Copies of Teacher NotesThis is another accommodation I thought to be straightforward. How could it possibly be interpreted any other way than the teacher providing all teacher notes to the student in advance of the class? But wait boys and girls, there’s more—always more to an accommodation than any of us expected.
When Will the Notes Be Provided?This is the accommodation that inspired the article “The Language of IEPs and 504s: The Importance of “All” and “Before”. Before seeing this accommodation played out in real time, it never occurred to me that a teacher would provide this accommodation AFTER class—or that a teacher would fail to provide ALL of his or her notes. In fact, a teacher could get away with providing notes a month later and nothing could be done about it, because the accommodation doesn’t say WHEN the notes will be provided. If a student needs copies of teacher notes, he or she needs them in advance. Maybe your daughter has writing fluency issues, and perhaps Dysgraphia and/or Dyslexia. If her teacher is posting notes on a PowerPoint slide for copying, it will be a nightmare for her. She has to read, write, and comprehend, and do it all in a speedy manner to stay up with each slide. Oh, and she has to listen and participate in the discussion, too. Perfect storm. She needs the notes in advance of the class. How far in advance? Perhaps your son has auditory memory struggles, but his recall is improved when he has an opportunity to preview material. In his case, he’ll need the notes quite a bit in advance, so he has time to preview them and, ideally, preview anything else available about the lesson. If he has Dylexia, too, the previewing offers an opportunity to get familiar with new terms and phrases, so he isn’t struggling over a word he can’t visualize, a turn of phrase with which he is not familiar. The “when” of this accommodation depends on the child and his or her needs.
Who Will Provide the Notes and How Will the Notes Be Accessed?Many school divisions use online programs, which teachers use to post notes, assignments, grades, and so on. As many of us know, teachers are not created equally. Some teachers are organized and have materials posted in advance. Others fall into the last-minute category and post just before class. And then there are the ones who take a day or two after the fact to post the materials. In addition, while some teachers have their online platforms organized, you’ll have others whose platforms are a mess, closer in kin to a scavenger hunt than a professional presentation. If the accommodation doesn’t state that the teacher will physically provide the notes to the student, then the teacher can state that she or he posted the notes online and they were there for the student to access. Thus, the student’s access depends on teacher organization and planning. That, my friends, is not how accommodations work. You have to ask that the teacher be the one to provide the notes, in a paper and/or digital format, in advance of class—and, per the above section, you’ll need to state how far in advance of class. This makes it clear that it isn’t the student’s responsibility to obtain the notes. It is the teacher’s responsibility. And, if the teacher tries to say they are online, the teacher can find them and print them out and/or provide the student the link. If you live in Fairfax County, VA, you know that tech problems plague even the most well-funded school divisions in the nation. No child should lose out on an accommodation because the school is experiencing tech problems—or because a teacher is unorganized.
What if the Teacher Doesn’t Have Notes?This is my favorite. It’s just fabulous when the vice principal at the IEP meeting says that if the teacher doesn’t have notes, he or she doesn’t have to create them for your child. That’s like saying if a school doesn’t have a ramp, it doesn’t have to create one for a student who uses a wheelchair. In addition, most teachers are required to present their lesson plans in advance. Having absolutely nothing falls on the fishy side. In this case, the accommodation falls into the digital category. The teacher either has to provide notes or the child has to have the opportunity to record the class and have a transcription of the class provided. This transcription isn’t the responsibility of the student. It falls on the school division. The child can’t be negatively impacted by the school’s failure to have resources available.
The Final Break Down:You’ve gotta’ get specific. The accommodation might need to look something like this:
Teacher to provide print and digital copies of all teacher notes to student X days [insert the timeframe needed for your child here] in advance of class. If teacher does not have notes, student to use recording device to record class. School will pay for transcription and provide it within 24 hrs. (Another option is to ask them to pay for a transcription service, so your child can have access even sooner).As with all accommodations, ask that every little bit be defined. Per § 300.323(d) of IDEA:
Each public agency must ensure that: (1) The child’s IEP is accessible to each regular education teacher, special education teacher, related services provider, and any other service provider who is responsible for its implementation; and (2) Each teacher and provider described in paragraph (d)(1) of this section is informed of (i) His or her specific responsibilities related to implementing the child’s IEP; and (ii) The specific accommodations, modifications, and supports that must be provided for the child in accordance with the IEP.Unfortunately, what I’ve found is that the school divisions ensure the access part, but ensuring educators are informed of (2)(i) and (2)(ii) happens about as often as a blue moon.