The Individuals with Disabilities Act, commonly known as IDEA, guarantees free and appropriate public education to all children with disabilities in the United States. For a student with a learning disability in a public school, an IEP is the most effective method to help students achieve this. In this video, we will explore what an IEP is, how it is created, what its contents are, and how it can be implemented. Let’s get started!
An IEP, also known as an Individualized Education Program or Plan, is a legal document that serves as a guideline for the academic needs of the student. The IEP has two general purposes. The first involves devising measurable goals for the student that can be met throughout the year, and the second involves deciding on what special education and related services the school will provide to the student. This can mean factors such as which class a student will be in, whether they will be in a general or special education placement, how often a student will be pulled from the classroom for one-on-one instruction or small groups, or what kind of additional support they will receive.
Not all students need an IEP, so let’s discuss how they are established. After a student has been struggling academically for some time and a variety of supports have been tried in the classroom with little success, the student is typically recommended for testing by either the student’s parents, a doctor, or someone from the school. A child study team is formed consisting of key school staff like teachers or providers, the evaluators if they differ from the school staff, and the parents. Once the evaluation has been completed and reviewed, a student is eligible for an IEP if they meet two eligibility requirements. First, they need to have one of the 13 listed disabilities (such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, ADHD, or autism), and second, there needs to be evidence to support that this disability is significant enough to create a functional limitation in the classroom. This means that not having specialized instruction in school is negatively affecting the child’s performance. An IEP meeting needs to be held within 30 calendar days after this status is determined.
The law has stated requirements about who needs to be at the IEP meeting. This consists of a parent or guardian of the student, one general education teacher of the student, one special education teacher or service provider, a school district representative that is able to approve services, and the individual who either performed the assessments or is qualified to interpret the instructional implications.
Since the IEP is a legal document, there is specific information that needs to be included. A number of details must be provided, such as the child’s level of academic achievement and functional performance, as well as information about how the child’s disability affects how they participate in the general curriculum. It includes annual goals, meaning what academic goals the team thinks that the student can reasonably meet within the school year. Additionally, it includes what services will be offered to the student, such as participation in any programs or extra support. It also includes information about how much time students will spend separated from general education classes, and not able to participate in other activities such as lunch or clubs. It explains how the child will participate in large-scale assessments as well as what modifications they will need to take the test if they are required to do so. There are details about when services and modifications will begin, where they take place, and for how long they will be offered. Finally, they discuss how the school will measure the student’s progress toward the annual goals.
There are also really specific guidelines on how to write an IEP goal. IEP goals establish the expectations for how the student will advance over the year and to see how much progress they will make with the services and supports provided. When you create a goal for an IEP, it should be specific, give clear guidelines on how it could be measured, be realistic, and specify a time frame for when it will be accomplished. Here is an example of an IEP goal:
By the end of the fourth quarter, given an instructional-level text, the student is expected to make inferences and use textual evidence to support his understanding with 70% accuracy in 3 out of 5 opportunities.
Notice how there is a specific goal (make inferences and use textual evidence), it is clear on how it will be assessed (with 70% accuracy 3 out of 5 times), and cites when this goal should be accomplished (the end of the fourth quarter). It is important to note that the student is now being held to the IEP goals, not necessarily the grade-level goals. However, some states do base IEP goals on grade-level standards in order to make sure not to create an achievement gap.
After the IEP is put into place, it is important for both parents and teachers to continually refer back to it in order to make sure progress is being made at an appropriate pace. Additionally, it needs to be reviewed annually at a formal meeting to evaluate the progress toward the student’s goal and to re-evaluate how effective the services are that are being provided. A formal evaluation needs to be completed once every three years in order for the student to continue to qualify.
IEPs have many necessary qualities. Besides providing every student with a free public education as required by law, it’s important to acknowledge and celebrate a student’s accomplishments regardless of whether they have a disability. A student’s IEP is designed to allow them to set reasonable goals, move at their own pace, and celebrate their successes.
That’s it for today’s video. I hope you have enjoyed learning along with us today, and happy studying.