The Individualized Educational Program (IEP)

 The document that guides the education of a student with disabilities is called an Individualized Education Program or IEP. Every child who receives special education services must have an IEP. This document is developed by the IEP team and includes information about your child's present level of educational performance along with goals that have been set for your child to achieve during the school year. The IEP specifically defines where, what kind of and how often special education and related services will be provided. It identifies the tests or other methods of assessment that will be used to decide if your child is meeting the annual goals. The IEP includes information about how and when your child's progress will be reported to you. IEPs are reviewed at least one time each year and more often if needed. You or another member of the IEP team may request an IEP meeting.

Writing the IEP
When the evaluation process determines that your son or daughter is in need of specially designed instruction, you will receive an Invitation to Participate in an Individualized Education Program (IEP) Team Meeting. The Invitation to Participate is a written notice of when, where, and why the meeting will be held, and a list of the people who are invited to attend.

The IEP team will write your child's Individualized Education Program (IEP). It includes a description of all the programs and services that are necessary to help your son or daughter be successful in school. In writing the IEP, the team uses the information that is contained in your child's Evaluation Report (ER). As a parent, you are a valuable IEP team member, so it is important for you to attend these meetings. Meetings are scheduled to fit your schedule and the school officials' schedules, at a mutually agreed upon location. If the date or time is not convenient, you may ask for a change. Parents may also participate by telephone if it is impossible for them to attend the meeting in person.

More information about IEPs

Opportunities for Resolving Disagreements
As a parent of a student with disabilities, you have a variety of options to pursue if you are experiencing a disagreement about some aspect of your child's educational program. First and foremost, you can and should discuss your concerns with your child's school. This can be accomplished informally through a conference with the teacher or principal, or you may at any time ask for an IEP meeting to review your child's program. You can also request the school district provide a more formal meeting to discuss your disagreement with district officials. You are also entitled to seek other means of resolving your disagreement through the Office for Dispute Resolution (ODR). ODR can provide IEP facilitation, mediation, or an administrative due process hearing to resolve your dispute.

Who Develops the IEP?

Required members of each IEP team are:

  • The child's parent(s)/guardian(s)
  • At least one of the child's general education teachers (if your child is, or might become, part of general education classes)
  • At least one special education teacher
  • A representative of the school district who:
    • Is qualified to provide or supervise special education programs
    • Knows about the general education curriculum
    • Knows about the resources the local educational agency (LEA) can offer
  • Someone who can interpret the evaluation results, who may already be a member of the team
  • At your request or that of the school district, other people who know your child well or who have worked with your child. You may bring an advocate to advise you or anyone else who will be able to add information about your child's educational experiences
  • Your child at age 14 when planning for life after graduation, or any time before that age when you want your child to be present
  • A representative from a vocational-technical school if a vocational-technical program is being considered for your child

One person may fill more than one of the roles described above. The minimum number of people at the IEP meeting should be four in most circumstances:

  • Parent
  • The local education agency (LEA) representative
  • A special education teacher
  • A general education teacher (if your child will participate at all in general education)

Regulations stipulate that if you choose not to attend the IEP meeting, it may be held without you.

What Will the IEP Include?

The IEP team will review the evaluation report and will determine how your child is performing in school now. The IEP team will then write measurable annual goals short-term objectives, if your child takes the alternative form of the state assessments, to meet your child's needs. Annual goals describe what your child can be expected to learn during the year. The short-term objectives are the sequential steps your child must take in order to reach those goals.

Specifically, the IEP team will determine:

  • The special education services and programs your child will receive to meet his or her needs
  • Where, what kind of, how much and how often special education and related services will be provided
  • The date such programs and services will begin and how long they will last
  • The tests or other methods of evaluation that will be used to decide if your child is meeting the annual goals and learning objectives, and how and when this progress will be reported to you
  • Whether, and to extent, your child will not participate in the general education class or in the general education curriculum
  • Whether your child will be in settings with other special education students only
  • Whether your child will not be studying skills or knowledge that are directly linked to the skills and knowledge studied by the children in general education
  • The adjustments in the general education setting (also referred to as supplementary aids and services) if any, necessary for your child to succeed in a general education class (for example, giving a child untimed tests or having someone help the child take class notes)
  • The accommodations needed, if any, for your child to participate in state-wide or district-wide tests
  • A description of any Extended School Year services to which your child may be entitled

What are the IEP Timelines?

Your child's first IEP must be completed within 30 calendar days after the evaluation team issues its Evaluation Report. The IEP must be put into action as soon as possible, but no later than 10 days after the IEP is completed.

Your child's program is reviewed annually at an IEP meeting, or more often if requested by you or any other IEP team member. The team conducts additional evaluations (reevaluations) at least every three years, or every two years if your child has an intellectual disability.

How Will My Child Transition to Life After Graduation?

As your child gets older, the IEP team will design a program to help your child prepare for life after school graduation. This is called transition planning, and it is done through the IEP process. It facilitates the transition from school to the world of work or other activities.

Planning for the transition from school to adult living must begin when your child turns 14, or sooner if the IEP team believes early planning would be appropriate. The IEP team (including your child) must discuss what you and your child want your child to be doing when high school is completed. These plans must include the kind of education or training your child will receive, the kind of job your child might have, where your child will live, and how your child will spend time in the community.

What is a NOREP?

Once the IEP team develops your child's Individualized Education Program, you will receive a Notice of Recommended Educational Placement (NOREP). The NOREP explains the recommended educational placement or class for your child, and explains your rights. You must approve the IEP and your child's educational placement in writing before the school is allowed to begin implementation of special education services.