression or percentile, statistical #regression. Scoring at the 10%ile 3 years ago in 4th grade, and scoring at the 10%ile in 7th grade also does not demonstrate a successful instructional strategy that's closing the educational gap.

Data-driven decision-making

Does your child's IEP say: "Bobby will recognize social cues?" This needs to be converted into numbers. "Bobby correctly identifies the following expressions X X X... in 5 consecutive trials," is an example of quantifying progress. Of course, the goal has to zero in on specific deficit skills and meet the SMART criteria too. What about deficit skills that are not recognized by the school because they aren't below average on tests? Writing skills are often overlooked because of the limitations in writing assessment tools. This isn't the whole story: if your child is unable to produce work meeting curriculum standards, there's a deficit skill. It's qualitative, but no matter - how your child forms letters can be put into numbers too. "Bobby will correctly form all uppercase and lowercase letters (26/26) with 95% accuracy," That sell, hold, buy strategy I mentioned? You may want a "sell" on the instruction that not working and results not quantified.

Unsolicited Advice

The school should explain any proposed changes in instruction in your child's program because you have the right to review instructional methods. You should not have to ask for it, but this often the case. Districts insist that they get to choose the instructional #methodology. While that is true, there is still a responsibility for it to be research and evidence-based as well as provide a benefit. Ask for the research and studies. Balanced Literacy is one method, still used for reading instruction, that has been scientifically discredited. If this was your retirement fund, would you invest in a losing proposition? Your advisor would share the merits of buying into a company you know little about.

When you review your 401K performance every year at a minimum, apply the same expectations to your child's #IEP. Don't settle for excuses in #performance that cannot be explained by your child's ability.

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