The Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) team at my school has been going crazy the last few weeks. They just finished their “check-up” from the state agency that audits district programs every three years. I am fortunate to have a great working relationship with these teachers and specialists and can empathize with their frustrations with the paperwork and attention to protocol. They all put in a great deal of work to make sure records are accurate, procedures are documented, service plans are communicated and above all else – students are encouraged, challenged and respected in their classrooms.
Last summer I attended a conference geared more towards ECSE teachers. When I began to ask questions, I learned that all of this seemingly “extra” work is done for many reasons. An Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) is written for a child or family in order to assess and monitor various goals. Another major goal is to be able to track progress and show statistical proof to the state and federal government that what is done in the classroom is worth the time and money. In this post I will focus on the importance of documentation.
Every two years School Readiness Plans are submitted to the state of Minnesota. These documents describe our program and are used as a framework for directors and teachers. To my knowledge, these documents have always served as a way to plan for the future of our programming. My director submits an end of the year report which contains basic demographic information, attendance records and programming notes. However, little to no information is given about the progress made by actual students and families enrolled in our program. I know, as a teacher, this means a lot more work added to my plate. Nevertheless, all pre-kindergarten teachers need to be able to show what our work is doing for our students and their families.
This commitment means keeping accurate formal and informal assessments through work samples, anecdotal records and developmental based checklists. It also means that teachers and administrators need to continue to stress the importance of individualized goals. Not every student is going to succeed at the same level, but that doesn’t mean the work we do is not worth it. The work that is being done in Minnesota will make a difference in the coming years. Through the support of organizations like Ready for K, we are proposing legislation that would help to organize and regulate early childhood care and education both at the community level and statewide. I hope that this will allow various pre-kindergarten programs to feel knowledgeable and supported as we begin to be held more accountable. As I have seen with ECSE over the years, their programs don’t just get free handouts. Their teachers and administrators are able to show documented proof that their work is worth it!