What Goes Into an IEP?

In special education, it’s all about the IEP.  An IEP, or Individualized Education Program, is the legally enforceable document meant to ensure that a child is receiving an appropriate education.  It is to be carefully crafted, often evaluated, and closely followed.  When something goes wrong in creating the IEP, or when the IEP is not implemented, parents have the right to take action against the school district for failing to provide their child with a free and appropriate education.

But what does an IEP really say?  It turns out there are quite a few requirements for what goes into an IEP under federal law.  The Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) defines an IEP as “a written statement for each child with a disability that is developed, reviewed, and revised in accordance with this section.”

In Section 1414(d)(1)(A), the statute also describes 8 main things that have to be included in an IEP:

  1. The child’s present levels of performance
  2. Measurable annual goals
  3. Descriptions of the child’s progress towards those goals
  4. The special education, related services, and supplementary aides the child needs
  5. The extent to which the child will not participate in general education activities
  6. Assessment accommodations or alternatives
  7. The date for beginning services along with the duration, frequency, and location
  8. Once the child is 16, post-secondary goals and transition services

Each state, and each school district, has some control over how their IEPs look.  Here is a blank copy of a New York City IEP.  Other states and districts might have very different looking IEPs, like this blank IEP from Florida, but the content is similar.

The IEP is filled out based on a meeting of the child’s IEP team.  The IDEA also covers who must be at an IEP meeting.  Under 1414(d)(3), the IEP team is required to consider a number of things when crafting the IEP, including recent evaluations, but also any parent concerns.

A statement of parent concerns is then included under the section with a child’s present level of performance, or PLOP.  This section is a powerful tool for parents who are advocating for their children!  Check out these great tips about writing a parent concern letter or parent IEP attachment.  When parents write a letter or insist that information be included in the IEP, they have a record of what they think their child needs, and evidence that they have been fighting for their child for a while.  Don’t be afraid to speak up!  It’s your right.

The Supreme Court has said that, the IEP is "the centerpiece of the [IDEA]'s education delivery system for disabled children."  When a piece of paper is so important, it’s good to know what’s in it!