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Building a Digital IEP Binder

Published on
June 16, 2021

“Great, let me just haul these very large binders to the meeting!” said no parent ever. But this is what has been “standard practice” in the special education world for years. Each and every meeting, parents and their advocates or support professionals arrive with binders full of data. This article will help parents step into the future of special education with a Digital IEP Binder.

Written by Meg Flanagan

Inside is all the information ever about their child: 

  • Current and past IEPs
  • Diagnostic information from medical professionals
  • Education testing
  • Anecdotal records from previous teachers
  • Report cards
  • Progress reports

Depending on the complexity of the diagnoses, services and supports required, or the age of the child, many families have several three-inch binders worth of, well, stuff.

But there is a better way, especially for military families who are frequently PCSing. 

Digital IEP Binders

woman in white long sleeve shirt using macbook pro
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Instead of the endless giant binders, I set each of my clients up with a shared Google Drive Folder. I create it and then grant them access.

I like Google Drive because the files are now password secured to my account. Unless I specifically grant access, then no one can see these documents. Parents, of course, have the option to selectively grant access to anyone they choose, to some or all of the information housed online.

What’s Inside a Digital IEP Binder?

Inside the shared folder, I include:

  • Current IEP
  • Education assessments
  • Medical tests
  • Most recent diagnostic information
  • Analysis reports of all other documents

I might also include historic documents, like:

  • Five-10 years worth of IEPs
  • Paperwork and test results for initial diagnosis
  • Progress reports for the last one to two academic years
  • All About Me Letter
  • Anecdotal reports and records from previous teachers
  • Videos of the child performing skills, showing personality
  • Current photos of the child

All of this information and documentation help to build a clear comprehensive case that parents (and advocacy professionals) can use to negotiate at IEP meetings.

One major bonus of storing things online is ease of access. Prior to the tech boom of the last few years, keeping records means maintaining paper copies of everything. And sharing individual documents required knowing where the box of records were stored, where in the box it was organized, and then shuffling through all the papers to find the exact one thing you needed right that second.

With online document storage, you can type in what you’re looking for and have it appear – as long as it’s named something pretty obvious and relevant.

Naming Records for Digital IEP Binders

Generally, how you name or title things matters online. This is extra true for your child’s educational records.

I try to use a pretty basic format:

FirstInitialLastName_SchoolDistrict_EducationPlanType_Date_DocumentType

In practice, it looks like this:

JSmith_ABCSD_IEP_020219_WISC

The date is when the report or document was originally created and not when I received it or added it to the online folder. If the IEP happened on February 2, 2019 then that date is used in the tag.

Document Types

WISC in the example is the particular test. Other document tags you might use include:

  • IEPMEET – IEP meeting
  • IEPADD – IEP addendum
  • MEDDIAG – Medical diagnosis
  • MEDIA – Mediation
  • IQ – Full scale IQ
  • READ – Reading test

What you’re aiming for is a naming system that makes very clear what the document is and when it is from. This level of transparency makes finding relevant documents super easy! Consider making a cheat sheet so others know what your tags mean!

Why a Digital vs Hard Copy?

First, military families move a lot. Which means our kids accumulate lots of paperwork, constantly. 

When we move, we then have to figure out the best way to transport all of that information so that it stays secure and without taking up a ton of space in luggage. Having moving companies take care of these ultra sensitive and important documents seems like a recipe for disaster, but you also might not have space in your luggage or car for several binders worth of documents.

Putting everything online makes this a non-issue. Anywhere that you can log into your shared folder gives you access, even from the road!

Second, having everything online in one place makes building your support team super simple. You can add in reports from specialists or therapists. Or share the whole thing with an advocate or attorney. When a teacher or school asks for something, you can drop a link or share the exact PDF they need via email. 

It’s searchable data. No need to flip through papers, risking papercuts, just Control F and search for what you need.

If you are a tactile person and want to see an example of a traditional IEP binder check out this video from our founder.

Building a Digital IEP Binder

Did you know that most educational reports are created either by a computer or on a computer? That’s right! IEPs, test reports, data analysis, and report cards are all digital to begin with!

While many schools and teachers still default to handing over hard copies of everything, you can also request PDFs or documents. 

Then you upload to your online folder, rename to fit your style, done.

Plus, with reports so easy to generate, asking for digital copies makes the whole process of sharing infinitely easier for teachers, too. It takes me under five minutes to request, generate, and share a score report for a child in my classroom using our school’s standard benchmarking assessment program. 

If you have older physical copies of documents, you can either scan, or take a clear photo, and upload it to the online folder.

Now, everything is in one place, super organized, and easy to locate at a moment’s notice. 

About the Author

Meg Flanagan, founder of Meg Flanagan Education Solutions LLC, is a teacher, mom and
passionate special education advocate. She is dedicated to making the K-12 education experience
easier for families across the US. Meg holds an M.Ed in special education and a BS in
elementary education. She is a certified teacher in both elementary and special education in
Massachusetts and Virginia.

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