It is your job as an effective IEP participant to be on the look out for subjective observations.Look for phrases like:
Student is doing better
Student is passing
Student has performed well ...
Student is making progress
I don't think there is anything wrong with accurate subjective observations and accurate subjective observations can provide important information about the Student in the school and home environment, but subjective observations are a problem when they are inaccurate and/or not supported by objective measures.
A good discussion on the subject is found in Your Child's IEP: Practical and Legal Guidance for Parents - Pamela Darr White M.A., M.S.W. Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Peter W. D. Wright, Esq.Measuring Progress: Subjective Observations or Objective Testing?
Let’s return to our medical example. Your son John complained that his throat was sore. You see that his throat is red. His skin is hot to the touch. He is sleepy and lethargic. These are your observations.
Based on concerns raised by your subjective observations, you take John to the doctor. After the examination, the doctor will add subjective observations to yours. Objective testing will be done. When John’s temperature is measured, it is 104. Preliminary lab work shows that John has an elevated white count. A strep test is positive. These objective tests suggest that John has an infection.
Based on information from subjective observations and objective tests, the doctor develops a treatment plan—including a course of antibiotics. Later, you and John return—and you share your ongoing observations with the doctor. John’s temperature returned to normal a few days ago. His throat appears normal. These are your subjective observations.
Subjective observations provide valuable information—but in many cases, they will not provide sufficient evidence that John’s infection is gone. After John’s doctor makes additional observations—she may order additional objective testing. Why?
You cannot see disease-causing bacteria. To test for the presence of bacteria, you must do objective testing. Unless you get objective testing, you cannot know if John’s infection has dissipated.
By the same token, you will not always know that your child is acquiring skills in reading, writing or arithmetic—unless you get objective testing of these skills.
How will you know if the IEP plan is working? Should you rely on your subjective observations? The teacher’s subjective observations? Or should you get additional information from objective testing?
As evidenced by our experience, it is sometimes a challenge to have questionable subjective observations modified or removed. If you don't agree with the subjective observation and there is resistance to modifying it or removing it then request to see the objective measures that support the observation. This example from one of our IEP meetings illustrates my point.Subjective comment under Present Level of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance (PLAAFP) in the AREA of Reading was
... reads with lots of expression and inflection ... adjust his reading speed when needed ...
I think my comment in the IEP meeting was "I've never heard my son read with lots of expression and inflection and he is a slow struggling reader."
And if he adjusted his reading speed it was from very slow to extremely slow.
A discussion about subjective observations took up a significant amount of time in the IEP meeting. And when they resisted modifying or removing subjective observations then I requested that my subjective observations be added. For this example, I asked that they add "parent observes that student does not read with lots of expression and inflection." It made for a messy IEP but was corrected at the next IEP meeting. After the IEP meeting, the District administered the GORT-4, Reading Fluency Indicator and other assessments. The school psychometrist recorded the following observation:
He read the passages in a word by word fashion often lacking in expression. It was noted that at times he paused or changed his tone for punctuation while for the most part he continued to read word-by-word without regard for punctuation.
At the next IEP meeting, the draft IEP no longer contained the subjective observation that
my son read with lots of expression and inflection and adjust(s) his reading speed when needed. Most subjective observations were removed from the PLAAFP and the few subjective observations remaining were supported by objective measures. End results was a more accurate IEP.One might wonder if it really matters if an IEP contains questionable subjective observations
. It sure does if you have problems with a District and try to resolve the problems through the 60-Day State Complaint Process or a Due Process Hearing. The party reviewing the complaint will assume that comments are accurate in an IEP that was not challenged. So, parents need to document objections to an IEP loaded with questionable subjective observations.