Individualized Education Program (IEP) 101

An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a document that provides specific educational goals appropriate for a student with a disability (specific learning disability, autism, hearing impairment, intellectual disabilities, etc.). This tailored plan allows the student to obtain educational goals that would be difficult to accomplish without any modifications, accommodations and/or alternative assessments. It is important to note that the development and implementation of an IEP is mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

The process of developing an IEP for a student can first start with a Child Study Team (CST) or a Responsive to Intervention program (RTI). The purpose of the CST and the RTI is to help students who are at-risk or who are struggling with grade-level content and skills. If the action plans of the CST and RTI fail to help the student, if appropriate, a special education referral can be made.

During the referral process, an assessment plan must be developed, approved by the parent(s), and administered. Then the IEP team, which consists of the general education teacher, special education teacher, administrator, parent(s), and psychologist, meets to determine whether the student is eligible for special needs services (The psychologist has the final say).

If the student is eligible for special needs services, an IEP is developed. The IEP contains information on the current levels of performance, individualized educational goals, instructional accommodations and modifications, “actionable” services, and accommodations for standardized assessments. It also must provide an IEP Progress Report Schedule, and a list of justifiable reasons for when the student does not participate with non-disabled students.

The general education teacher has a huge role in the IEP. The teacher must identify the struggles of the students and present their performance in the classroom. Most importantly, the teacher must help the IEP team develop individualized educational goals, accommodations, modifications, and “actionable” services aimed to help the student obtain the goals. 

I recently sat down with our school’s Special Education teacher to find out what an elementary special education program looks like. She told me that the school’s student support team consists of an occupational therapist, speech pathologist, reading specialist and a school counselor. The department head is the school counselor and all the special education records are held in her office. I also obtained a blank copy of the school’s IEP and found that it contained the following sections:

  • General information about the student
  • Initial reason for referral
  • Previous support services and the goals that were worked on
  • Assessments
  • Targeted areas of improvement
  • Educational goals
  • Services
  • Accommodations
  • Signatures of participants

The information from this post is from a lecture by Denise Herrenbruck (UCLA instructor).


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