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What is an IEP?

An IEP, or Individualized Education Plan or Program, is a custom-tailored plan designed to help a special needs student succeed in public schools. An IEP is developed annually at a meeting by the IEP Team. The meeting usually takes place at the school or in a district-owned building. The school provides copies of reports and usually a draft copy of the IEP. The Team modifies and updates the draft IEP or creates a new IEP during the meeting.

Prior to the annual IEP meeting, parents receive written notice inviting them to the meeting. The Notice of Meeting includes the list of participants. The IEP Team must include parents, at least one regular or general education teacher, a special education teacher, and a representative from the district. Other people may be required to attend including the child, someone who can interpret the results of any evaluation(s), and other specialized providers. Parents may bring advocates, attorneys, and professionals to assist during the meeting.

An IEP meeting typically begins with a summary of a child’s strengths and weaknesses, a review of a child’s present level of performance, and discussion of any recent evaluations. The team discusses the child’s progress on prior goals and his or her academic progress. Parents and team members have the opportunity to address concerns and discuss solutions to those concerns. After this discussion, the team adjusts and develops goals. IEP goals are goals custom-tailored to a child’s needs and indicate areas where improvement is needed. Goals need to have measurable criteria so the school can collect progress-monitoring data during the year. The IEP also includes supports and modifications for the child, discusses placement, and addresses transportation. Unlike a 504 Plan, IEPs include regular progress monitoring based on specific goals.

Sometimes, a student needs a special IEP Meeting when he or she is making a big transition – like from middle school to high school. A meeting may also be called to discuss extended school year, or ESY. If a student experiences significant regression or is at a critical point of instruction, he or she may qualify for ESY to receive special education services during school breaks. Additionally, a parent can request an IEP meeting at any time. Extra IEP meetings can be important if a child experiences a change in his or her condition or progress has changed.