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A small group of parents (including myself) has connected in my school district. We're trying to advococate for systemic change in our school district and are unsure how to do this. We're meeting as a group next week to share experiences and come up with common themes to approach the school district with.  One parent is meeting with a school board member. I'm meeting with the superintendent for my child next week as well.

Any suggestions on how we should proceed?

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Where are you located? What kinds of change are you proposing? Is it change that is under the control of the district or is there a higher agency that sets the parameters? 

I'm in Michigan and many of our special ed policies and procedures that govern how individual districts handle special ed come from our Intermediate School Districts (ISD). Each ISD is required to have a plan that is developed from different constituency groups (Parent Advisory Committee, Special Ed Directors, Superintendents, ISD Board, etc) and then approved by the State Board of Education. So if you wanted to change something like teacher qualifications in a particular program or number of students in an elementary ASD classroom, that is done at the ISD level and not the district here.

Michigan mother of two with IEPs, and owner of MI Student Advocacy Services. Trying to change the world one IEP at a time. 





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For your first meeting, this is exactly what you can do--discuss what the group wants to do.

"Improve special Ed" Ok, so what does that look like? What trends are happening now? What challenges is the district facing? What common experiences are parents and kids having?

If things were better, what would that look like? 


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We found that the teachers in our district were severely undersupported. We were able to work with the existing PTA to just lighten the load and provide some resources. That helped in the moment, and bought us the trust of the teachers, which is really valuable.  Frankly, it shouldn't have been necessary, but it was an opportunity to show we were there to help.

I have found in our district that if you can get the ear of school board members or members of administration, they really appreciate keeping feedback private. So, as long as I feel that they are taking issues seriously, I try to respect that.  I have walked up to an admin at a public meeting (on the side) and said, "What can we do about x?"  She knew that I was there to help not to criticize, and she told me what was actually needed, which I could then go work on. 

Also though, we communicate, communicate, communicate as parents. That has helped the leadership understand that we are  not "just that mom" and that they need to take any of us seriously when we bring up issues that we see.  

Finally, you have to separate advocacy to change the district from advacocy for your child. It might be the legal aspect, I'm not sure, but administration will always clam up if it's about your child. You need to make it abstract in order for them to engage, at least that's very consistently been my experience.

Best wishes on your meeting!


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Systemic change takes time.  When you change out one cog in a system, you often find that lots of other things get effected as well.  I know that I'd like to see schools align reading instruction to the Science of Reading or structured literacy.  The list of other things that need to change when you do this include:

Books, teacher training (both new & current teachers), college curriculum, praxis exams that teachers take, state standards for education...

All of these things take time.  I'm in a group that discusses this and I see teachers asking how to come up with a grade to put on a report card since making this change at the school level.  I guess I'm saying to look for the ripple effect when you ask for a systemic change.  (If you can anticipate the ripple & have answers to solve the problems that will be encountered, you'll do better at advocating for the change you want to see.) 

Can you post what systemic change you're looking for?  You can better crowdsource here by posting specifics.

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