At a glance
The reports and paperwork you receive from your child’s school are worth saving for future reference.
You have the right to request copies of everything in your child’s official school records.
It’s especially important to keep IEP and 504 plan records.
The school sends you reports that tell you how your child is doing in school and what the school is doing for your child. You may know to keep a file of those records. But did you know there are other records, both formal and informal, that are important to keep for future reference?
Keeping all of your child’s school records can help you see trends and patterns over time. The records you keep can provide specific details and documentation when you’re talking about the resources your child needs to succeed in school. Here are the types of records to keep — and why they’re important.
Records that paint a fuller picture
The communications you receive from teachers and the school can paint a fuller picture of how your child is doing in school. For example:
- Graded tests and homework can show where your child is struggling or improving in different subjects.
- Report cards provide a snapshot of how your child is doing academically.
- Standardized test scores show you how your child is doing compared to other kids in your school and state. This is also a report on how well the school is performing.
- Notes or emails about classroom behavior, social skills, or attendance issues can indicate issues you may need to talk over with your child’s teacher. These items are informative the day you receive them. But keeping them on file at home will let you look back to see patterns or trends in how your child — and the teacher or school — are doing over time.
You may want to print and fill out a school contact list showing who to call at your child’s school. It’s helpful to keep on hand in case issues arise.
Reports on the efforts of school personnel
This can help you document patterns and keep track of what you talked about and the decisions that were made. When you can point to specific information, you can better ensure your child’s rights are being protected.
Official school records
It’s a good idea for you to have copies of everything that’s in your child’s official school records. In fact, there’s a federal law called Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) that gives you rights around your child’s educational records, including the right to see and photocopy them all.
Not every school uses the same organization system, so ask your school administrators how their system is set up. Here are common groups of records kept by schools.
Cumulative file: This may be little more than a profile card with personal identification data, standardized test scores, and report cards.
Confidential file: This is often kept in the school district’s central administrative office, where the program offices are located. The file typically includes:
- All of the reports written as a result of the school’s evaluation for special education and related services (You can use these sample letters for requesting evaluations and reports.)
- Records of independent educational evaluations if your child was evaluated this way
- Medical records you’ve agreed to release to the school
- Results of vision and hearing tests done by the school
- Summary reports of the evaluation team and eligibility committee meetings
- Your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 plan
- Correspondence between you and school personnel
Compliance file: This file shows that the school system has met the regulations for timelines, notification, and consent required by federal law. The records in this may include:
Attendance file: This contains a record of a student’s school attendance. It might also include notes from parents regarding excused absences.
How to get started
It’s important to set up an organization system that works for you. Learn how to make an IEP binder to keep things organized. If your child doesn’t have an IEP, you can still use a three-ring binder system to keep things sorted. You can use this IEP binder checklist to keep track of your documents. (It may be helpful even if your child doesn’t have an IEP.)
Next, start keeping what the school sends home and request a copy of your child’s school records. Err on the side of saving more documents than you think you might need to keep. You can always reevaluate them later.
There are many reasons to keep copies of your child’s school records.
Be sure to collect both official and unofficial records.
Organize the records so you can easily locate them as needed to advocate for your child.