The school sends you reports that tell you how your child is doing in school and what the school is doing for him. It may seem obvious that you should 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 your child’s school records can help you see trends and patterns over time. These records can also provide specific details and documentation when you’re talking about the resources he 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 well your child is doing academically.
- Standardized test scores show you how well your child is doing compared to other kids in his school and your state. This is also a report on how well the school is performing.
- Notes or emails about classroom behavior, social skills or attendance issues may be red flags you need to talk over with your child and his 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.
Reports on the Efforts of School Personnel
Be sure to keep any progress reports and communication about what teachers and other school staff are doing for your child. When you can point to specific information, you can better ensure your child’s rights are being protected. Consider keeping a log of all communication between you and school officials. This can help you document patterns—such as the school repeatedly scheduling and canceling meetings.
Official School Records to Keep
It’s a good idea for you to have copies of everything that’s in your child’s official school records. 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 special education 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
- 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 timelines, notification and consent regulations required by federal law. The records in this may include:
- Reports of eligibility determination meetings for children being considered for special education services
- Correspondence between school officials, including notifications ad consent
Discipline file: This may include notes about behavior and discipline issues that involve long-term suspension or expulsion. If a student has a behavior intervention plan (BIP), it may be filed here.
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
First, start keeping what the school sends home. Next, request a copy of your child’s school records. Set up an organization system that works for you. Here are some general tips to keep in mind:
- Think about how you’re most likely to refer back to the records, and set up your files accordingly. For example, if your child has an IEP, you’ll want to have quick access to certain documents to prepare for an IEP meeting.
- Be sure all the correspondence you keep is marked with the date you received it. Any time you send a form or letter to the school or the district office, first make a copy for your files.
- Err on the side of saving more documents than you think you might need to keep. You can always reevaluate them later.
- Periodically go through your child’s files. Add new papers or weed out those you no longer need.
- By taking the time to organize your child’s school records now, you’ll streamline your search for records in the future. You’ll have access to valuable records whenever you need them to advocate for your child.