Individualized Education Program (IEP)

Individualized Education Program (IEP)

Additional key components of the IEP process include evaluation, IDEA and dispute resolution. Please reference the following sub-categories on our website: Special Education Evaluation Process, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and Special Education Dispute Resolution.

What is Special Education and Who is Eligible?

The term “Special Education” is defined by federal law to mean “specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability.” It can include instruction in general education, special education, in the child’s home, in a hospital or institution, or in some other setting. Instruction must also include physical education. Also included is our ASK an Expert Webinar on this topic.

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Individualized Education Program Teams

By law, parents, teachers, and other professionals are required to be involved in developing, reviewing and revising a student’s IEP. The IEP team members discuss and collaborate to write a plan to address the unique needs of the student. Each IEP team member should be knowledgeable or have special expertise about the student and the special education services, activities and supports that could benefit the student. Find out about the members of the IEP team, including the roles and responsibilities of each team member.

Visit the Iowa IDEA Information Website

Components of Individual Education Programs

The process of developing an IEP consists of five phases: Identify present levels of academic achievement and functional performance, Develop well-written goals and determine effective progress monitoring strategies, Determine and describe all special education services, activities, and supports, Determine the least restrictive environment (LRE) and additional considerations, Determine how progress will be reported to parents.

Learn more from Iowa IDEA Information

FAQ from Families about Individualized Education Programs (IEPs)

You know your child best. Your participation in developing an appropriate IEP should be expected and welcomed. You can share strengths and preferences related to learning and daily living. You can share goals that you would like to see achieved and any concerns that you have regarding learning and social development.

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ASK an Expert: ACHIEVE - the new online system for IEPs and IFSPs

Join ASK Resource Center, Amy Alfrey and Dee Gethman as they discuss ACHIEVE - The new online system for IEPs and IFSPs.

Watch the ASK an Expert Webinar

Types of IEPs

IEP teams must develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for each eligible student with a disability at least annually. An IEP outlines a students’ unique needs, their annual goals, and the special education services and supports determined necessary by the IEP team to ensure a free, appropriate public education (FAPE).

Visit the Iowa IDEA Information Website

Sample Letter Requesting an IEP Meeting

This letter is designed to be used when a family would like to request an IEP meeting to discuss an issue related to their child's IEP. Be sure to change and add the details of a student's situation to the sample letter before sending to a Special Education Teacher, General Education Teacher, Principal, Special Education Director or Superintendent. Remember to keep a copy for yourself, including the date it was sent.

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Medical and Educational Models

When parents take their child to a doctor or therapist and have a medical or psychological evaluation done for their child, recommendations are made to benefit the child. Doctors often make recommendations for medical or therapeutic services to benefit the child and sometimes suggestions for school services. There have been times when medical doctors have told families to request a 504 Plan or an Individualized Education Program (IEP) from their child's school. It is important to remember this fact: Schools have an obligation to consider any information from outside providers but are not required to follow those recommendations.

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Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)

All school-age children with disabilities who are eligible for a 504 or an Individualized Education Program (IEP) are entitled to a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). FAPE requires students with disabilities receive the services they need to benefit from their education.

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Least Restrictive Environment

One of the components of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the expectation that students with IEP's should be educated alongside their non-disabled peers (in the General Education classroom) as much as it is appropriate, which is referred to as the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) for that student.

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Unique Settings

Each district and AEA has a duty to ensure a continuum of services is available to meet the unique needs of each learner with disabilities. In addition to regular classes and special classes within the school, a district’s continuum must include special schools, home instruction, and instruction in hospitals and institutions. A variety of circumstances may arise which result in the need for an IEP team to address the placement and services of an eligible student in order to meet the unique needs of the learner.

Visit the Iowa IDEA Information Website

Re-Evaluation for Special Education Eligibility for Individuals 3 - 21

When a child has an IEP, the federal law requires IEP teams to consider reevaluating the student at least every 3 years. Parents can also request that their child be reevaluated up to once per year. This is most often helpful when there are new issues coming up at school related to the disability or the child has received a new diagnosis that may impact him or her at school.

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A Comprehensive Special Education Evaluation

A comprehensive evaluation covers all areas that may be impacted by a disability. It should identify all of a student's special education and related service needs. In order for an evaluation to be comprehensive a student should be evaluated in all areas related to the disability or area of concern, referred to as performance domains.

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Independent Educational Evaluations

In Iowa, evaluations for special education eligibility are usually done by Area Education Agency personnel, together with the educators at your child's school. However, parents have the right to other options if they believe the information described in the Educational Evaluation Report (EER) is incorrect or incomplete.

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Progress Monitoring for IEP Goals

Progress Monitoring is used to assess a student's performance and the effectiveness of the instruction being given. The data collected by progress monitoring helps guide IEP team decisions about instruction and services. Each goal page of Iowa's IEP form contains a section called Progress Monitoring Procedures, which should explain how data will be collected and used to make instructional decisions

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School Accommodation Ideas for Students who Receive Section 504 or Special Education Services

Students with disabilities who receive Section 504 or special education services often need accommodations to their educational programs. For special education students, accommodations help a student accomplish Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals, participate and make progress in the general curriculum, participate and be educated with students with and without disabilities, and participate in extracurricular activities. For students with a Section 504 plan, accommodations are used to eliminate barriers to full participation in school activities.

Read the PACER Center PDF

Assistive Technology: Special Factor Considerations

Consideration of assistive technology (AT), in the context of IEP development, review, or revision is intended to be a collaborative process in which team members determine whether AT devices, supports, or services are needed for the learner with disabilities.

Visit the Iowa IDEA Information Website

Health Services: Special Factor Considerations

The IEP team needs to consider health when developing a learner’s IEP. When the learner’s ongoing health concerns impact their access to educational programming, health would be a special factor and included as part of the learner’s IEP. This may include accommodations, supports, or health services.

Visit the Iowa IDEA Information Website

Transportation issues in Special Education

If a student has a paraprofessional during the school day for behavioral or health concerns, this provides at least some indication that additional adult supervision is required during transportation. In addition to FERPA training, transportation providers must be adequately trained to implement IEPs of the students with disabilities they transport. If the child's behavior resulting in a bus suspension is not a manifestation of the child's disability, the child may be disciplined as would a child without a disability; however the child remains entitled to a FAPE.

Read the IDOE PDF

Extended School Year Services

Extended School Year Services (ESYS) are special education services that are provided to a child with a disability beyond the normal school year. ESYS is provided in accordance with the IEP at no cost to the parent or child.

Visit the Iowa Department of Education Website

Extended School Year Services Video

If a child who is eligible under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA") needs extended school year services ("ESYS") as part of the child's individualized education program ("IEP") to receive a free appropriate public education ("FAPE"), the child's school district, area education agency, or both, must provide those services. See, e.g., Yaris v. Special Sch. Dist., 728 F.2d 1055 (8th Cir. 1984). This document sets out the legal basis for the ESYS requirement, as well as guidance for IEP Teams to consider in implementing that requirement.

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Support for Participation by Students with IEPs or 504 Plans

School districts, pursuant to IDEA and according to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), must provide students with disabilities with an “equal opportunity for participation” in school activities. Iowa Admin. Code r. 281—41.107(1); 34 C.F.R. § 300.107(a).

View the Iowa Department of Education Website

Iowa's Alternate Assessments for Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities

Iowa Department of Education 27. Prior Written Notice | ASK

Visit the Iowa Department of Education Website

Prior Written Notice

A Prior Written Notice (PWN) is a written explanation of a change the school district or AEA wants to make or refuses to make in a child's Individualized Educational Program (IEP). It is important that parents understand what the school plans to do (or not do) for their child. A PWN must give parents the information they need to actively participate in making decisions about their child's educational program and services.

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Procedural Safeguards Manual: Rights of Parents of Students with Disabilities Ages 3-21

The rights that parents have in the Special Education process are called “Procedural Safeguards”. This document from the Iowa Department of Education describes the legal requirements that guide IEP teams and options that parents have in the Special Education process including the formal “dispute resolution” processes available help to resolve disagreements.

Visit the Iowa Department of Education Website

Stay Put Provision

Parents of a child receiving special education services have important procedural safeguards and legal rights. One of these rights is the "stay put" provision of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). After receiving the Prior Written Notice (PWN), if a parent disagrees with and formally disputes a proposed change (or refusal) to their child's placement, the "stay put" provision allows the student to do just that-"stay put" in the current IEP placement.

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Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act: Rights Regarding Children's Education Records

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal privacy law that gives parents certain protections with regard to their children's education records, such as report cards, transcripts, disciplinary records, contact and family information, and class schedules. As a parent, you have the right to review your child's education records and to request changes under limited circumstances. To protect your child's privacy, the law generally requires schools to ask for written consent before disclosing your child's personally identifiable information to individuals other than you.

Learn About FERPA

Family and Educator Partnership (FEP) Pamphlet

The Family and Educator Partnership (FEP) works to develop and sustain effective partnerships between families, educators, and community providers to promote success for all children and youth with disabilities.

Read the FEP Pamphlet

Sample Letter requesting Prior Written Notice - PDF

There are times when a school must explain, in writing, their decisions about a child’s education and the reasons for making those decisions. This written communication is called prior written notice. Parents have the right to receive prior written notice (PWN) whenever the school wants to (or refuses to): evaluate their child, change their child’s disability identification, change their child’s educational placement, or change the way in which their child is provided a free appropriate public education (FAPE). The school should provide parents with prior written notice in any of these events. Sometimes, however, schools tell families decisions over the phone, in a meeting, or in a conversation. If parents want the notice in writing, they should ask the school for it. It is best to put the request it in writing (and keep a copy for their records).

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