START–Engaging Parents of Students with Disabilities
Offering programs and services that support the engagement of families to improve outcomes for students.
Special Education Parent Advisory Groups (SEPAGs) are required for all school districts in New Jersey. The purpose of these groups is to provide opportunities for parents and community members to offer input to their districts on critical issues relating to students with disabilities.
New Jersey Administrative Code states: Each board of education shall ensure that a special education parent advisory group is in place in the district to provide input to the district on issues concerning students with disabilities. 6A:14-1.2(h)
Parent Groups Listing: “FIND” or check the listing in your county to connect with SEPAGs in your area.
Parent Group Specialists (PGS): “CONTACT” us if you would like help starting or running a parent group.
Add/Update a Group Listing: “LIST” an update to an existing group or add a new group to connect others with their SEPAG.
The following documents are available for parent leaders/groups to share with their districts to provide more information about SEPAGs and the role START-EPSD plays in supporting families and districts as they start and run SEPAGs:
- About the START-EPSD Project (English/Spanish) (PDF)
- About Special Education Parent Advisory Groups (English) (PDF)
- Grupo Consultivo de Padres en Educación Especial (Español) (PDF)
- About the NJ SEPAG Guide to Developing and Conducting an Effective Group (English/Spanish) (PDF)
Special Education Parent Advisory Groups in NJ: A Guide to Developing and Conducting an Effective Group | This guide was developed utilizing best practices to assist parents and professionals interested in starting and running effective groups.
Grupos Consultivos de Padres en Educación Especial en Nueva Jersey l Una guía para desarrollar y dirigir un grupo efectivo | Esta guía se desarrolló utilizando las mejores prácticas para ayudar a los padres y profesionales interesados en crear y manejar grupos efectivos.
START-EPSD Quick Guides | Helpful information about different topics, in an easy-to-digest format | English & Spanish (PDF)
- Family Engagement Inventory Tool for School Reopening and Recovery I This tool offers an opportunity to gather a team of stakeholders to take an inventory of family engagement practices across four domains – communication, parent/family engagement in student learning, engagement in decision-making, and strategic family and community partnerships. The results can help build and strengthen staff and families’ capacities to create partnerships that will benefit all students. English PDF I Spanish PDF
Instructional Guide for using this tool: English PDF I Spanish PDF
- Developing & Implementing an Effective Special Education Parent Advisory Group (SEPAG) | This chart includes the steps and questions to consider when developing a SEPAG. Use this tool as a guide for discussion when forming your group. English: DOC / PDF | Español: DOC / PDF
- Action Minutes—Organizational tool for taking minutes | Use this form at meetings to quickly and effectively take minutes, document a group discussion, and create an action plan. It can also be copied into a Google Doc and made interactive so anyone with a link can add comments or suggestions. English: DOC / PDF | Español: DOC / PDF
- Input Tool for SEPAG Meetings—Organizational Tool for collecting input at SEPAG meetings | Use this chart to organize input, identify systemic issues, and include suggestions for possible resolution. It can also be copied into a Google Doc and made interactive so anyone with a link can add comments or suggestions. English: DOC / PDF | Español: DOC / PDF
- Webinar: Special Education Parent Advisory Groups in New Jersey l Guide to Developing and Conducting an Effective Group | Developed for parents and professionals to present an overview of the structure, content, and use of the Special Education Parent Advisory Groups in New Jersey l Guide to Developing and Conducting an Effective Group
- Serving on Groups—Webinar Series and Resources | Developed by the WI Family Assistance Center for Education, Training, and Support (WI FACETS), this training enables individual or group users to learn how to:
- confidently and actively participate in decision-making groups,
- recognize personal leadership skills,
- build an understanding about decision-making groups, and
- develop skills essential for active and meaningful participation in groups.
- Education-Related Acronyms: This list includes most frequently used education-related acronyms. English: PDF | Español: PDF
- Special Education Delivery Cycle: Use this chart to learn the steps and timelines for special education delivery cycle. English: PDF | Español: PDF
- Classification Chart: This chart includes classification categories for special education eligibility. English: PDF | Español: PDF
- Positive Student Profile: Use this template to organize information about your child’s strengths, challenges, goals, needs, and successes of your child. English: PDF | Español: PDF
- All About Me: This tool encourages asking questions about student’s strengths/interests, challenges/concerns, and activities with the focus to prepare them for the transition into adult life. English: PDF | Español: PDF
- Sample Letter Requesting an Evaluation and Sample Letter Requesting an Independent Evaluation: Use this sample letter as a guide to write your own letters requesting an evaluation/independent evaluation. English: PDF | Español: PDF
- Parent Involvement in the IEP Process: Use this checklist to guide you as you prepare for the IEP meeting, participate in the IEP meeting, and keep involved after the IEP meeting. English: PDF | Español: PDF
- Preparing for the IEP Meeting: This collection of tools provides the IEP team members (parents, educators, and students) with guiding questions to prepare for the collaborative IEP development and implementation. English: PDF | Español: PDF
- Communication Strategies: This chart explains various communication strategies the IEP teams can use to facilitate effective meetings. English: PDF | Español: PDF
- Establishing a Collaborative Team: This document offers specific examples for collaboration the IEP members can use to promote trust, teamwork, and partnerships. English: PDF | Español: PDF
OTHER HELPFUL LINKS
NJDOE Restart and Recovery Plan: The Road Back This Restart and Recovery Plan provides educators and administrators with the information necessary to ensure that our schools reopen safely and are prepared to accommodate students’ unique needs during this unprecedented time.
Partners in Education: A Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family–School Partnerships: Presents a new framework for designing family engagement initiatives that build capacity among educators and families to partner with one another around student success
New Jersey Department of Education Office of Special Education: Information and updates on Special Education from NJDOE
NJ State Special Education Advisory Council: The purpose of the advisory council is to provide guidance on special education and related services
Joining Together to Create a Bold Vision for Next-Generation Family Engagement: Engaging Families to Transform Education: This report is intended to spark a conversation around the power of family, school, and community engagement.
Taking It To the Next Level Strengthening and Sustaining Family Engagement through Integrated, Systemic Practice: This document examines regional and district family engagement practices that highlight systemic exemplars and integrated strategies for strengthening and sustaining family engagement.
How Can Special Education Parent Advisory Groups (SEPAGs) Engage Families to Support Learning for ALL Students?
A local Special Education Parent Advisory Group (SEPAG) gives parents the opportunity to provide direct input to their school district about policies, programs, practices, and services that have an impact on students with disabilities and their families. An effective SEPAG can also increase the proactive engagement of families of struggling learners and/or those with social-emotional, behavioral and chronic healthcare needs by inviting input that can be used to improve educational outcomes and well-being for ALL students. In addition, an active SEPAG can help foster partnership and collaboration between families, schools, and the community on the local as well as state level.
Please answer this brief survey to share your SEPAG’s influence and expertise in partnering with the local school community that has the potential to improve outcomes for ALL students.