A New School Year: Tips for Success

By Eve Kessler, Esq.

With school just around the corner, there’s no time like the present to prepare for a new school year. As parents it’s your job to manage your child’s education and secure her rights under the law. Following are some tips to help you establish a collaborative partnership with your school to achieve those goals:

1.  Talk—and listen—to your child. Find out how she feels about school, as well as her likes and dislikes. Until she settles in to her new environment, she may be nervous or anxious. Encouraging her to verbalize concerns will allow you to allay those you can, and will also help you assess how her adjustment progresses. Recurring issues may signal the need for further action on your part.

2.  Speak with your child’s teachers. Within the first few weeks of a new semester, find out from her teachers if she is having difficulty with homework, is unable to complete work independently, begins but can’t complete assignments, or has difficulty recalling instruction during the school day. Also ask about her social adjustment as that may be impacting her academics.

3.  Observe your child at home. Does she complain about physical illness or invent excuses in order to stay home from school? Does she have friends? Does she talk about or know the names of classmates? Does she use only negative comments when talking about school?

4.  Get organized. Set up a system to keep track of your child’s progress. Include the following items, all of which you can add to modify as necessary.

  • Develop a profile of your child’s strengths and concerns, both in and out of school.
  • Keep an ongoing file or journal of meetings, phone calls, letters, etc.
  • Put every concern, request and objection in writing to all involved.
  • Compile a binder with tabs for evaluations, IEPs, samples of current performance (writing samples, tests, projects, activities, homework, etc.) and written communications.
  • Include a chart listing all evaluations by date, evaluator, test given, major areas of concern, and recommendations.
  • Make two copies of all evaluations/reports; keep one as an original and use the other as a working copy.
  • Bring this file/binder with you to all meetings regarding your child.

Eve Kessler, Esq., an attorney with The Legal Aid Society, NYC, is President of SPED*NET Wilton (CT) and a Contributing Editor of Smart Kids.