Encouraging Parent Partnerships

This module will offer prospective educators a glimpse into how parents of students with disabilities can partner with schools to help their children be successful in school and life. This module will also provide veteran teachers additional insights for working with parents as a team to help all students be more successful in school.

In this document, the word parent or parents will be used throughout to represent all individuals who have the responsibility for the care of any child/youth referenced. This includes biological parents, foster parents, adoptive parents, legal guardians, as well as family members with the responsibility of caring for these children/youth.

Encouraging Parent Partnerships


As a pre-service or new general education teacher you have ideas about how you will interact with the families of the students in your classroom. You may envision a high degree of parent involvement which you may welcome. Or, you may anticipate being the sole educational factor in the lives of your students, going it alone.

Either way, if you are fortunate, you will interact with parents who are interested and involved in their children’s education. Furthermore, if you have parents of students with disabilities involved in the education of their children, those students will have a better chance of achieving academic goals and experiencing more success as they transition into adulthood.

When parents are actively involved, their child is more likely to exhibit higher grades and test scores; better attitudes towards school; more positive behavior; consistent school attendance; more completed homework; less chance of the need for special education services; greater chance of high school graduation; and, better likelihood participating in postsecondary education. Parents who show an interest in their child's education, set high expectations for achievement and let their child know they believe in his or her abilities, and create a positive environment for growth and achievement.

So, why are students with disabilities in a general education classroom anyway? In 1975, federal legislation, Public Law 94-142, also known as Education of All Handicapped Children Act was enacted which is considered the "Bill of Rights" for children with disabilities and their families. The landmark legislation incorporated six major components that have forever changed the landscape of education across the United States. These components include:

  • A Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). All children, regardless of the severity of the disability, must be provided an education appropriate to their unique needs at no cost to the parent. Included in this principle is the concept of related services, which requires that children receive, for example, occupational therapy, physical therapy, orientation and mobility, as well as other services as necessary in order to benefit from special education.
  • The Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). Children with disabilities are to be educated, to the maximum extent appropriate, with students without disabilities. Placements must be consistent with the pupil's education needs. Each state is required to provide a full continuum of alternate placements.
  • An Individualized Education Program (IEP). This document, developed with the parent, is an individually tailored statement describing an educational plan for each learner with exceptionalities. The IEP is required to address
    1. pupil’s present level of academic functioning;
    2. annual goals and accompanying instructional objectives;
    3. educational services to be provided;
    4. the degree to which the pupil will be able to participate in general education programs;
    5. plans for initiating services and length of service delivery; and
    6. annual evaluation procedures specifying objective criteria to determine if instructional objectives are being met.
  • Procedural due process. Parents are guaranteed several safeguards as it pertains to their child's education. Briefly, parents have the right to confidentiality of records; to examine all records; to obtain an independent evaluation; to receive written notification (in the parents' native language) of proposed changes to their child's educational classification or placement; and the right to an impartial hearing whenever disagreements arise regarding educational plans for their child. Furthermore, the student's parents have the right to representation by legal counsel.
  • Nondiscriminatory assessment. Prior to placement, a child must be evaluated by a multidisciplinary team in all areas of suspected disability by tests that are not racially, culturally, nor linguistically biased. Students are to receive several types of assessments, administered by trained personnel; a single evaluation procedure is not permitted for either planning or placement purposes.
  • Parental participation. P.L. 94-142 mandates meaningful parent involvement. This legislation requires that parents participate fully in the decision-making process that affects their child's education.

Learning Outcomes

After reviewing the module, the learner will be able to:

  1. Understand the critical role that parents play in the academic success of their children and that by partnering with educators the child, the teacher, and the family benefits;
  2. Examine personal experiences of parents who have a child with a disability and how partnering with their child’s teacher provided solutions to issues faced at home and in school;
  3. Expand one’s understanding of the importance of a dynamic relationship between the parents and school personnel;
  4. Consider the importance of the active involvement of parents and listening to their concerns in the education process; and
  5. Learn the roles that general education teachers, special education teachers, and parents can play in promoting the success of students with disabilities in school.

Key Words and Abbreviations

Admission, Review and Dismissal
Assistive Technology
Early Childhood Intervention
Educational Instructional Specialist
Free Appropriate Public Education
Individualized Education Program
In School Suspension
Local Education Agency
Least Restrictive Environment
Positive Behavior Support
Preschool Programs for Children with Disabilities
Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (A Texas-based statewide standard assessment, which will be replaced by STAAR, beginning in 2011-2012)
Tender Loving Care