School Services You May Not Know About
Required by Law
From extracurricular activities to its attendance policy, you may think you're in the loop about your child's school. Unfortunately, many administrations disclose complete information about the services they provide only on a need-to-know basis -- at best. So if you're like most parents, you're probably not aware of all the educational resources your tax dollars provide. Read on for a primer of little-known school services that can help maximize your child's performance.
- Section 504 Accommodations A child who has a broken arm, asthma, diabetes, HIV, dyslexia, or ADHD, among other conditions, must receive adequate accommodation from his school's Section 504 coordinator, according to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. If your child's learning or movement is being hindered by such a condition, talk to school officials about getting him evaluated and having a Section 504 plan drawn up to make things easier for him. Typical modifications a school might make include extending testing time, adjusting class schedules, providing occupational or physical therapy, and/or permitting the use of aids like calculators, laptops, and tape recorders. If mobility is an issue, the law may even provide for a paraprofessional to help your child get around. The Council of Educators for Students with Disabilities lists specific rights under the 504 resources section on its Web site.
- Special Education Help Is your child having difficulty focusing in the classroom or developing positive social skills? Ask your school in writing for a special education evaluation; the school must meet with you to discuss it and provide it at no cost to you. After a thorough assessment (which can take as long as a month) by trained professionals, and with your input, a decision will be made about whether your child has a learning disability or other condition that may qualify him for special services. Under the national Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), your school is required to provide the appropriate assistance, such as test and curriculum modifications, extra classroom support, and other services based on the plan you devise with the other evaluators to facilitate your child's learning. "Remember that you are an equal partner with the school in developing an Individualized Education Program and making all decisions about your child's education," says Diana Autin, Esq., executive codirector, Regional Parent Technical Assistance Center at the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network in Newark, New Jersey. The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities offers more information on IDEA and what it entitles your child to.
Supplemental Services for Schools "in Need of Improvement" If your child's school falls under the "in need of improvement" rubric, meaning that it failed to meet its state-prescribed goals on standardized tests for two years, your child may be eligible for additional services. (You can contact your state's department of education to find out your school's status, but the school is obligated to inform parents about the academic status of the school, and its status should be noted on the school's report cards, as well. The department of education also lists the status of many, but not all, schools at www.tutorsforkids.org.) If your school has been deemed wanting, the No Child Left Behind Act requires that the school provide free tutoring to eligible low-income students, among other services. The school will allow you to choose from a preapproved list of tutors. For more information on this and other services available to children in schools that need improvement, see: