How to Organize an IEP Binder.jpg

Over the years, I have tried several different ways to organize a student’s IEP data and other academic related information. The one tool that always works regardless of the amount of paper I’ve accumulated is a 3-ring binder. It may sound like a lot of work but once you have it set up, you can re-use the binder and its set-up year after  year.

What do you to get started: 

  1. 3-ring binder. I usually get a 2 or 3 inch binder but the size depends on how much paperwork you think your student will generate in the year.
  2. Some tabbed section dividers. I buy a set of 6 dividers, as well as two sets of the 8 dividers.
  3. A three hole punch, if you don’t have one.
  4. Some lined post-it notes. I like the medium sized ones but you should use whatever fits your needs best. 

First step:

Put the 6 sections dividers into the binder and label them. These are the labels I use:

  1. Current IEP
  2. Evaluations
  3. Communication
  4. Report cards/Progress Reports  
  5. Behavior/Discipline  
  6. Sample work
  • I divide Communication, Report cards/Progress reports, Behavior/Discipline and Sample work into the four school quarters using the section dividers from the two sets of 8 dividers I have already bought. 

Second step:

I gather all my paperwork together and sort into each of the sections. I file all documents in reverse chronological order - the most recent document on top. I also hand write in light pencil, bottom right of each document, the date I received/sent the document. 

Current IEP

In this section, I file the most current IEP, any meeting notices and my goal tracker sheet. I update the goal tracker sheet each quarter after I've received the progress report. 


If you are new to the process the first two documents will be your request for evaluation followed by your consent to evaluate. Again I keep this section in chronological order with the most recent report on top.  I sometimes forget what reports say in meetings so I usually create a table of contents for this section and will include a blurb or two of the key points in each report. I do NOT write on these reports. If a blurb is not enough I will put post-it notes with my notes in/on the section that is important.


In the first week or so of the new school year, I’ll reach out to my student’s classroom teacher and discuss what would be the most efficient way to have consistent communication regarding my student’s successes and difficulties. I have already divided this section into the four academic quarters, so whatever is agreed to, I print out copies of all communications and keep them in this section with the most current one on top.

If I find myself calling the school/teacher/etc. frequently; I will create a phone log and keep track of who I spoke with, the date/time and a summary of the discussion. I would file this phone log in this section too. I would also break the log up into the four academic quarters. 

Report cards/Progress Reports  

I have already divided this section into the four academic quarters. I file each report card and progress report accordingly in this file. I sometimes will put  my goal tracker in this section too just because it related to the progress reports. Either section is appropriate and you need to put it in a section that makes the most sense for you. 

I frequently review this section asking myself:  What is the data telling me? What data is missing?  What doesn't make sense that I need to follow up on. 


My student's disabilities often come hand-in-hand with behavior/discipline issues. I keep a log for each academic period. The log tells me how often the student is escorted and/or restrained. How often the student is out of class, for what reason and what the resolution was of the issue. I also use these logs to help me understand if the student is making effective progress and whether or not the placement is appropriate. 

Sample work

I like to either ask the teacher for sample work or I collect papers that are sent home each quarter. I tried to have a couple of pieces of work from each class. I do not collect all bad or all good work. I try to collect work that reflects my student's strengths/weaknesses. This way I can have my own insight into their successes and/or difficulties that I can discuss with their teacher. 

Third Step - Optional Step:

Your binder should be individualized to your student and their needs. Here are some other sections and/or pages you could include in your binder....

Medical Section

If your child has a medical issue you should create another section and label it medical. In this section you could  include names/address/contact info for each doctor, a list of medications (as well as dosage and what it is for), doctors notes if  your child was sick etc

Summary Sheet

This sheet includes the student’s name, dob , grade, teacher’s name and contact info, Aides/Supports/etc. will also be listed here, the Team Chair’s name/contact info

Table of Contents

This sheet is exactly what it sounds like. I create a table of contents that breaks down each section and what documents are in each section. 

Have questions or concerns about your child's education? Contact us to discuss further:

E.M. Curran & Associates LLC

10 Tower Office Park
Suite 406
Woburn, MA 01801
Phone: 781-933-1542
Fax: 781-933-1549 


If your child is habitually truant due to their special needs, you need to be aware of the February, 2018  Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court case "Millis Public Schools v. M.P. & others".

Stressed Truant Student

The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts recently heard a case involving M.P., a 15-year old girl with multiple diagnoses including OCD, PTSD, anxiety disorder, autism and a severe bladder condition; who was referred to the juvenile court as a child requiring assistance (CRA) on the grounds that she was habitually truant by her school district, Millis Public Schools.

M.P. was offered several alternative educational learning opportunities. Some of these alternatives included attending an online high school, a therapeutic program – with a shortened day, private tutoring at home, private tutoring at the library, and finally a special education day school. M.P. failed to consistently attend any of these alternative educational settings. At all times relevant, M.P. expressed her desire to attend school and to do well in school. She often expressed disappointment when she was unable to attend. M.P. and her family fought the CRA referral on the grounds that she was unable to attend school not because of her willfulness but due to her medical issues.

Under the children requiring assistance (CRA) statute, a child “willfully fails to attend school” if the child’s repeated failure to attend school arises from reasons portending delinquent behavior. CRA petitions can be filed where a child who is of compulsory school attendance age is “habitually truant.” The statute allows the juvenile court to change a child’s custody by placing them in the home of relative or an out-of-home placement if the judge determines the child “willfully failed to attend school for more than eight school days in a quarter.” The purpose of the CRA statute is well meaning. It has been established by multiples studies, that children who are not in school are more likely to get caught up in behaviors that may lead to delinquency and ultimately involvement in the court system. Allowing school districts to identify students who are habitually absent, is meant to help these students get support and hopefully help them prevent making negative life choices. 

Unfortunately, the CRA statute is frequently used when students with disabilities cannot attend school due to their emotional, social, medical and/or academic conditions. These students are often referred to the juvenile court system instead of steps being taken to support them and their needs. Many of these students with special needs are removed from their homes as a result of the CRA referral, which further exacerbates their condition instead of helping to alleviate some of their issues.

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled that a juvenile court judge can only find that a child is truant if the child is absent from school “purposefully, such that his or her behavior arises from reasons portending delinquent behavior.” To put it another way, the Supreme Judicial Court found that a child’s absence must be more than “merely voluntary or intentional,” the juvenile court must look “into a student’s purpose in missing school.” The Court emphasized that “a finding of willfulness is a fact-based inquiry that will depend on the circumstances of each case … [E]ach child’s purpose or reasons for missing school should be examined individually in order to determine whether the absences are willful beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The Supreme Judicial Court’s decision in Millis Public Schools vs M.P. and others is important because it supports children who cannot attend school because they have a mental or medical illness and helps these children avoid the court system and allows them to focus on their well-being and health care needs.'

Have questions or concerns about your student? Contact us to discuss further:

E.M. Curran & Associates LLC

10 Tower Office Park
Suite 406
Woburn, MA 01801
Phone: 781-933-1542
Fax: 781-933-1549



English Language Learners ELLs

A fifteen year old law governing how English Language learners are taught in Massachusetts schools was repealed last November. The former Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) law was controversial from its inception. Many ESL as well as regular classroom teachers expressed concerns over the restrictive English-only model didn’t serve all students well.  In addition there were many reports and studies done that raised concerns that the needs of the students were not being met because the teachers were not adequately trained in how to support and educate the English language learners.

As a result of these reports and studies, in 2011 the U.S. Department of Justice notified Massachusetts education officials that teachers were inadequately trained in how to educate English learners and the SEI model and required the state to come up with a new solution to bridge this gap. In response the state created the RETELL program – Rethinking Equity and Teaching for English Language Learners – which required teachers in core academic subjects to take a graduate-level course provided by the state in SEI instruction.  The RETELL program has had mixed results across the state.

The new law called “Language Opportunity for Our Kids," Chapter 138 of the Acts of 2017, commonly referred to as the LOOK Act aims to provide school districts with more flexibility as to the language acquisition programs they choose to meet the needs of English learners, while maintaining accountability for timely and effective English language acquisition.

The new law has many important points but here are just a few key effects:

Increased Input from Parents and Guardians

Allows parents/guardians of English learners to select any language acquisition program offered by the district, provided that the program is appropriate for the age and grade level of the student.

Allows parents/guardians to request a transfer of the student to another language acquisition program available in the district, subject to approval by the superintendent.

State Seal of Biliteracy

Directs the Board to establish the State Seal of Biliteracy. Districts may award the seal to students who meet the state criteria in attaining a high level of proficiency in English and at least one other language.

Educator Qualifications

Requires districts to verify prior to the beginning of each school year that each educator in an English learner program is properly endorsed for that program.

Language Acquisition Programming Flexibility and Oversight

Provides districts with flexibility in choosing a language acquisition program that best fits the needs of their English learner population, while ensuring accountability through Department oversight.

Requires districts that intend to offer a new sheltered English immersion or alternative instructional English learner program in the next academic year to submit the required information to the Department and the district's parent advisory council by January 1 of the current academic year; this means that new English learner programs may commence no earlier than the 2019-2020 school year.

Have questions or concerns about your student? Contact us to discuss further:

E.M. Curran & Associates LLC

10 Tower Office Park
Suite 406
Woburn, MA 01801
Phone: 781-933-1542
Fax: 781-933-1549




The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has recently ruled a school district cannot be held financially liable for bullying that left a child paralyzed.  

The Supreme Judicial Court’s decision came in the case of Matthew Mumbauer. In 2008, Matthew was 11 years old and a student at the Brickett Elementary School in Lynn. A fellow student who allegedly (although court documents show Matthew had been repeatedly targeted) had been bullying him for years pushed him down a flight of stairs in 2008. As a direct result, Matthew was paralyzed for life. Matthew's family sued the city, school district and administrators, saying they were negligent in failing to act.

The Supreme Judicial Court stated in their opinion that they were not deciding whether or not the school was negligent for failing to act reasonably to prevent the bullying that led to Matthew’s injuries. The SJC accepted for the purpose of their limited review that the school was negligent but that their main concern was whether, under the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act, the public defendants (i.e. the city, school district and administrators) may be held liable for that negligence. 

The Massachusetts Tort Claims Act, establishes the procedure for asserting tort claims against municipalities. All claims for injury or loss of property or personal injury or death caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any public employee while acting within the scope of their employment are subject to this Act. The Court focused its attention on Section 10(j) of the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act, which bars “any claim based on an act or failure to act to prevent or diminish the harmful consequences of a condition or situation, including the violent or tortious conduct of a third person, which is not originally caused by the public employer or any other person acting on behalf of the public employer.”

In short, the Court concluded that the act protects them from liability for such negligence. Justice Kimberly S. Budd writing for the court said in relevant part “These claims are barred by §10(j) because they originate from a failure to act rather than an affirmative act….”

Conclusion. There is no question that bullying is a serious issue. The tragedy that occurred in this case highlights the emotional pain of day-to-day harassment suffered by those who are bullied, as well as the horrific physical consequences that can result.[15]

In this case it appears, based upon the allegations of the complaint, that those working at the elementary school could have and should have done more to protect Matthew. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the Legislature has imposed restrictions on the act that exempt school districts from liability. See Whitney, 373 Mass. at 210 (“on the subject of sovereign immunity . . . barring any possible constitutional infirmities, the Legislature will have the final word”).
— Cormier, et al. v. City of Lynn, et al

To read the full case opinion please use this link:

If your child is experiencing difficulties with bullies, please contact Attorney Curran to see how we may be able to help you:

10 Tower Office Park
Suite 406
Woburn, MA 01801
Phone: 781-933-1542
Fax: 781-933-1549