What is an Individualized Education Program (IEP)?
The Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is a legal document that must be written for each child who is eligible for special education services. The IEP helps ensure that special education services are provided as planned and that their appropriateness is evaluated regularly. IEP specifies services to be provided by the school district. It describes anticipated long-term goals and short-term objectives for a student and serves as a "blueprint" for instruction in the school environment. It is not, however, a daily lesson plan.
The IEP must be reviewed and updated annually. However, parents and/or teacher(s) can request a review more frequently. Note: there is no such thing as an emergency IEP.
Who should attend an IEP team meeting?
Current law stipulates that, at a minimum, the following persons must attend an IEP team:
- the parent(s) or guardian(s);
- a teacher knowledgeable about the student (a student's general education teacher participates to the extent appropriate);
- an administrator, or designee;
- the student, when appropriate, (usually middle and high school students attend); and
- special education teacher.
Who else may be members of an IEP team?
- School psychologist, the speech therapist, adapted physical education specialist
- advocates from organizations or agencies, such as a Regional Center counselor;
- non-school therapists or specialists who work with a child; and
- a friend or relative who will provide moral support and take notes for the family
The team approach to developing an IEP involves communication and cooperation among parents, teacher(s), and other specialists with different kinds of skills who may work for the school district or outside agencies. Together, the team prepares an IEP that best suits the student's present educational needs. The team develops the IEP at a meeting that is held at a time and place that is convenient for parents and the school personnel.
What must the IEP document contain?
In addition to eligibility information, the IEP document always includes the following components:
A statement of the student's present levels of educational performance
Statements about what the student can and cannot do are based on assessment information. These may include information about academic, social, language, motor, self-help, and pre-vocational skills. Statements should describe the student's classroom performance and how the disability affects his or her participation and progress in the general curriculum. They should not list only test scores.
A statement of the student's annual goals & short-term instructional objectives
Based on the student's identified learning needs, the IEP specifies skills the student will work on. The IEP must specify annual goals (i.e., what the student can reasonably be expected to accomplish within one year). Short-term objectives are measurable, intermediate steps between where the student is now (i.e., present levels of performance) and the annual goals. The objectives are developed based on a logical breakdown of the skills necessary to achieve the goal. The objectives serve as a guide for planning and implementing instructional activities in the classroom and as milestones for measuring progress. The IEP identifies a few learning goals in each area, however, these goals are not the only skills the student will learn during the year. The student will receive instruction in many other skills beyond those identified by his/her IEP. Progress toward attaining the annual goals will be reported to parents at least three times a year. For children who are limited English proficient (LEP), the goals and objectives must address English language development.
A statement of specific education and related services to be provided to the student. Some services may include when appropriate:
- assistive technology,
- extended school year services,
- shortened day services,
- adaptive physical education,
- transition services,
- community experience,
- employment and post-school living, and
- acquisition of daily living skills and a functional vocational evaluation, if appropriate.
A description of the extent to which the child will participate in the general education program and a description of the program to be provided.
Participation in state or district-wide Assessments, with accommodations where necessary.
Projected dates for initiation of services and the anticipated duration of services.
Annual and Triennial Date
The IEP will be reviewed at least once per year. The annual review date indicates the date that the IEP must be reviewed. A triennial review, which closely examines the appropriateness of the student's program, is conducted every three years. This three-year review may entail an informal consultation between the parent(s), the teacher, and the school psychologist or a more formal assessment. The IEP should include objective criteria, evaluation procedures, and a schedule for determining whether short-term and long-term educational objectives are being achieved.
Signatures and Parent/Guardian Approval
Persons attending an IEP team meeting are asked to sign the IEP to indicate their participation; however, only the parent/ guardian is asked to approve the IEP. This is because an IEP cannot be implemented without parent approval.