Guest Author - Valerie Shoopman
An IEP or Individualized Education Program is a written document outlining a specific, measurable education plan for a child with a disability. This plan must be specific and individualized to that particular child’s disabilities and learning needs.
While states and local school districts adopt different IEP forms and strategies, some federal guidelines must be met. Local school districts must organize an IEP team meeting that includes school administrators and parents to develop and plan the implementation of an IEP. The IEP must be reviewed and updated at least annually, and before students receive services.
Some states have standardized IEP forms, while others don’t have any standard IEP form. Local school districts are then responsible for creating their own IEP forms. While some local districts will coordinate across the state, most districts only briefly reference any previous IEPs and start fresh with their own forms.
A good IEP should contain the student’s demographics, disability information, and present levels of performance across core academic subjects, social/emotional behaviors and skills, in addition to any ancillary services they might receive such as Speech, OT, or counseling. All of this information should be easily readable and organized on one page with current test scores, teacher comments and input along with the frequency and amount of time services are received. Think of this page as an overview of the child’s current academic and social/emotional skills and services.
Then a separate page for each area of educational difficulty such as reading or writing should be attached to the first overview page with the student’s initial performance levels, the long-range goal statement, and any specialized equipment or adaptive devices required. Ideally, this information should be recorded at the top portion of the page in an organized, easily readable format. The remainder of the page can be used to organize short-term objectives that will be implemented to achieve the long range goal along with the monitoring schedule, evaluation procedures, and criteria for mastery. Any services received such as speech or OT would go on these pages as well.
The monitoring schedule might be daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly. The evaluation procedure might be tests, charting, observations, daily work, or any combination as marked. The criteria can be a percentage score, amount of trials, or so many trials completed.
For example, a long-range goal might be to increase decoding skills and improve reading by one grade level. The specialized equipment or adaptive device required could be multi-sensory, direct instruction. While the short-term objectives to meet that goal would be:
1. Given a list of unfamiliar words, student will demonstrate word attack skills by correctly reading 80% or higher of the words given.
2. Student will demonstrate knowledge of word parts (cvc, cvce, vowels, blends, and syllables) and apply this knowledge to reading samples with 85% accuracy.
3. Read a minimum of 30 minutes a day from self-selected books at current reading level and demonstrate comprehension by scoring 85% or higher on comprehension tests.
The case managers, along with teachers input are generally the ones responsible for writing the IEP. Parents can request specific issues or areas of difficulty be addressed along with offering ways that their child learns best. Once all parties agree upon the IEP, then it becomes a part of the student’s permanent record and the process of monitoring and evaluation begins.
You can find out more about your particular state’s IEP forms and guidance, along with federal guidance and frequently asked questions about IEPs at the IEP process at the Regional Center and Federal Network for Special Education.
These highly recommended books are superb resources for teachers and parents to utilize helping navigate the sometimes tricky and confusing process of writing and implementing IEPs.