IEP For Special Education
As Special Education teachers, we all know how vital an IEP for Special Education is to a student’s education. It is our job to ensure that each student’s IEP is implemented and that they have access to what they need to succeed at school and in life. This becomes more difficult when they leave our classrooms and venture out into the general education population or classrooms. As one of our student’s biggest advocates, we need to understand the ins and outs of an IEP, what each section means, how to provide students access to what they need, and how to educate others on the IEP process.
Below, I am going to go over key parts of an IEP for Special Education that will hopefully help clarify any questions and help you to understand and implement student IEPs. Please keep in mind each state/county does have different processes for how IEPs are written and implemented and that this is just a general overview to deepen your understanding of an IEP for Special Education.
COVER PAGE/TEAM MEMBERS
- Always check over the student information to make sure it is accurate. It’s always good to look over the eligibility label of their disability, dates for when re-evaluations are due etc. Make sure you have all team members who will be attending the meeting so they can sign in and add anyone at the meeting if they were left out.
- It is important to include the student as much as possible when drafting the transition plan. You can use picture choices if students are nonverbal, choice boards, etc. It is also good to remember this plan is not permanent or set in stone. It will change as students age and their interests change.
- When drafting goals for this section, remember what their end goal is and think about what steps they need to achieve that goal. These will probably be more geared towards specific skills that will enable them to succeed in a certain field.
- For students with more needs, these goals may be more geared towards vocational skills and job skills for post-secondary options.
FORMAL ASSESSMENT (Different by state)
- Each state has their own formal assessments. Depending on the student, they may be participating in the standardized testing with or without modifications/accommodations, or they may be participating in some type of alternative testing.
- Double check this to make sure what is chosen is in line with their IEP and needs.
- The present level of performance should have specific information pertaining to the student. This should help someone who does not know your student to get a clear picture of who you’re student is. Any information that will help people understand your student, how they learn, any limitations, strengths, medical needs, ANYTHING at all, goes here.
- The PLOP should at the minimum, have the following info:
- Eligibility Statement (What the student is diagnosed with and when the most recent evaluation took place)
- Current grade level and courses they are enrolled in
- What services they are receiving (I.e. Speech and Language, OT, PT etc.)
- Brief description of the student (do they wear glasses? Do they sit in a wheel chair? Do they require specific equipment? Are they nonverbal? Do they use a communication device? Etc.)
- Medical information
- Allergies and/or medications they may take (even if it is at home)
- Behavior strategies or plans they may have
- Any behavioral issues or difficulties the student might have
- Do they need assistance in the restroom or eating in the cafeteria? What other needs should the team be aware of to best meet the needs of the student?
- Current academic information (based on your classroom assessments, what level are they functioning at? What are they demonstrating in your class?)
- What state assessment are they participating in?
- Parent concerns
- Brief description of how they are doing in each class (provided by other teachers)
- Goals and objectives need to be CLEAR, MEASURABLE, and ATTAINABLE. Sometimes goals are too broad and impossible to reach. Goals need to be realistic and should be a goal the student can actually achieve within the year. You know your student best.
- After choosing the goals, make sure each objective breaks down the goal into attainable steps. If students achieve the objectives/goals, move the finish line. You can always do an addendum to modify goals. The LAST thing students need are goals they will never achieve.
- Remember that in the IEP for Special Education the goals are what drive the IEP. This is what other teachers will be focusing on in their instruction and data collection with the student so you want to make sure these are well written, realistic, and attainable.
HOW YOU WILL COLLECT DATA
- When filling out this section, be sure you note HOW you will be collecting data for the goals and objectives. You will be responsible for providing data in the way it is noted so make sure you are clear about that. Don’t check formal assessment, unless YOU are going to be the one doing it. When checking OBSERVATION, some states have different definitions of that (Is it just a teacher observation and notes? Is there specific paperwork for observations? Is it observations completed by an outside person?)
- Depending on the state, checking OTHER or writing in teacher made data sheets etc. are safe because it leaves some flexibility in your data collection method.
- Remember the teacher of that subject will be held accountable for that
- Be sure to check previous IEPs to see if the same accommodations are still applicable. Add and remove what is appropriate. Remember that all accommodations in testing are also applied in the classroom.
- Make sure you’re checking the correct modifications, some sound similar but are different. Check with your department chairs or testing coordinators if you have specific accommodations questions.
- In an IEP for Special Education schools will refer to these pages for testing accommodations. Make sure your student has access to what they need to prepare them for any kind of state/standardized testing.
BEHAVIORAL INTERVENTION PLANS/ FUNCTIONAL BEHAVIORAL ASSESSMENT
- If students have a specific behavior plan or strategies to help regulate behavior, be sure to note it. Be as detailed as possible so anyone who reads this can understand how to work with your student if he/she needs it.
- Think about strategies, token boards, reinforcers, replacement behaviors, de-escalation strategies, triggers, etc. and note them in this section.
SERVICE HOURS /RELATED SERVICES
- The hours on an IEP are very important. Make sure you calculate the primary service hours accurately.
- For related services hours, speak to service providers (speech, OT, PT, etc.) before the meeting to make sure you are all on the same page. If someone is trying to change hours (add, reduce, or dismiss services), encourage them to speak to the parents BEFORE the meeting so parents are not blind sided by the proposed change. It’s not fair to propose the change and make them decide on the spot.
- Again, the hours need to be accurately documented. The IEP for Special Education is a LEGAL document so you want to make sure the IEP reflects the student’s schedule and that the school is able to provide the services each student needs.
- Although this seems obvious, sometimes when us teachers are in IEPs we get nervous and forget! Make sure you explain the agree line AND the disagree line for signatures. We want them to agree, but need to offer the option because it’s not fair to assume they agree.
- You can give them the option to take the IEP home and review if needed. I realize most schools want the IEP to be signed and completed as soon as possible, but it’s also our jobs as teachers to make sure parents feel comfortable and supported when making decisions about their child.
- If they sign consent at the meeting, make sure they leave with a completed copy.
When working with students with an IEP for Special Education, it is important to remember these are legally binding documents so they must be followed and implemented correctly. As the case manager, make sure all teachers who work with your student have access to the IEP so your student can get what he/she needs to learn and succeed at school and beyond.