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Top 8 Essential Parts of an Individual Education Program

Understanding IDEA IEP Requirements


Updated July 14, 2011

The IEP is the basic element of every special education program for children with learning disabilities an other types of disabilities. The IEP is a road map that establishes where your child is, where you want her to go, and how she will get there. The IDEA specifies minimum requirements that an IEP must contain.

1. IEPs Must Have Statements of Present Levels of Educational Performance

Every IEP must include a description of the child's skills in all areas of concern and explain how the disability affects his progress in the general education curriculum. Statements should address academics, life skills, physical functioning, social and behavioral skills, and any other areas of concern affecting the child's ability to learn. IEP teams typically use formal assessment to determine the child's functioning and establish a baseline of performance. The team may also use anecdotal information and progress data from the child's classroom teachers to describe the child's skills.

2. IEPs Should Include Statements of Measurable Annual Goals

The IEP must contain statements of your child's goals that are updated at least on an annual basis. Goal statements specify what your child is expected to learn in the coming year. Goals include academic skills and may also include functional skills as appropriate. For children who participate in functional skills programs and who take alternate assessments, the IEP must also contain measurable short-term objectives that will be used to measure the child's progress toward reaching his annual goals.

3. Explanation of Progress Measurement is an Important Part of an IEP

The IEP must contain an explanation of how progress toward goals and objectives will be measured and describe how that information will be reported to parents.

4. Individual Education Programs Need a Description of Special Education Services

The IEP must include a description of the student's special education program, specially designed instruction, and related services the child will receive to help him progress toward meeting his educational goals. The amount of time he will receive services and the setting must also be described.

5. Statement of Participation in the Regular Education Program

To ensure that children are educated in the least restrictive environment to the greatest extent appropriate, the IEP team must consider if and how the child will participate in the general education program with non-disabled children. The IEP must specify the amount of time a child will participate in regular education programs and explain the rationale for that decision.

6. IEPs and Testing - Statement Describing Testing Adaptations and Modifications

The IEP must explain what types of testing adaptations and modifications will be used with the student and why they are necessary. If the child will participate in alternate assessment, the rationale for that decision must be included in the IEP.

7. Statement of Length and Duration of Services - Services Must be Explained

The IEP must include a projected beginning and ending date of services, the frequency of the services, where they will be delivered, and how long they will be provided.

8. IEP Statement of Transition - Preparations for Adult Life and Independence

Beginning no later than age 16, the IEP must include measurable goals for the student's anticipated postsecondary program and a description of the services needed for the child to reach those goals. Transition goals and services focus on instruction and support services needed to help the child move from the school environment and into a job, advocate for herself in college, vocational program, or other program designed to promote independent living.

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