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Individualized Education Plan (IEP) Teams

If your school district is like most, spring is the time for individualized education program (IEP) meetings in preparation for the next year.

If you're the special educator responsible for developing IEPs, coordinating these meetings will help you guide the initial placement or changes to a student's program. If you're a regular educator working with the student, these meetings will enrich your understanding of the child and the plan for his or her growth.

This kind of thoughtful methodical communication is essential to IEP planning. Preparation not only will make it easier for you to lead discussions about the progress of children with special needs, but it actually will help them move confidently and successfully from grade to grade.

Four to Six Weeks before the Meeting

Coordinate a date, time and place with the parents or guardians as well as anyone else who needs to attend. Set up "ticklers" alerting you to send out reminder notices for any reports or other input, as well as reminders about the meeting itself.

  • Gather information. Review the student's records, including any previous IEPs. Check out the student's current work and secure representative work with samples. Consult with the student (when appropriate), parents, staff and other professionals. Observe the child in his or her learning environment to see how things are going.
  • Identify and review your data. Are the student's assessments current and accurate? Is the child's current level of performance apparent to everyone? Are there any changes at home or school that might affect the special education program? Have all records been consolidated and updated? If you find gaps, inconsistencies or changes—and you surely will—take time now to work through them and present the clearest picture possible.

Two Weeks before the Meeting

Develop and agenda for the meeting. If you're the regular educator or other professional, contact the special educator at this point to get your concerns on the agenda.

  • Send parents or guardians notification at least 10 calendar days before the meeting date. Confirm their attendance.
  • Confirm attendance of the regular teacher, if applicable, plus any paraprofessionals, and other support staff or related service personnel who can provide input, school or district representatives, someone who can explain assessments or evaluations, and any interpreters.
  • Confirm the availability of space and materials to take notes, and prepare any necessary paperwork.
  • If possible, send a draft IEP to the parents and other IEP team members. Include for the parents a copy of your state's procedural safeguards, which address the rights and responsibilities of the parent under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Written in English and Spanish, this document defines terms and explains students' rights to programs and services.

During the Meeting

Introduce the participants and remind everyone why they are all there.

  • Review where things stand in terms of the student's growth and any trouble spots. Review and update goals. Solicit input form everyone, starting with the parents.
  • Discuss any areas of need that would benefit from new goals or services.
  • List any new goals and objectives that the student's current performance will necessitate. Make sure they are measurable, and indicate how they'll be measured.
  • Next, as a team, determine the least restrictive environment (LRE) for the child. This provision of IDEA requires that students (ages 3 through 21) who have disabilities be educated as much as is appropriate alongside children without disabilities.
  • Also determine whether the child needs an individualized extension of services beyond the school year to meet certain goals in the IEP.
  • Finally, consider whether the student needs transition services, which promotes moving form school toward adulthood and may include postsecondary or vocational education, as well as employment services or training in the skills of daily life.
  • Review the whole IEP and secure the necessary signatures before participants leave.

After the Meeting

Distribute copies to all attendees. Acknowledge parents' participation, and keep the doors of communication wide open.

  • Maintain IEP documents according to district and state guidelines.
  • Follow up on any outstanding issues.
  • Set a date to update the student's records.