Each public school child who receives special education and related services must have an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Each IEP must be designed for one student and must be a truly individualized document. The IEP creates an opportunity for teachers, parents, school administrators, related services personnel, and students (when appropriate) to work together to improve educational results for children with disabilities. The IEP is the cornerstone of a quality education for each child with a disability.

To create an effective IEP, parents, teachers, other school staff-and often the student-must come together to look closely at the student's unique needs. These individuals pool knowledge, experience, and commitment to design an educational program that will help the student be involved in, and progress in, the general curriculum. The IEP guides the delivery of special education supports and services for the student with a disability. Without a doubt, writing-and implementing-an effective IEP requires teamwork.

This guide explains the IEP process, which we consider to be one of the most critical elements to ensure effective teaching, learning, and better results for all children with disabilities. The guide is designed to help teachers, parents, and others-in fact, anyone involved in the education of a child with a disability-develop and carry out an IEP. The information in this guide is based on what is required by our nation's special education law-the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA.

The IDEA requires certain information to be included in each child's IEP. It is useful to know, however, that states and local school systems often include additional information in IEPs in order to document that they have met certain aspects of federal or state law. The flexibility that states and school systems have to design their own IEP forms is one reason why IEP forms may look different from school system to school system or state to state. Yet each IEP is critical in the education of a child with a disability.

The Basic Special Education Process Under IDEA 

1.   Child Find.

Child is identified as possibly needing special education and related services. The state must identify, locate, and evaluate all children with disabilities in the state who need special education and related services. To do so, states conduct "Child Find" activities. A child may be identified by "Child Find," and parents may be asked if the "Child Find" system can evaluate their child. Parents can also call the "Child Find" system and ask that their child be evaluated. Or-

Referral or request for evaluation. A school professional may ask that a child be evaluated to see if he or she has a disability. Parents may also contact the child's teacher or other school professional to ask that their child be evaluated. This request may be verbal or in writing. Parental consent is needed before the child may be evaluated. Evaluation needs to be completed within a reasonable time after the parent gives consent.

2.   Child is evaluated.

The evaluation must assess the child in all areas related to the child's suspected disability. The evaluation results will be used to decide the child's eligibility for special education and related services and to make decisions about an appropriate educational program for the child. If the parents disagree with the evaluation, they have the right to take their child for an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE). They can ask that the school system pay for this IEE.

3.   Eligibility is decided.

A group of qualified professionals and the parents look at the child's evaluation results. Together, they decide if the child is a "child with a disability," as defined by IDEA. Parents may ask for a hearing to challenge the eligibility decision.

4.   Child is found eligible for services.

If the child is found to be a "child with a disability," as defined by IDEA, he or she is eligible for special education and related services. Within 30 calendar days after a child is determined eligible, the IEP team must meet to write an IEP for the child. The writing of each student's IEP takes place within the larger picture of the special education process under IDEA. Before taking a detailed look at the IEP, it may be helpful to look briefly at how a student is identified as having a disability and needing special education and related services and, thus, an IEP. Once the student has been found eligible for services, the IEP must be written. The two steps below summarize what is involved in writing the IEP. This guide will look at these two steps in much greater detail in the following section.

5.   IEP meeting is scheduled.

The school system schedules and conducts the IEP meeting. School staff must:

  • contact the participants, including the parents;
  • notify parents early enough to make sure they have an opportunity to attend;
  • schedule the meeting at a time and place agreeable to parents and the school;
  • tell the parents the purpose, time, and location of the meeting;
  • tell the parents who will be attending; and
  • tell the parents that they may invite people to the meeting who have knowledge or special expertise about the child.

6.   IEP meeting is held and the IEP is written.

The IEP team gathers to talk about the child's needs and write the student's IEP. Parents and the student (when appropriate) are part of the team. If the child's placement is decided by a different group, the parents must be part of that group as well.
Before the school system may provide special education and related services to the child for the first time, the parents must give consent. The child begins to receive services as soon as possible after the meeting.

If the parents do not agree with the IEP and placement, they may discuss their concerns with other members of the IEP team and try to work out an agreement. If they still disagree, parents can ask for mediation, or the school may offer mediation. Parents may file a complaint with the state education agency and may request a due process hearing, at which time mediation must be available.

Here is a brief summary of what happens after the IEP is written. Child is reevaluated.

1.   Services are provided.

The school makes sure that the child's IEP is being carried out as it was written. Parents are given a copy of the IEP. Each of the child's teachers and service providers has access to the IEP and knows his or her specific responsibilities for carrying out the IEP. This includes the accommodations, modifications, and supports that must be provided to the child, in keeping with the IEP.

2.   IEP is reviewed.

The child's IEP is reviewed by the IEP team at least once a year, or more often if the parents or school ask for a review. If necessary, the IEP is revised. Parents, as team members, must be invited to attend these meetings. Parents can make suggestions for changes, can agree or disagree with the IEP goals, and agree or disagree with the placement.
If parents do not agree with the IEP and placement, they may discuss their concerns with other members of the IEP team and try to work out an agreement. There are several options, including additional testing, an independent evaluation, or asking for mediation (if available) or a due process hearing. They may also file a complaint with the state education agency.

3.   Progress is measured and reported to parents.

The child's progress toward the annual goals is measured, as stated in the IEP. His or her parents are regularly informed of their child's progress and whether that progress is enough for the child to achieve the goals by the end of the year. These progress reports must be given to parents at least as often as parents are informed of their nondisabled children's progress.

4.    Child isreevaluatedAt least every three years the child must be reevaluated. This evaluation is often called a "triennial." Its purpose is to find out if the child continues to be a "child with a disability," as defined by IDEA, and what the child's educational needs are. However, the child must be reevaluated more often if conditions warrant or if the child's parent or teacher asks for a reevaluation.

Clearly, the IEP is a very important document for children with disabilities and for those who are involved in educating them. Done correctly, the IEP should improve teaching, learning, and results. Each child's IEP describes, among other things, the educational program that has been designed to meet that child's unique needs. This part of the guide looks closely at how the IEP is written and by whom, and what information it must, at a minimum, contain.

Contents of the IEP

By law, the IEP must include certain information about the child and the educational program designed to meet his or her unique needs. In a nutshell, this information is:

  • Current performance. The IEP must state how the child is currently doing in school (known as present levels of educational performance). This information usually comes from the evaluation results such as classroom tests and assignments, individual tests given to decide eligibility for services or during reevaluation, and observations made by parents, teachers, related service providers, and other school staff. The statement about "current performance" includes how the child's disability affects his or her involvement and progress in the general curriculum.
  • Annual goals. These are goals that the child can reasonably accomplish in a year. The goals are broken down into short-term objectives or benchmarks. Goals may be academic, address social or behavioral needs, relate to physical needs, or address other educational needs. The goals must be measurable-meaning that it must be possible to measure whether the student has achieved the goals.
  • Special education and related services. The IEP must list the special education and related services to be provided to the child or on behalf of the child. This includes supplementary aids and services that the child needs. It also includes modifications (changes) to the program or supports for school personnel-such as training or professional development-that will be provided to assist the child.
  • Participation with nondisabled children. The IEP must explain the extent (if any) to which the child will not participate with nondisabled children in the regular class and other school activities.
  • Participation in state and district-wide tests. Most states and districts give achievement tests to children in certain grades or age groups. The IEP must state what modifications in the administration of these tests the child will need. If a test is not appropriate for the child, the IEP must state why the test is not appropriate and how the child will be tested instead.
  • Dates and places. The IEP must state when services will begin, how often they will be provided, where they will be provided, and how long they will last.
  • Transition services needs. Beginning when the child is age 14 (or younger, if appropriate), the IEP must address (within the applicable parts of the IEP) the courses he or she needs to take to reach his or her post-school goals. A statement of transition services needs must also be included in each of the child's subsequent IEPs.
  • Needed transition services. Beginning when the child is age 16 (or younger, if appropriate), the IEP must state what transition services are needed to help the child prepare for leaving school.
  • Age of majority. Beginning at least one year before the child reaches the age of majority, the IEP must include a statement that the student has been told of any rights that will transfer to him or her at the age of majority. (This statement would be needed only in states that transfer rights at the age of majority.)
  • Measuring progress. The IEP must state how the child's progress will be measured and how parents will be informed of that progress. More information will be given about these IEP parts later in this guide. A sample IEP form will be presented (see page 17), along with the federal regulations describing the "Content of the IEP," to help you gain a fuller understanding of what type of information is important to capture about a child in an IEP. It is useful to understand that each child's IEP is different.

The document is prepared for that child only. It describes the individualized education program designed to meet that child's needs.

Additional State and School-System Content

States and school systems have a great deal of flexibility about the information they require in an IEP. Some states and school systems have chosen to include in the IEP additional information to document their compliance with other state and federal requirements. (Federal law requires that school districts maintain documentation to demonstrate their compliance with federal requirements.) Generally speaking, extra elements in IEPs may be included to document that the state or school district has met certain aspects of federal or state law, such as:

IEP Forms in Different Places

While the law tells us what information must be
included in the IEP, it does not specify what the IEP
should look like. No one form or approach or
appearance is required or even suggested. Each state
may decide what its IEPs will look like. In some
states individual school systems design their own
IEP forms.

Thus, across the United States, many different
IEP forms are used. What is important is that each
form be as clear and as useful as possible, so that
parents, educators, related service providers,
administrators, and others can easily use the form
to write and implement effective IEPs for their
students with disabilities.

  •  holding the meeting to write, review, and, if necessary, revise a child's IEP in a timely manner;
  • providing parents with a copy of the procedural safeguards they have under the law;
  • placing the child in the least restrictive environment; and
  • obtaining the parents' consent.

The IEP Team Members

By law, certain individuals must be involved in writing a child's Individualized Education Program. These are identified in the figure at the right. Note that an IEP team member may fill more than one of the team positions if properly qualified and designated. For example, the school system representative may also be the person who can interpret the child's evaluation results.

These people must work together as a team to write the child's IEP. A meeting to write the IEP must be held within 30 calendar days of deciding that the child is eligible for special education and related services.

Each team member brings important information to the IEP meeting. Members share their information and work together to write the child's Individualized Education Program. Each person's information adds to the team's understanding of the child and what services the child needs.

Parents are key members of the IEP team. They know their child very well and can talk about their child's strengths and needs as well as their ideas for enhancing their child's education. They can offer insight into how their child learns, what his or her interests are, and other aspects of the child that only a parent can know. They can listen to what the other team members think their child needs to work on at school and share their suggestions. They can also report on whether the skills the child is learning at school are being used at home. (See box on page 12 regarding parents' possible need for an interpreter.)

Teachers are vital participants in the IEP meeting as well. At least one of the child's regular education teachers must be on the IEP team if the child is (or may be) participating in the regular education environment. The regular education teacher has a great deal to share with the team. For example, he or she might talk about:

  • the general curriculum in the regular classroom;
  • the aids, services, or changes to the educational program that would help the child learn and achieve; and
  • strategies to help the child with behavior, if behavior is an issue. The membership of the IEP team.

The regular education teacher may also discuss with the IEP team the supports for school staff that are needed so that the child can:

  • advance toward his or her annual goals;
  • be involved and progress in the general curriculum;
  • participate in extracurricular and other activities; and
  • be educated with other children, both with and without disabilities.

Supports for school staff may include professional development or more training. Professional development and training are important for teachers, administrators, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and others who provide services for children with disabilities.

The child's special education teacher contributes important information and experience about how to educate children with disabilities. Because of his or her training in special education, this teacher can talk about such issues as:

  • how to modify the general curriculum to help the child learn;
  • the supplementary aids and services that the child may need to be successful in the regular classroom and elsewhere;
  • how to modify testing so that the student can show what he or she has learned; and
  • other aspects of individualizing instruction to meet the student's unique needs.




  • The Regular Education Teacher as Part of the IEP Team

    Appendix A of the federal regulations for Part B of IDEA answers many questions about the IEP. Question 24
    addresses the role of the regular education teacher on the IEP team. Here's an excerpt from the answer:

    "...while a regular education teacher must be a
    member of the IEP team if the child is, or may be,
    participating in the regular education environment,
    the teacher need not (depending upon the child's
    needs and the purpose of the specific IEP team
    meeting) be required to participate in all decisions
    made as part of the meeting or to be present
    throughout the entire meeting or attend every
    meeting. For example, the regular education teacher
    who is a member of the IEP team must participate in
    discussions and decisions about how to modify the
    general curriculum in the regular classroom to
    ensure the child's involvement and progress in the
    general curriculum and participation in the regular
    education environment.
    Depending upon the specific circumstances,
    however, it may not be necessary for the regular
    education teacher to participate in discussions and
    decisions regarding, for example, the physical therapy
    needs of the child, if the teacher is not responsible for
    implementing that portion of the child's IEP.
    In determining the extent of the regular
    education teacher's participation at IEP meetings,
    public agencies and parents should discuss and try to
    reach agreement on whether the child's regular
    education teacher that is a member of the IEP team
    should be present at a particular IEP meeting and, if
    so, for what period of time. The extent to which it
    would be appropriate for the regular education
    teacher member of the IEP team to participate in IEP
    meetings must be decided on a case-by-case basis."

    Beyond helping to write the IEP, the special educator has responsibility for working with the student to carry out the IEP. He or she may:
    • work with the student in a resource room or special class devoted to students receiving special education services;
    • team teach with the regular education teacher; and
    • work with other school staff, particularly the regular education teacher, to provide expertise about addressing the child's unique needs.

    Another important member of the IEP team is the individual who can interpret what the child's evaluation results mean in terms of designing appropriate instruction. The evaluation results are very useful in determining how the child is currently doing in school and what areas of need the child has. This IEP team member must be able to talk about the instructional implications of the child's evaluation results, which will help the team plan appropriate instruction to address the child's needs.

    The individual representing the school system is also a valuable team member. This person knows a great deal about special education services and educating children with disabilities. He or she can talk about the necessary school resources. It is important that this individual have the authority to commit resources and be able to ensure that whatever services are set out in the IEP will actually be provided.

    The IEP team may also include additional individuals with knowledge or special expertise about the child. The parent or the school system can invite these individuals to participate on the team. Parents, for example, may invite an advocate who knows the child, a professional with special expertise about the child and his or her disability, or others (such as a vocational educator who has been working with the child) who can talk about the child's strengths and/or needs. The school system may invite one or more

    • Audiology services
    • Counseling services
    • Early identification and assessment of disabilities in children
    • Medical services
    • Occupational therapy
    • Orientation and mobility services
    • Parent counseling and training

    Related Services

    A child may require any of the following related services in order to benefit from special education. Related services, as listed under IDEA, include (but are not limited to):

    Physical therapy
    • Psychological services
    • Recreation
    • Rehabilitation counseling services
    • School health services
    • Social work services in schools
    • Speech-language pathology services
  • If a child needs a particular related service in order to benefit from special education, the related service professional should be involved in developing the IEP. He or she may be invited by the school or parent to join the IEP team as a person "with knowledge or special expertise about the child."

    individuals who can offer special expertise or knowledge about the child, such as a paraprofessional or related services professional. Because an important part of developing an IEP is considering a child's need for related services (see the list of related services in the box on the previous page), related service professionals are often involved as IEP team members or participants. They share their special expertise about the child's needs and how their own professional services can address those needs.

    Depending on the child's individual needs, some related service professionals attending the IEP meeting or otherwise helping to develop the IEP might include occupational or physical therapists, adaptive physical education providers, psychologists, or speech-language pathologists.

    When an IEP is being developed for a student of transition age, representatives from transition service agencies can be important participants. (See the box below for more information about transition.) Whenever a purpose of meeting is to consider needed transition services, the school must invite a representative of any other agency that is likely to be responsible for providing or paying for transition services. This individual can help the team plan any transition services the student needs. He or she can also commit the resources of the agency to pay for or provide needed transition services. If he or she does not attend the meeting, then the school must take alternative steps to obtain the agency's participation in the planning of the student's transition services. And, last but not least, the student may also be a member of the IEP team. If transition service needs or transition services are going to be discussed at the meeting, the student must be invited to attend. More and more students are participating in and even leading their own IEP meetings. This allows them to have a strong voice in their own education and can teach them a great deal about self-advocacy and selfdetermination.

    Writing the IEP

    To help decide what special education and related services the student needs, generally the IEP team will begin by looking at the child's evaluation results, such as classroom tests, individual tests given to establish the student's eligibility, and observations by teachers, parents, paraprofessionals, related service providers, administrators, and others. This information will help the team describe the student's "present levels of educational performance" -in other words, how the student is currently doing in school. Knowing how the student is currently

    Transition Services

    Transition refers to activities meant to prepare students with disabilities for adult life. This can include developing postsecondary education and career goals, getting work experience while still in school, setting up linkages with adult service providers such as the vocational rehabilitation agency-whatever is appropriate for the student, given his or her interests, preferences, skills, and needs. Statements about the student's transition needs must be included in the IEP after the student reaches a certain age:

    • Transition planning, for students beginning at age 14 (and sometimes younger)-involves helping the student plan his or her courses of study (such as advanced placement or vocational education) so that the classes the student takes will lead to his or her post-school goals.
    • Transition services, for students beginning at age 16 (and sometimes younger)-involves providing the student with a coordinated set of services to help the student move from school to adult life. Services focus upon the student's needs or interest in such areas as: higher education or training, employment, adult services, independent living, or taking part in the community.
      performing in school will help the team develop annual goals to address those areas where the student has an identified educational need.

    The IEP team must also discuss specific information about the child. This includes:

    • the child's strengths;
    • the parents' ideas for enhancing their child's education;
    • the results of recent evaluations or reevaluations; and
    • how the child has done on state and district-wide tests. In addition, the IEP team must consider the "special factors" described in the box below. It is important that the discussion of what the child needs be framed around how to help the child:
    • advance toward the annual goals;
    • be involved in and progress in the general curriculum;
    • participate in extracurricular and nonacademic activities; and be educated with and participate with other children with disabilities and nondisabled children.
    Special Factors To Consider
    • If the child's behavior interferes with his or her learning or the learning of others, the IEP team will consider strategies and supports to address the child's behavior.
    • If the child has limited proficiency in English, the IEP team will consider the child's language needs as these needs relate to his or her IEP.
    • If the child is blind or visually impaired, the IEP team must provide for instruction in Braille or the use of Braille, unless it determines after an appropriate evaluation that the child does not need this instruction.
    • If the child has communication needs, the IEP team must consider those needs.
    • If the child is deaf or hard of hearing, the IEP team will consider his or her language and communication needs. This includes the child's opportunities to communicate directly with classmates and school staff in his or her usual method of communication (for example, sign language).
    • The IEP team must always consider the child's need for assistive technology devices or services.
  • For more information about these special factors, see §300.346, on page 30. Depending on the needs of the child, the IEP team needs to consider what the law calls special factors. These include:

    Based on the above discussion, the IEP team will then write the child's IEP. This includes the services and supports the school will provide for the child. If the IEP team decides that a child needs a particular device or service (including an intervention, accommodation, or other program modification), the IEP team must write this information in the IEP. As an example, consider a child whose behavior interferes with learning. The IEP team would need to consider positive and effective ways to address that behavior. The team would discuss the positive behavioral interventions, strategies, and supports that the child needs in order to learn how to control or manage his or her behavior. If the team decides that the child needs a particular service (including an intervention, accommodation, or other program modification), they must include a statement to that effect in the child's IEP.

    Deciding Placement

    In addition, the child's placement (where the IEP will be carried out) must be decided. The placement decision is made by a group of people, including the parents and others who know about the child, what the evaluation results mean, and what types of placements are appropriate. In some states, the IEP team serves as the group making the placement decision. In other states, this decision may be made by another group of people. In all cases, the parents have the right to be members of the group that decides the educational placement of the child.
    Placement decisions must be made according to IDEA's least restrictive environment requirements-commonly known as LRE. These requirements state that, to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities must be educated with children who do not have disabilities.

    The law also clearly states that special classes, separate schools, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment may occur only if the nature or severity of the child's disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.

    What type of placements are there? Depending on the needs of the child, his or her IEP may be carried out in the regular class (with supplementary aids and services, as needed), in a special class (where every student in the class is receiving special education services for some or all of the day), in a special school, at home, in a hospital and institution, or in another setting. A school system may meet its obligation to ensure that the child has an appropriate placement available by:

    Will Parents Need an Interpreter in Order to Participate Fully?

    If the parents have a limited proficiency in English or are deaf, they may need an interpreter in order to understand and be understood. In this case, the school must make reasonable efforts to arrange for an interpreter during meetings pertaining to the child's educational placement. For meetings regarding the development or review of the IEP, the school must take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that parents understand the meetings-including arranging for an interpreter. This provision should help to ensure that parents are not limited in their ability to participate in their child's education because of language or communication barriers.

    Therefore, if parents need an interpreter for a meeting to discuss their child's evaluation, eligibility for special education, or IEP, they should let the school know ahead of time. Telling the school in advance allows the school to make arrangements for an interpreter so that parents can participate fully in the meeting.

    • providing an appropriate program for the child on its own;
    • contracting with another agency to provide an appropriate program; or
    • utilizing some other mechanism or arrangement that is consistent with IDEA for providing or paying for an appropriate program for the child.
  • The placement group will base its decision on the IEP and which placement option is appropriate for the child. Can the child be educated in the regular classroom, with proper aids and supports? If the child cannot be educated in the regular classroom, even with appropriate aids and supports, then the placement group will talk about other placements for the child.

    After the IEP Is Written


    When the IEP has been written, parents must receive a copy at no cost to themselves. The IDEA also stresses that everyone who will be involved in implementing the IEP must have access to the document. This includes the child's:

    • regular education teacher(s);
    • special education teacher(s);
    • related service provider(s) (for example, speech therapist); or
    • any other service provider (such as a paraprofessional) who will be responsible for a part of the child's education.


  • Each of these individuals needs to know what his or her specific responsibilities are for carrying out the child's IEP. This includes the specific accommodations, modifications, and supports that the child must receive, according to the IEP.

    Parents' Permission

    Before the school can provide a child with special education and related services for the first time, the child's parents must give their written permission.

    Implementing the IEP

    Once the IEP is written, it is time to carry it out-in other words, to provide the student with the special education and related services as listed in the IEP. This includes all supplementary aids and services and program modifications that the IEP team has identified as necessary for the student to advance appropriately toward his or her IEP goals, to be involved in and progress in the general curriculum, and participate in other school activities. While it is beyond the scope of this guide to discuss in detail the many issues involved in implementing a student's IEP, certain suggestions can be offered.

    • Every individual involved in providing services to the student should know and understand his or her responsibilities for carrying out the IEP. This will help ensure that the student receives the services that have been planned, including the specific modifications and accommodations the IEP team has identified as necessary.
    • Teamwork plays an important part in carrying out the IEP. Many professionals are likely to be involved in providing services and supports to the student. Sharing expertise and insights can help make everyone's job a lot easier and can certainly improve results for students with disabilities. Schools can encourage teamwork by giving teachers, support staff, and/or paraprofessionals time to plan or work together on such matters as adapting the general curriculum to address the student's unique needs. Teachers, support staff, and others providing services for children with disabilities may request training and staff development.
    • Communication between home and school is also important. Parents can share information about what is happening at home and build upon what the child is learning at school. If the child is having difficulty at school, parents may be able to offer insight or help the school explore possible reasons as well as possible solutions.
    • It is helpful to have someone in charge of coordinating and monitoring the services the student receives. In addition to special education, the student may be receiving any number of related services. Many people may be involved in delivering those services. Having a person in charge of overseeing that services are being delivered as planned can help ensure that the IEP is being carried out appropriately.
    • The regular progress reports that the law requires will help parents and schools monitor the child's progress toward his or her annual goals. It is important to know if the child is not making the progress expected-or if he or she has progressed much faster than expected. Together, parents and school personnel can then address the child's needs as those needs become evident.
    Reviewing and Revising the IEP

    The IEP team must review the child's IEP at least once a year. One purpose of this review is to see whether the child is achieving his or her annual goals. The team must revise the child's individualized education program, if necessary, to address:

    • the child's progress or lack of expected progress toward the annual goals and in the general curriculum;
    • information gathered through any reevaluation of the child;
    • information about the child that the parents share;
    • information about the child that the school shares (for example, insights from the teacher based on his or her observation of the child or the child's classwork);
    • the child's anticipated needs; or
    • other matters.
  • Although the IDEA requires this IEP review at least once a year, in fact the team may review and revise the IEP more often. Either the parents or the school can ask to hold an IEP meeting to revise the child's IEP. For example, the child may not be making progress toward his or her IEP goals, and his or her teacher or parents may become concerned. On the other hand, the child may have met most or all of the goals in the IEP, and new ones need to be written. In either case, the IEP team would meet to revise the IEP.

    Look at Those Factors Again!

    When the IEP team is meeting to conduct a review of the child's IEP and, as necessary, to revise it,
    members must again consider all of the factors discussed on page 11. This includes:

    • the child's strengths,

    • the parents' ideas for enhancing their child's education,
    • the results of recent evaluations or reevaluations, and
    • how the child has done on state and district-wide tests.

    What If Parents Don't Agree With the IEP?

    There are times when parents may not agree with the school's recommendations about their child's education. Under the law, parents have the right to challenge decisions about their child's eligibility, evaluation, placement, and the services that the school provides to the child. If parents disagree with the school's actions-or refusal to take action-in these matters, they have the right to pursue a number of options. They may do the following:

    • Try to reach an agreement. Parents can talk with school officials about their concerns and try to reach an agreement. Sometimes the agreement can be temporary. For example, the parents and school can agree to try a plan of instruction or a placement for a certain period of time and see how the student does.
    • Ask for mediation. During mediation, the parents and school sit down with someone who is not involved in the disagreement and try to reach an agreement. The school may offer mediation, if it is available as an option for resolving disputes prior to due process.
    • Ask for due process. During a due process hearing, the parents and school personnel appear before an impartial hearing officer and present their sides of the story. The hearing officer decides how to solve the problem. (Note: Mediation must be available at least at the time a due process hearing is requested.)
    • File a complaint with the state education agency. To file a complaint, generally parents write directly to the SEA and say what part of IDEA they believe the school has violated. The agency must resolve the complaint within 60 calendar days. An extension of that time limit is permitted only if exceptional circumstances exist with respect to the complaint.


    • The IEP is the cornerstone of special education. Writing and implementing an effective IEP involves many people, many different steps, and collaborative decision making.

    The information provided in this guide about the IEP has been fairly general. To help you get better acquainted with the various parts of the IEP, a sample IEP form is presented on the next pages. The sample IEP form includes space for all of the information that an IEP must contain under federal law. (Remember that IEP forms in your area may require more information that may be of value to the student and those implementing the IEP.) The different parts of the sample are paired with direct quotes from the law, so that you can easily see:

    • how the law defines what type of information goes into the various parts of a child's IEP, and
    • how this information goes together to create an educational program for a particular child.
  • Attachment A presents the IDEA's regulations for "Individualized Education Programs" (§§300.340-300.350). Under §300.347, where "IEP content" is described, we have included additional information primarily from Appendix A and Attachment 1 of the regulations. This information can be very useful in developing a fuller understanding of what type of information is important to capture about a child in the IEP.

    OSEP Monitoring

    The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) regularly monitors states to see that they are complying with IDEA. Every two years OSEP requires that states report progress toward meeting established performance goals that, at a minimum, address the performance of children on assessments, drop-out rates, and graduation rates. As part of its monitoring, the Department reviews IEPs and interviews parents, students, and school staff to find out:

    • whether, and how, the IEP team made the decisions reflected in the IEP;
    • whether those decisions and the IEP content are based on the child's unique needs, as determined through evaluation and the IEP process;
    • whether any state or local policies or practices have interfered with decisions of the IEP team about the child's educational needs and the services that the school would provide to meet those needs; and
    • whether the school has provided the services listed in the IEP.
  • This guide is intended to help states and school districts write IEPs that comply with IDEA. Writing effective IEPs is a very important first step in improving educational results for children with disabilities.

    Information Resources

    If you would like more information about special education, children with disabilities, the IEP process, or the IDEA, contact your state education agency or your local education agency. Additional sources of information include the following:

    Office of Special Education Programs Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services U.S. Department of Education Mary E. Switzer Building

    330 C Street SW
    Washington, DC 20202
    (202) 205-5507 (Voice/TTY)

    National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities (NICHCY)
    P.O. Box 1492
    Washington, DC 20013
    (800) 695-0285 (Voice/TTY);
    (202) 884-8200 (V/TTY)

    ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education (ERIC EC)
    1920 Association Drive Reston, VA 20191-1589
    (800) 328-0272

    Technical Assistance for Parent Centers- the Alliance
    PACER Center
    4826 Chicago Avenue South Minneapolis, MN 55417-1098
    (888) 248-0822; (612) 827-2966 (612) 827-7770 (TTY)

    The IDEA Partnership Projects Associations of Service Providers Implementing

    IDEA Reforms in Education (ASPIIRE)
    The Council for Exceptional Children 1920 Association Drive
    Reston, VA 20191-1589
    (888) 232-7733; (703) 264-9456
    (703) 264-9446 (TTY)

    Families and Advocates Partnerships for Education (FAPE)
    PACER Center
    4826 Chicago Avenue South Minneapolis, MN 55417-1098
    (888) 248-0822; (612) 827-2966;
    (612) 827-7770 (TTY)

    IDEA Local Implementations by Local Administrators (ILIAD)
    The Council for Exceptional Children 1920 Association Drive
    Reston, VA 20191-1589
    (877) CEC-IDEA; (703) 264-9418;
    (703) 264-9480 (TTY)

    The Policy Maker Partnership (PMP) for Implementing IDEA 97
    National Association of state Directors of Special Education
    1800 Diagonal Road, Suite 320
    Alexandria, VA 22314
    (703) 519-3800;
    (703) 519-7008 (TTY)

    Regional Resource Centers Northeast Regional Resource Center (NERRC)
    Learning Innovations

    20 Winter Sport Lane Williston, VT 05495
    (802) 951-8226; (802) 951-8213 (TTY)

    Serving: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

    Mid-South Regional Resource Center (MSRRC)
    Human Development Institute University of Kentucky 126 Mineral Industries Building
    Lexington, KY 40506-0051
    (859) 257-4921;
    (859) 257-2903 (TTY)
    Serving: Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, DC, and West Virginia.

    Southeast Regional Resource Center (SERRC)

    School of Education Auburn University Montgomery P.O. Box 244023
    Montgomery, AL 36124
    (334) 244-3100; (334) 244-3800 (TTY)
    Serving: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Texas, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

    Great Lakes Area Regional Resource Center (GLARRC)
    OSU Center for Special Needs
    700 Ackerman Road, Suite 440
    Columbus, OH 43202
    (614) 447-0844; (614) 447-8776 (TTY)
    Serving: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

    Mountain Plains Regional Resource Center (MPRRC)
    Utah state University
    1780 North Research Parkway, Suite 112
    Logan, UT 84341
    (435) 752-0238; (435) 753-9750 (TTY)

    Serving: Arizona, Bureau of Indian Affairs,
    Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming.

    Western Regional Resource Center (WRRC)
    1268 University of Oregon
    Eugene, OR 97403-1268
    (541) 346-5641; (541) 346-0367 (TTY)

    Serving: Alaska, American Samoa, California,
    Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Federated states of Micronesia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Republic of Palau, and Washington.