Posts Tagged ‘Parent Communication’

Capstone–Standards 06 & 07 Meta-Reflection: Communication and Collaboration

Standards 06 & 07 Meta-Reflection: Communication and Collaboration

Standard 06 Communication: Communicates regularly and effectively with colleagues, parents, and students through a variety of mediums.

Standard 07 Collaboration: Cooperates with other professionals to bridge gaps between schools and community and between departments/disciplines within schools.

Initial reflection during C & I Orientation:

In my role as a special education teacher “Communication” (with a capital C) is as necessary as breathing. In my nearly thirty years of teaching, I would have to say that communication continues to be the number one requirement for my job—and I always strive to keep it my priority. I find that most often, extra attention devoted to maintaining regular and effective communication with students, parents and colleagues—whether in person, by phone, via email, US mail, etc.—is well worth the time and energy.

Every IEP meeting is an example of the collaborative process at work. This process in designed to bring together the perspectives of the student, family, special educator, general educator(s) and the district–as well as any necessary outside agencies. In addition to the required annual IEP and triennial evaluation, I must facilitate any coordination and collaboration between any and all of the above noted members of the IEP Team—as needed. Beyond the specific realm of the IEP process, I am required to be an active participant of my special education team, professional learning community, POD team, and leadership team.

Reflection following EDU 6600 Communication and Collaboration:  Parents, Colleagues, and Community

Teacher Leadership—Past, Present, and Future~       Laurie James’  MetaReflection 12/8/11

As I reflect on the challenging endeavors I have engaged in throughout the Collaboration and Communication course during Autumn Quarter 2011, at Seattle Pacific University–words that come to mind are “victorious, energized, and committed.”  The victory had been personal, the energy–contagious, and the commitment is to those about me.

Near the beginning of the term when asked to respond to the following question: What are my strengths in terms of leading from my classroom and in my school? My initial response was, “I believe that among my greatest strengths as a leader in both my classroom and my school are; my dedication and strong personal commitment to students and education, my organizational skills, and my natural ability to work successfully with a wide range of people.”

At the end of the quarter, as I reflected, I still saw my strengths as noted above, however, noticed throughout the course, that a definite strength of mine is striving to bring a sense of integration from the “compartments” of my life. This is a relatively new strength that has emerged, I believe, as a survival skill in response to the ongoing demands of a busy schedule, as well as a response to grief and loss issues related to the deaths of various family members in the last few years. In this realm, I am victorious. Charlotte Danielson, in her article entitled, The Many Faces of Leadership, writes: “Effective teacher leaders are open-minded and respectful of others’ views. They display optimism and enthusiasm, confidence and decisiveness. They persevere and do not permit setbacks to derail an important initiative they are pursuing” (2011, p. 16).

My current endeavors in graduate school blend nicely with our district’s emphasis on supporting each teacher and school to actively participate in Professional Learning Communities. I am encouraged to realize that the dove-tailing of similar projects are supported by the research and readings in this particular course and are noted as “job-embedded” projects. In a wonderful way, this allows me to view myself and my profession in a truly more “integrated” fashion and deepens my appreciation for the rich benefits of both facets of my life.

Danielson cites Michael Fullan as saying, “The litmus test of all leadership is whether it mobilizes people’s commitment to putting their energy into actions designed to improve things. It is individual commitment, but above all it is collective mobilization” (2007, p. 16).

Although in times past, I strongly considered pursuing administrator’s credentials (and was often encouraged to do so), I am more comfortable and have a sense of peace with continuing my involvement as a member of my school’s leadership team and curriculum leader’s team—based on my role as curriculum leader for the special education department. Both positions allow me to provide direct input into discussions and the development of our school’s improvement plan. In past years special education in our district has traveled on sort of parallel but separate tracks with regard to school improvement. My goal has been to bring these two worlds together so that we can speak the same terminology and validate and incorporate the best of both perspectives into a stronger and more focused stated purpose for the future.

As written in An Introduction to Teacher Leadership, also by Danielson: “Teacher leaders see themselves, first as teachers; while they are not interested in becoming administrators, they are looking to extend their influence….Teacher leaders are “more” than teachers, yet different from administrators” (2007, p.1).

As cited within Angelle & DeHart’s article entitled, Teacher Perceptions of Teacher Leadership: Examining Differences by Experience, Degree, and Position:

Empowering teachers to share in school-wide decision making enhances teacher leadership throughout the school. The more teachers who are part of decision making, the greater the participation and commitment to carry out the goals of the organization (Barth, 2001).

My role as a special education teacher has always involved interacting with general education teachers and I have designed a number of systems over the years and have adapted these to incorporate new technologies as they have become available. In this course, the development of one of my required exhibits has prompted me to create a new system for tracking student progress and expand it to track teacher collaboration. My experience is similar to what authors Herzog and Abernathy refer to in their article entitled, Inch by Inch, Row by Row: Growing Capacity for Teacher Leadership (as cited by Hilty):

Both formal and informal leaders have often risen to their positions without any training in leadership skills. They learned on the job, through trial and error. Intuitive leaders can be effective, but they could be more successful with leadership training in facilitating group problem solving, team building, effecting school change, and curriculum development (p. 190).

Now that I have nearly completed my third quarter of my graduate work, and at times feel a little weary—my colleagues, who are now well acquainted with the “new and improved” alterations to our PLC work (based on my input from graduate courses!) are now–more than ever–“cheering me on”. More important, I believe that together, we have discovered the truth of what Zepeda states: “…relationships with others, builds cohesion and this ‘connective leadership’ is what will help to bind people and their values to the work they do in the process of working with one another” (p.23).

I believe that teacher leadership involves having us as individual teachers putting our lives into action—being living examples of modeling “best practices” as we interact with students, colleagues and community members.


Angelle, P., & DeHart, C.. (2011, June). Teacher Perceptions of Teacher Leadership: Examining Differences by Experience, Degree, and Position. National Association of Secondary School Principals. NASSP Bulletin, 95(2), 141-160.  Retrieved December 8, 2011, from Research Library. (Document ID: 2461069711).

Danielson, C. (2007). The Many Faces of Leadership. Educational Leadership, 65(1), 14-19.

Danielson, C. (2010). Evaluations That Help Teachers Learn. Educational Leadership, 68(4), 35-39.

Hilty, E. (2011) Teacher Leadership: The “new” foundations of teacher education. New York: Peter Lang.

Zepeda, S. (2008). Professional Development: What Works. New York: Eye on Education.Readings.

Artifacts for Standards 6 and 7 are listed below and the background for their selection is explained within the following blogs, written and posted throughout this course, Autumn Quarter, 2011:

Exhibit 1: Educator Learning: Tracking Student Progress

Exhibit 1, Artifact 3–email to KHS faculty

Exhibit1, Artifact 2– COLLABORATION SHEET-1

Exhibit 1, Artifact 1–SMART Goals 2011-12

Exhibit 2: Educator Learning: Power Standards/Common Formative Assessments

Exhibit 2, Artifact 1 — KHS SE 11-12 Self eval

Exhibit 2, Artifact 2 — KHS Secondary Progress Report

Exhibit 3: Community Involvement: Parent Communication

Exhibit 4: Community Involvement: Self Advocacy and Post-School Outcome

James, L. G. (2011). EDU 6600 Communication and Collaboration, Seattle Pacific University. Module 1 Reflection: Introduction and Self-Assessment. Retrieved from

James, L. G. (2011). EDU 6600 Communication and Collaboration, Seattle Pacific University. Module 2 Reflection: Communication and Collaboration. Retrieved from

James, L. G. (2011). EDU 6600 Communication and Collaboration, Seattle Pacific University. Module 3 Reflection: Reflections on the Richness of Teamwork. Retrieved from

James, L. G. (2011). EDU 6600 Communication and Collaboration, Seattle Pacific University. Module 4 Reflection: True Collaboration in Action—“Shoulder to Shoulder”. Retrieved from

James, L. G. (2011). EDU 6600 Communication and Collaboration, Seattle Pacific University. Module 5 Reflection: Endeavoring to Strive for Excellence—With Critical Support. Retrieved from

James, L. G. (2011). EDU 6600 Communication and Collaboration, Seattle Pacific University. Module 6 Reflection: Reflections on Collaboration and Peer Review. Retrieved from

James, L.G. (2011). EDU 6600 Communication and Collaboration, Seattle Pacific University. Module 7 Reflection: Systems Thinking and Praying for Wisdom. Retrieved from

James, L. G. (2011). EDU 6600 Communication and Collaboration, Seattle Pacific University. Module 8 Reflection: Action Research, Right Before My Very Eyes. Retrieved from

James, L. G. (2011). EDU 6600 Communication and Collaboration, Seattle Pacific University. Module 9 Reflection: Growing into Leadership as a Teacher. Retrieved from


Exhibit 3: Community Involvement: Parent Communication

Laurie James’ Exhibit 3: Community Involvement: Parent Communication (Exhibit type B: Community Involvement Identifies at least two school improvement goals and designs a plan that includes multiple effective community involvement strategies needed to directly improve student learning).

CONTEXT: In support of our district’s statement that “Professional Learning Communities will be a focus of our district for the 2011-12 school year” as well as Kingston High School’s #1 School Improvement Goal: “KHS students graduate college ready (including 2 year and technical schools)”, our special education department’s PLC is choosing to include a renewed focus this year on improving parent communication. Even though it was celebrated at yesterday’s staff meeting that out of the ten high schools which comprise the Olympic League, Kingston High School ranks number one in terms of our High School Proficiency Exam (HSPE) and End-Of-Course (EOC) scores for 2011, as well as our number one ranking with regard to scoring and increasing number of students taking AP courses, district records note that a significant number of parents do not access their student’s information via our online Skyward data system. Additionally, due to budget cuts, the traditional practice of mailing home progress reports, newsletters, etc. is being replaced with electronic communication—with the provision of mailing hard copies to families who specifically request the continuation of mailings.

PLANNING, ENGAGEMENT, ANALYSIS: Although teacher and parent communication is an inherent part of the very nature of the IEP process for every student in special education, our PLC team’s collective belief is that it is far better to err on the side of “too much” versus “to little” communication with parents. Our shared experience reveals that the oversight of seemingly small details—can lead to surprisingly large and negative ramifications. Therefore, to promote increased communication, we composed a letter to parents that describes the overview of the special education services at Kingston High School (Artifact #1) and mailed this in early September. This letter includes a request for parents to sign and return the back page and to provide updated contact information.

In terms of research specifically focused on parent involvement, an article entitled, Motivation of Parent Involvement in Secondary-Level Schooling, offers some interesting insights:

“To enhance parent involvement at home, school administrators and teachers should work mainly with adolescents. To improve parent involvement at school, the results suggest the importance of sensitizing parents to their duties and responsibilities and of regarding the role of the school and the teachers when motivating parents to become involved”.

In essence, the results of this study found that having secondary students ask their parents for input, assistance (even minor), support at home, was more effective than having teachers make the request for the parent to help their child at home. Conversely, having teachers personally invite parents to be involved at school, was more effective that having students make the same requests.

With this thought in mind, this year, our department purchased and provided each student with a planner (Artifact #2). As teachers, we require it as an assignment–built into our grading systems, and encourage students to voluntarily use this tool to communicate and discuss school information with their parents.

As another method of communication with parents, our PLC team has decided to list “Study Strategies” on each IEP student’s schedule as a “0” period—regardless of whether the student is enrolled in all general education classes (inclusion) or has one or more special education classes within their day. While this “section” is not graded or listed on regular progress reports, this “earmarking” allows me to use features of the Skyward grading system to maintain records noting student participation related to “self-advocacy”. For each of the 75 IEP students, I record whether or not they complete the weekly/quarterly self-assessments, the dates of their weekly appointments, as well as record specific self-assessment scores (which are then analyzed by our PLC team—allowing for informed, individual, interventions and student goal-setting). With regard to class grades, periods 1-6,  the parent access side of Skyward, while noting specific assignments and corresponding scores, only shows the overall letter grade for each class, whereas my teacher access allows me to view both the letter grade, as well as the current percentage. In terms of data collection, this is an important distinction. While parents can only see an “F” grade in Skyward, I can see the value of that “F”—whether it is 3% or 58%. This specificity is important when working with students and measuring what is sometimes “incremental” progress. I chart this data, week after week, and our team reviews, analyzes, and reflects on the patterns that emerge, and provides interventions as warranted.

At the end of each term, following the regular electronic posting of grades, Secondary Special Education Progress Report (Artifact #3) will be mailed to parents. In addition to this legally required action, additional information included in the mailing will be: Regular secondary progress report (now primarily provided electronically), specific term grades (both letter and percentage), and a “Study Strategies” printout (Artifact #4) reflecting student response and communication throughout term.

As I consider the above described school improvement goals and exhibit, I relate most readily to the section in Zepeda’s Chapter 8, entitled, Getting Down to Brass Tacks. Zepeda reminds us that although many different approaches can be used for evaluating educational programs as well as professional development, “….there are some generally accepted evaluation processes that are particularly applicable to educational programs: selecting a focus, establishing an evaluation agreement, collecting data, organizing and analyzing the data, and reporting the results to stakeholders” (p. 48). Clearly, the issues involved in fully implementing student IEPs, including tracking of progress, use of accommodations and modifications, and communication to all required parties of the IEP team, relate to the above outlined processes. Additionally, I see correlation between legally required IEP processes and the information presented in Figure 2.10:

What Evaluation Reports Can Do (p. 56): 1) Demonstrate accountability 2) Convince 3) Educate 4) Explore and investigate 5) Document 6) Involve 7) Gain support 8) Promote understanding and 9) Promote public relations.


September 2011               Mailed parent letter to all IEP students with explanation of “Study Strategies Program”, with request to return signed acknowledgement and contact information.

October 25-26, 2011        Parent Conferences

Throughout 2011-12       Contact from case managers to parents regarding IEP, ITP, reevaluation meetings and ongoing follow-up to specific situations, as needed.

November 2011                Mailing of Secondary Special Education Progress Report for Term 1 –along with Gen Ed Progress Report, percentage grades, and additional “Study Strategies” information as noted above.

February 2012                   Mailing of Secondary Special Education Progress Report for Semester 1 –along with Gen Ed Progress Report, percentage grades, and additional “Study Strategies” information as noted above.

March 2012                         Parent Conferences (and possible parent survey).

April 2012                            Mailing of Secondary Special Education Progress Report for Term 3 –along with Gen Ed Progress Report, percentage grades, and additional “Study Strategies” information as noted above.

June 2012                            Mailing of Secondary Special Education Progress Report for Semester 2 –along with Gen Ed Progress Report, percentage grades, and additional “Study Strategies” information as noted above.

RESOURCES: Additional time outside the school date is required for the extensive data compilation for each term as well as postage for additional mailings.


Attachment 1 –Parent Letter from KHS Special Education Team explaining Study Strategies Program KHS Parent Letter SE Study Strategies

Attachment 2 –Sample of Planner Artifact #2 Student Planner sample

Attachment 3 –Secondary Progress Report (Part 2—with emphasis on IEP goals, comments, and grade percentages). Exhibit 3, Artifact 3 — KHS Secondary Progress Report (Part 2)

Attachment 4 –Sample of Study Strategies printout. (Unable to post at this time–due to student name on printout)


Deslandes, R. and Bertrand, R. (2005). Motivation of Parent Involvement in Secondary-Level Schooling. The Journal of Educational Research, 98(3), 164-175.

Zepeda, S. (2008). Professional Development: What Works. New York: Eye on Education.