Whether you are a certified special education teacher or not, every teacher will work with a student who has an IEP or 504 plan at some point in his or her educational career. Managing different students' accommodations, data tracking, and everything else can be daunting and overwhelming. This week, Snarky reader Ms. G — a third year middle school special education teacher from New York — wants to know how other special education teachers manage!
This Week's Question
For special education teachers and other general education teachers who work directly with students with IEPs, how do you stay organized? I am sharing my grade's caseload this school year, which is great, but I'm still going to be teaching all of the students with disabilities in the grade.
I'm thinking of keeping a special education binder with contact information, an IEP at-a-glance form, and I'm not sure what else. I'd love your input so I can stay on top of everything this year!
To keep organized with timelines and due dates, I make a spreadsheet/checklist with the date the annual meeting is due, plus columns I can check off for: meeting scheduled, teachers notified, draft written, meeting held, IEP written, prior written notice (PWN) written, paperwork sent home, signature received. I also use the same format for evaluations for the students that applies to for the year. I put each one in order on the sheet by due date, and just go down the list throughout the year. Some end up being done really early, but it keeps me from ending up with a crazy number due in the same week. I also cross out a row when each one is done; seeing the rows disappear throughout the year is SO nice!
For paperwork organization, I dedicate one file drawer to this. Each student has a hanging file with a manila folder in it. The manila folder contains the official paperwork (final IEP, signatures, etc.) that has to go in their official cumulative file each year. The hanging file also contains any relevant data printouts, completed point sheets, notes from teachers, emails, etc. that I might need to reference for data or programming. (Pro tip: Because of the confidentiality of this information, be sure to store this information in a filing drawer that locks!)
To manage information that is a work-in-progress, I keep about 5 manila folders stored in the front of the file drawer labeled “Meeting.” I keep extra notebook paper and a copy of the due process laws in each of them. The reason I keep an extra due process law copy is because we have to give one to the parents at each meeting. I ended up forgetting it half the time and was always rushing to print it on my way to the meeting, so I made it easy on myself!
When I start prepping for a meeting, I put the student's official manila folder in there, along with the sign-in sheet, draft IEP info, teacher notes or progress information to share, and any other information I need to bring. After the meeting, I keep that meeting file (now including meeting notes) in my “to do” pile until I get it written/sent home/completed. If, for whatever reason, I haven’t gotten the PWN signature back by the time I’m ready to put the file back in my cabinet, I put a paperclip on my copy so I can quickly look in the top of the folders and see who I need to follow up with to get that back.
And finally, to keep personal reference information organized, I keep a binder with tabs on page sleeves for each student. In the sleeve is an IEP-at-a-glace type of sheet with their name, medical needs, goals, and classroom modifications/accommodations. After each sleeve is a log page for me to jot notes about any notable behavior incidents, family contact, teacher comments, etc. During years when I’m teaching students beyond my own caseload, I keep sections for any other kids I’m teaching in here, too.