Individualized education plans (IEPs) are essential for the success of students with special educational needs, but conveying them can be complicated for school psychologists.
Helping all of a report’s potential readers navigate psychology jargon and achieving as much word economy as possible must go hand in hand with a thorough and full accounting of student conditions, learning styles, and specific needs.
A recent article in the Communiqué industry journal pointed out that school psychologists spend “countless hours” writing reports, with critics of the status quo arguing that documents need to be “relevant, readable, and useful.” That means that any member of the IEP team should be able to pick up a document and have a basic sense of what is being said – and what the ultimate conclusions are.
In reports, the main points are what matter
While there’s much to be said about how report-writing can be improved for the benefit of both school psychologists and students or their guardians, a strong third option is for IEP teams to turn to single-page outlines of the most important conclusions and goals.
There are a few key reasons why this is the case.
- You can always come back to a single-page outline. Instead of needing to leaf through a report with multiple pages, the ideal outline will have the core points of an IEP assessment or report right in front of you.
- It doubles as a meeting guide that keeps IEP gatherings on track and on topic.
- It can even be used by the student as an informal “roadmap” or reminder of their areas of strength, challenges, and ultimate goals.
All three of these benefits are what led us at Psyched Services to develop the One-Page Summary.
We will start by examining them from the perspective of psychologists.
How the One-Page Summary benefits school teams
School psychologists spend a significant amount of time performing assessments, writing reports, and helping deliver results. However, there is room to make all of these processes more efficient, which is helpful to administrators’ need to balance resource management with achievement, and helping students maximize their success.
Evaluations are a critical component of the work we do to help students. But as Farmer et al. identified in a 2020 membership study of the National Association of School Psychologists, the traditional style of assessments are lengthy, heavy on jargon, and weakness-based, rather than emphasizing a student’s strengths. It isn’t easy to parlay this into a tool or set of tools that a student, their guardians, and their teachers can use to improve the academic experience.
The One-Page Summary does several things to empower school psychologists and others in the school-based team. First, it is concise – which lets the IEP team distill a big report down to the most important points that can fit within a box in a single page. It’s also theme-based, allowing an emphasis on one area at a time, and strength-based, which is a much more conducive and beneficial focus for the student.
Taking both of these into account, it is also a collaborative tool that can be used in and outside of meetings by any member of the IEP team.
Why the One-Page Summary boosts support for students
Whether or not the student themselves consults the One-Page Summary, here is an example of how student support can be made more focused with its help:
Tom is an elementary school student who struggles with reading comprehension. On the One-Page Summary, this would be shown as a High Level of Need on the far left of the page.
Tom has a number of strengths that support his learning, however, shown on the right of the page. This includes strong phonological memory, or the ability to hold verbalized information in his mental “storage,” and excellent oral expression.
Being able to visualize this, the IEP team might decide to take the following steps, drawing on Tom’s strengths:
- Providing frequent repetition and review of unfamiliar material
- Emphasizing verbal and orally-spoken “cues,” for reading to engage Tom’s memory
- Organizing tasks into bite-sized chunks or steps as a strategy for completing them, and using visual aides (like checklists) to help
- Offering task analysis of the steps needed to complete a listening comprehension task
Indeed, the students themselves are the most important members of an IEP team. Older students who have more direct participation in their individualized education plan will appreciate the fact that the major points of the IEP are shown along a visual continuum, with constructs in colors; emphasizing their strengths; and showing recommendations and goals, rather than weaknesses.
The One-Page Summary truly simplifies the presentation of results and keeps teams on track by focusing on what matters most - developing a plan that helps the student thrive. To learn more about using the One-Page Summary to help your teams facilitate more successful and impactful IEP meetings, click to schedule a call with us.