Dear Teacher

Dear Teacher

Standards Do Not Limit Learning

Question: How is it possible to bring out every child’s learning potential when there is the trend to standardize schooling across this country? – Concerned

Answer: You are probably thinking about Common Core, the new curriculum standards in English language arts/literacy and math that most states have adopted. It is certainly clear that these standards do list what children should learn in these areas. However, schools and teachers are able to go beyond this and add additional content.

Do not worry about these standards limiting children’s learning potential. They place a big emphasis on critical thinking rather than repetition and rote learning. And with current technology, there is a wealth of opportunity for children to explore personal interests.

Parental Involvement in Homework

Question: How can I best help my children learn to handle their homework? How much should parents be involved? – Wondering

Answer: Whether you like it or not, you will have to play a role in helping your children handle homework. The sooner you put them on the path to handling homework by themselves, the happier you both will be. Check to see if you are doing what is necessary to make your children responsible for their homework. Here is a parents’ checklist:

  • Teach your young children how to use an assignment pad to write down what each day’s homework is.
  • Emphasize reading and rereading directions before starting each assignment so your children will know what to do.
  • Show your children how to handle difficult assignments by studying similar work in textbooks and class worksheets.
  • Provide help only when it is requested, and they have really tried to do the work.
  • Set an agreed-on time to start homework.

Have you ever thought of using a homework contract with your children? Visit to find one to download in Skill Builders under “Study Skills.”

The Difference Between a 504 Plan and an IEP

Question: My third-grade son has ADHD and is currently being tested to see if he qualifies for some school accommodations. We will be having a meeting with the school in a few weeks. However, I would like to know what the difference is between a 504 Plan and an IEP (Individual Education Plan)? Which would be best for my son? — Concerned

Answer: You have asked a very common question. You are now on the road to obtaining answers from your school district. The plan that is best for your son depends on how much the ADHD affects his school work.  Do keep in mind that the results could always come back that your son does not need either a 504 Plan or an IEP.

Parents need to know that children who are identified under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) are eligible for IEPs; however, children who are identified under the 504 Plan are not eligible for an IEP.

Both the 504 Plan and the IEP are created by an educational team. Both plans can work well to serve students with ADHD. Both protect the rights of students with the disability and ensure that they will be learning in the least restrictive environment.

However, the 504 Plan and the IEP have unique differences.

  • The 504 comes under Section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Children are eligible if they have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits at least one major life activity. It does not need to have an educational impact.
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) serves children with disabilities through an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). To qualify, a student needs more than just accommodations, they need services related to their disability.
  • The 504 Plan is a shorter process and easier to get than an IEP. The plan will follow the student after he or she leaves high school.
  • An IEP is a longer process that takes more time for students to become eligible has some stigma attached and ends with high-school graduation.
  • Children under a 504 Plan are only eligible to receive accommodations. Those under an IEP receive accommodations plus a wide range of services.

Child Not Completing Classwork

Question: My daughter, a fourth grader, is having a tough time getting her assignments completed in class. The teacher says she does not stay focused. Every night she has her classwork to complete along with her homework. She is always up past 10 p.m. every evening getting everything completed. How can we handle this problem? – Worried

Answer: First, you need to talk with her teacher to find out what can be done to help your child focus better in the classroom so that she can get more of her classwork completed. Perhaps your daughter needs to sit in a study carrel or in the front of the room to improve her concentration.

If the teacher cannot find ways to help her, appropriate school personnel should be brought in to observe the child and see what measures need to be initiated, including a behavior plan.

At home, you also need to observe the child doing homework to see if you can detect and resolve problems that may be interfering with her focus on school work. And because she is young, cut off her homework time at 40 minutes. Be sure to mention this to the teacher.

©Compass Syndicate Corporation, 2015. Distributed by King Features Syndicate.

Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts have taught at every level from kindergarten through college and have co-authored more than 100 books. They have also been in the trenches getting six children through school. Their children have run the gamut, from being in gifted and talented programs to special education resource rooms. Because of their experiences, they see themselves as interpreters between parents and schools as they have been on both sides.

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