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Jasper County Tribune

Ross spearheads effort to meet IEP requirements

Tina Ross
Tina Ross

Colfax-Mingo Community School District Superintendent Dr. Jim Verlengna has been encouraging collaboration with other districts in the area to meet C-M’s needs. C-M shares a curriculum director with Baxter Community School District and human resources and food services with PCM Community School District. Each Wednesday since July 1, Newton Community School District’s director of special programs Tina Ross has shared her expertise with C-M. One of her biggest tasks includes assisting the district with its Individualized Education Plans (IEPs).

“The best way to describe it is IEPs are a kid’s glasses, if you will. It’s the accommodation the student gets to allow them to participate appropriately in class,” Ross said of the documents that develop plans for children to reach educational goals based on peer performance and learning standards.

IEPs can include anything from a child receiving extra time on exams to their text books written in brail, and they go beyond 504 Plans by creating a strategy that schools can implement to help children reach those goals. Parents and school districts can request a child go through the evaluation process to determine if an IEP will help that child in the classroom. Before C-M opened its doors for the 2018-19 school year, the district already had more than 100 IEPs to implement.

Ross has spent nights and weekends pouring over the information in each IEP file. She has noted which children have already met the goals contained within their IEPs and which children are still struggling to achieve them. In the days before school started, she met with teachers to explain how she could help support their teaching by making sure they fulfilled the plans and filed paperwork properly. Last Wednesday, she met with teachers in smaller groups, including a one-on-one meeting, to answer questions they have as the school year begins.

These conversations have mostly focused on creating a standard process for fulfilling IEPs and gathering data to better understand norms throughout the district.

“That sounds basic, but there are certain components you absolutely must have in every single IEP. Occasionally, you kind of slip and forget them. We kind of look at a checklist to make sure we have everything in there, and it’s not just a ‘check, done.’ What is the quality you put in there?” Ross asked. “We’re kind of missing some of those comparisons, so we’re working on getting all of that in there.”

Ross is mining records to figure out what constitutes peer comparisons and standard deviations from these comparisons within the district. Creating these standard evaluations will enable her to better work with teachers to assist students with IEPs and understand the benchmarks students should be reaching.

“We’re looking at how we do what’s in the best interest of kids without making them dependent on someone else,” Ross said. “We want to create independence and self-advocacy skills in kids to help them because once they graduate, they don’t get extra time on the job, they don’t get to take their tests in a quiet environment, whatever the accommodations are.”

Understanding the existing records and creating this data is the first step to successfully completing IEPs and creating self-sufficient adults.

Contact Phoebe Marie Brannock at 641-792-3121 ext. 6547 or pbrannock@newtondailynews.com

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