IEP Overview

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An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a written statement of the educational program designed to meet a child’s individual needs. Every child who receives special education services must have an IEP. That’s why the process of developing this vital document is of great interest and importance to educators, administrators, and families alike. Here’s a crash course on the IEP.

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What’s the IEP’s purpose?

The IEP has two general purposes:

  • to set reasonable learning goals for a child, and
  • to state the services that the school district will provide for the child.

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Who develops the IEP?

The IEP is developed by a team of individuals that includes key school staff and the child’s parents. The team meets, reviews the assessment information available about the child, and designs an educational program to address the child’s educational needs that result from his or her disability. Want the specifics of who you’ll find on an IEP team? Read the detailed IEP Team page.

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When is the IEP developed?

An IEP meeting must be held within 30 calendar days after it is determined, through a full and individual evaluation, that a child has one of the disabilities listed in IDEA and needs special education and related services. A child’s IEP must also be reviewed at least annually thereafter to determine whether the annual goals are being achieved and must be revised as appropriate.

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What’s in an IEP?

Each child’s IEP must contain specific information, as listed within IDEA, our nation’s special education law. This includes (but is not limited to):

– the child’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance, describing how the child is currently doing in school and how the child’s disability affects his or her involvement and progress in the general curriculum

– annual goals for the child, meaning what parents and the school team think he or she can reasonably accomplish in a year

– the special education and related services to be provided to the child, including supplementary aids and services (such as a communication device) and changes to the program or supports for school personnel

– how much of the school day the child will be educated separately from nondisabled children or not participate in extracurricular or other nonacademic activities such as lunch or clubs

– how (and if) the child is to participate in state and district-wide assessments, including what modifications to tests the child needs

– when services and modifications will begin, how often they will be provided, where they will be provided, and how long they will last

– how school personnel will measure the child’s progress toward the annual goals.

For all the details about what the law requires be included in an IEP, dive into our IEP Contents page.

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Can students be involved in developing their own IEPs?

Yes, they certainly can be! IDEA actually requires that the student be invited to any IEP meeting where transition services will be discussed. These are services designed to help the student plan for his or her transition to adulthood and life after high school. Lots of information about transition services is available on our Transition to Adulthood page, including how to involve students in their own IEP development.

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Resources

Questions, questions? Answers, answers
A good place to start unravelling the mysteries of the IEP is Wrightslaw.com. The link above will drop you right into the soup, where you’ll find articles, law and regulations, tactics and strategies, tips, books, and free publications about IEPs.
www.wrightslaw.com/info/iep.index.htm

Here’s a roadmap
Wrightslaw offers us all a “Roadmap to IDEA 2004: What You Need to Know About IEPs & IEP Meetings.”
www.wrightslaw.com/idea/art/iep.roadmap.htm

For parents
Take a look at Developing Your Child’s IEP and learn how to effectively work with schools to meet the needs of your child.
http://www.parentcenterhub.org/repository/pa12/

For students
Part of our Transition Suite, this collection of resources speaks directly to students in transition.
http://www.parentcenterhub.org/repository/student-involvement/

Beyond legalities: Writing a document that works
IEP4U.COM has over 4000 goals and objectives. There is a charge for the information, but the goals and objectives are designed to help you with the daunting task of writing proper IEPs.
www.iep4u.com/

Online training in writing an IEP
This online training is available via California Services for Technical Assistance and Training (CalSTAT) and is specific to benchmarks related to CA content standards. But it’s also conveniently based on IDEA 2004 and deals with writing measurable goals and objectives, a skill quite central to writing effective IEPs.
http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/se/sr/ieptraining.asp

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Other related pages:

  • First IEP
    IEP teams are made up of individuals who bring different perspectives and expertise to the table. Pooling their knowledge, team members set out to craft an individualized response to a specific child’s needs, taking into account that same child’s strengths and talents. The end product is the child’s individualized education program. Read all the basics on this webpage.
  • IEP Basics
    An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a written statement of the educational program designed to meet a child’s individual needs. Every child who receives special education services must have an IEP. That’s why the process of developing this vital document is of great interest and importance to educators, administrators, and families alike. Here’s a crash course on the IEP.
  • IEP Team
    So–who’s on the team? Here’s a list, as specified in IDEA, our nation’s special education law. Note that the order in which the IEP team members are going to be listed and discussed has nothing to do with their priority on the team. Every member has an equal say and important expertise to contribute.
  • IEP Components
    The list above of IEP contents is helpful in understanding what type of information is basically required in a child’s IEP. However, the more you understand about each individual part, and especially how they go together to form an action plan for a child’s education, the easier it will be to write a well-grounded and effective IEP. So…use the links below to explore the different parts of the IEP and the details associated with each.
    • IEP Annual Goals
      Now let’s take a look at annual goals, the second component of the IEP, in the following sections: Annual goals, in a nutshell; IDEA’s exact words; Ties between “present levels” and annual goals; and Using prompting questions.
    • IEP Benchmarks / short-term objectives
      In the past, benchmarks or short-term objectives were required elements in every child’s IEP. No longer, however. Now, benchmarks or short-term objectives are required only for children with disabilities who take alternate assessments aligned to alternate achievement standards.
    • IEP Measuring and Reporting Progress
      Another component of the IEP that IDEA requires is specifying how the child’s progress will be measured. This statement flows naturally out of the annual goals written for the child, which must be measurable. If you’re familiar with the 1997 Amendments to IDEA, you’ll recognize this component, because it is maintained under the Amendments of 2004.
    • IEP Present Levels
      IDEA requires that each IEP must include a statement of the child’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance. This part of the IEP is commonly referred to as the “present levels statement.” For short, we’re just going to call it “present levels.”
    • IEP Related Services
      The IEP must contain a statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services to be provided to the child, or on behalf of the child. We’ve split up the discussion of each of these important elements, because there is so much to say about each. This web page focuses on related services.
    • IEP Special Education
      The IEP must also contain a statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services to be provided to the child, or on behalf of the child. That’s three separate, distinct, and critical elements–special education, related services, and supplementary aids and services–and each is worthy of a book on its own. Don’t worry! We won’t write a book-length article about any of these, but we will split up the discussion of each into separate articles. Here, the focus will be on special education.