Generally, an Individualized Education Plan must include:
1. A statement of your child’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance, including how your child’s disability affects his/her involvement and progress in the general education curriculum, i.e., the same curriculum as for nondisabled children, or for preschool children, how the disability affects participation in appropriate activities;
2. A statement of measurable annual academic and functional goals to meet needs that result from the disability to enable involvement in and progress in the general curriculum, and to meet other disability-related educational needs;
3. A description of benchmarks or short-term objectives if your child takes “alternate assessment aligned to alternate achievement standards;”
4. A description of how your child’s progress toward meeting the goals will be measured, and the frequency of reports on his/her progress;
5. “A statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services, based on peer-reviewed research to the extent practicable, to be provided to [your] child, or on behalf of [your] child, and a statement of the program modifications or supports for school personnel that will be provided to enable [your] child” to advance toward achieving the goals, and to be involved in and make progress in the general curriculum, to participate in extracurricular and other non-academic activities, and to be educated with other children, both with and without disabilities;
6. An explanation of the extent, if any, to which the child will not participate with nondisabled children in regular classes and activities;
7. A statement of any individual appropriate accommodations that are necessary to measure the academic achievement and functional performance of your child on State and district-wide assessments, and if the IEP Team determines that your child must take an alternate assessment instead of the regular one, an explanation of why your child cannot participate in the regular assessment and the particular alternate assessment that is appropriate.
8. The projected date for starting the services, and the expected frequency, location, and duration of those services.
[34 C.F.R. §300.320(a)]
There are additional standards (34 C.F.R. §300.320(b) relating to an IEP when your child turns sixteen, and what happens when he or she reaches the age of majority set by your State.
Generally, the IEP Team for your child must include: (1) you; (2) not less than one regular education teacher of the child (if the child is, or may be, participating in the regular education environment); (3) not less than one special education teacher/provider of the child, or where appropriate; (4) a representative of your school who is qualified to provide, or supervise the provision of, specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of children with disabilities; who is knowledgeable about the general education curriculum, and who is knowledgeable about the availability of your school’s resources; (5) an individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results, and (6) at your discretion or the discretion of your school, other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding your child, including related services personnel. Whenever appropriate/possible your child should be included as well.
There are additional requirements for participants when your child is sixteen or is about to reach the age of majority. [34 C.F.R. §300.321(b)] Subsections (c) through (f) of §300.321 deal with who determines the expertise for a team member under category 6 above; the conditions for your school designating a representative (category 4), and attendance at IEP Team meetings, i.e., when missing a meeting is acceptable.
If yours is a two-parent household, your school has a duty to ensure that one or both of you are at each IEP Team meeting, or that you have the opportunity to be there, including (a) notifying you early enough so you can make arrangements to attend and (b) scheduling the meeting at a mutually agreed time and place. The notice from your school has to tell you the purpose, time, and location of the meeting and who will be attending. If neither of you can attend in person, your school can use other methods such as individual or conference telephone calls to obtain your participation. There are some circumstances in which an IEP Team meeting can take place without you. Logically, that should be comparatively rare, but check the Regulation. [34 C.F.R. §300.322(d)]
If you are deaf or your native language is not English, your school has a duty to take steps to ensure you understand the proceedings, including providing an interpreter. Your school has to provide you with a copy of the IEP at no cost.
Generally, your school must have an IEP in effect for your child at the beginning of each school year. There are special provisions for children under five in 34 C.F.R. §300.323(b).
A meeting to develop an IEP must be held within thirty days of the determination he or she is eligible, and as soon as possible after development of the IEP special education and related services should start. Your school is required to make your child’s IEP available to everyone involved in your child’s education, and to make sure each teacher and provider understands his or her specific responsibilities in implementing the IEP, and the specific accommodations, modifications, and supports that must be provided under the IEP. [34 C.F.R. §300.323(c)(d)]
There are special provisions for transfers between schools, or transfers to/from another State. 34 C.F.R. §300.323(e), (f), (g)
Generally, in developing the IEP the Team has to consider your child’s strength, your concerns for enhancing his/her education; the results of the initial or most recent evaluation, and the academic, developmental and functional needs of your child. The Team must also consider special factors, such as how to appropriately handle matters if your child’s behavior impedes his or her learning or that of others; if English proficiency is limited, what the language needs are; if your child is blind or visually impaired, whether instruction in Braille is appropriate; how best to communicate with your child and to enable him or her to communicate most effectively with others, and whether assistive technology devices or services would be appropriate.
A regular education teacher must participate to the extent appropriate in determining “appropriate positive behavioral interventions and supports and other strategies for [your] child;” and supplemental aids, services, program modifications and support for school personnel.
There are other provisions relating to modifying an existing IEP by agreement between you and your school; for keeping the IEP informed of such changes; for consolidating Team meetings with separate purposes into a single meeting, and for amending an IEP other than by agreement.
The IEP must be reviewed not less than once a year to determine whether the goals are being achieved, and to revise the IEP as appropriate.
These sections set out in detail procedural safeguards to protect your interests and those of your child. These are generally referred to as due process rights. No attempt will be made here to summarize these sections in detail. You should read these regulations, either at the beginning of the evaluation/IEP process or if you start to get the feeling that something “isn’t quite right.” For instance, if you believe you aren’t being kept fully informed, or the school isn’t cooperating, you might want to consult the Regulations in this section.
Each State Educational Agency (your state government’s agency, department, division, etc., that has responsibility for ensuring compliance with IDEA and the Regulations) must ensure that each public agency establishes, maintains, and implements procedural safeguards that meet the requirements of §§ 300.500 through 300.536.
Under § 300.501 you have a right to review all records relating to the IEP, to placement, and to your child’s FAPE. You have a right to be offered the opportunity to participate in meetings about your child on these subjects. You have a right to receive notice of meetings. You have a right to be involved in placement decisions.
Under § 300.502, you have a right to an independent educational evaluation of your child, i.e., an evaluation conducted by someone who is qualified but who is not employed by your school. On your request, your school has to provide you with information about where an independent evaluation may be obtained and about your school’s criteria for independent evaluations. The criteria for an independent examination, including the qualifications of an examiner, must be the same criteria and qualifications used for your school’s evaluation. You may be entitled to an independent evaluation without cost to you under certain conditions, including if you disagree with the result of the evaluation made by your school.
§300.503 sets the requirements for the type, timing and contents of notices you must receive relating to your child’s eligibility, the services to be provided, proposed changes in the services, etc. The notice has to be in language understandable to you.
§ 300.504 requires that your school must give you a copy of the procedural safeguards available to you both at the time of the initial evaluation, and not more than once every school year. The Regulation includes other times. The contents of the procedural safeguards notice must be explicit and detailed, and in conformance with the Regulations.
§ 300.505 allows you to decide to receive notices by email, if your school voluntarily makes that option available.
§ 300.506 sets out the procedures for mediating disputes between you and your school, that escalate beyond a brief disagreement. How mediation occurs, who conducts the mediation, etc., are detailed in the Regulation.
For decades, the United Negro College Fund campaign slogan has been “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste.” That statement is equally true for your son or daughter. Educate yourself about IDEA and the Regulations so that you can work with your school, knowledgeably, calmly, and quietly—or in combat mode when you have no other recourse—to achieve the best possible education for your child.