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Ask the Attorney—”How can I better track my child’s progress in school?”

I’ve been reviewing my child’s files over the summer and it doesn’t seem like he has made much improvement against his goals. How can I better track his progress in the upcoming year?

Getting your files in order before the school year begins is a great idea. Under Massachusetts law, the school district must send parents or guardians written progress reports for students with disabilities as frequently as they send the reports to caregivers of students who do not have disabilities.1 If you don’t recall receiving any progress reports, check your school’s handbook or call your school’s office to find out when they typically send them out. It is often once or twice a quarter.

To better track progress, request that your student’s teacher send work samples periodically (or perhaps with the written progress report). Work samples provide a more tangible example of what your child can do, albeit sometimes with help from a teacher or aide. Teachers often report progress based on their observations, which can be helpful, but is often subjective. You can make the request for work samples in addition to written progress reports at an IEP meeting. You may also want to request more frequent progress reports, but there’s no guarantee that the school has to agree to this.

If you still feel that you don’t have a good grasp on what your student does at school, you may want to request a communication log at your next IEP meeting to maintain ongoing communication between parents and teachers. Again, there is no guarantee that the school will agree to your request, but it doesn’t hurt to ask!

Keep in mind that under Massachusetts and federal laws, each student with a disability is entitled to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) that includes supports and services in the least restrictive environment (LRE), which means the student is in the same classroom with his or her mainstream peers to the greatest extent possible.2 The student’s program doesn’t have to require utmost success; rather, it must be “reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.”

Be sure to check out our Exceptional Lives IEP Guide to learn more!

*As with all materials available via Exceptional Lives, information provided in the “Ask the Attorney” section does not constitute legal advice or an attorney-client relationship.

1 603 CMR 28.07(3), 2 603 CMR 28.02(12), 3 Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District RE-1, No. 15-827 (U.S. March 22, 2017).

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