If you are the parent of a child with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Section 504 plan, you are probably used to advocating for your child. But there is one area that many parents overlook—teacher training or professional development. Understoodand the National Center for Learning Disabilitieshave created a parent toolkit to help advocate for improved teacher training to better support the one in five students with learning or attention issues.
The toolkit focuses on four key strategies that are designed to bring about system-wide changes that can help kids with learning and attention issues thrive. The four strategies are:
- Strengths-Based IEPsthat can help shift the mindset of every member of your child’s IEP team. This approach can help the team start thinking about how to leverage your child’s abilities. Training can help the team develop IEP goals that use strengths to address a particular need.
- Multi-Tier System of Supports (MTSS)that can help schools improve the performance of all students by identifying needs early and modifying instruction quickly. It can also reduce disciplinary incidents. But many schools need more training on how to collect, interpret and respond to student progress data.
- Personalized Learningthat aims to customize education. The what, when, where and how of learning are tailored to each student’s abilities, needs and interests. If done well, it can help students take ownership of their learning and meet rigorous standards. If not done well, struggling students can fall further behind.
- Universal Design for Learning (UDL)that is a framework for how to optimize teaching and learning for all students, not just those who struggle. UDL is based on insights from the science of how people learn and helps teachers instruct a diverse group of learners by providing different ways for students to access the material, engage with it and show what they’ve learned.
For each strategy, the toolkit provides a fact sheet that you can provide to a school administrator, a letter template, and a set of talking points for parents to support you in your conversations on the issue. The toolkit also provides an overview of teacher professional development, covers federal funding to support professional development, and gives five tips for parents on how to advocate with your school board. See the full toolkit for all of this information and resources.