“What does navigating education mean?” This is a question we often get when introducing our services to new people. Our experiences with families have taught us there is no one-size-fits all answer. Navigating education means many things; for one family, we may assist with identifying schools that meet certain criteria for their child. For another, we might review an IEP and ensure a child is receiving appropriate accommodations that will help them improve in areas of need.
Often, navigating education means spotting issues or challenges that families may not be aware of—and the solutions are not always straightforward. For example, we are currently working with a family whose child attends a school that is struggling to serve students well. Our Navigator noticed that the student was not receiving work aligned with the curriculum or grade-level learning standards and had scored in the lower percentile for reading and math. These patterns raised immediate concerns for our Navigator, who saw a child at risk of falling off track. Yet the student had generally received positive grades and his parents enjoyed good relationships with the school’s staff. They were reluctant to do anything drastic.
What’s the right next step, in a situation like this? Our goal with all of our families is to give honest advice to help them make informed decisions. Ultimately, they decide what course to take for their child. In this case, we started by sharing our observations and concerns, and laid out a few possible options. The family opted to keep their child in the current school, so our Navigator’s focus turned to helping them carefully monitor their student’s performance, provide effective support at home, and ensure the child can get the best education possible no matter the setting. Additionally, we are working to provide the student with more challenging schoolwork, to prevent falling behind. We think this two-part strategy—keeping parents informed and their child challenged—will help keep this student on the path to a great education.