Annual Reviews and Individual Education Plans

Writing Individual Education Plans for students with special needs is the primary nonteaching task of special educators. Every student's IEP must be reviewed at least once a year. The purpose of annual review is to discuss your students' progress and to plan services for the upcoming school year. Several things need to be considered at the conference including:

IEP teams are made up of parents and educators who serve the student. Sometimes parents will invite advocates or others to attend IEP meetings. Required members of the IEP team include:

The first required element of an IEP is the statement of parental concerns relevant to the student's education. Their concerns are considered throughout the development of an appropriate IEP. Writing, "Parents have no concerns," or something to that effect is not acceptable. That just shows that their participation was limited in the conference! Often parents need to be asked some guided questions to help them focus in on and answer this question. Some helpful guided questions may be:

Present levels of performance is the second required element of the IEP. Goals and benchmarks will be written based on this information. Present levels of performance should be included in all addendums to the IEP. Why? Because this area shows the changes in the student's needs that you are basing changes on! I learned this the hard way in a due process. Try to state this information in terms that are meaningful to all members of the team. In most cases this means stay away from grade level equivalents and standard scores. Policy on present levels statements varies from district to district and state to state. Check with your special education administrator to be sure your statements comply with policy. This information can be obtained from several sources:

Statement(s) of annual goals, including benchmarks or short-term objectives are the next required elements of the IEP. There should be direct correlation between the student's identified programming needs and his annual goals. The student's goals and benchmarks should also be aligned with your district's general education curriculum. How do you do this?

Each goal and benchmark requires objective criteria and evaluation procedures for determining whether the benchmarks or short-term objectives are being achieved. Objective criteria determines how the benchmarks are measured, e.g. percentage of accuracy or number of trials. Evaluation procedures are the ways you are measuring progress, e.g. teacher made tests, observation, frequency counts and charting.

Modifications and adaptations are another part of the IEP. This important part of the IEP describes what the members of the team are going to do to help the student meet with success within the general education curriculum and around the school campus.

Ebeling, Deschenes and Sprague identify nine types of adaptations in Adapting Curriculum and Instruction in Inclusive Classrooms.

  1. Adapt the number of items that the students is expected to complete.
  2. Adapt the time allotted and allowed for leaning, task completion or testing.
  3. Increase the amount of personal assistance with a student.
  4. Adapt the way instruction is delivered to the student.
  5. Adapt the skill level, problem type or the rules on how the student approaches the task.
  6. Adapt how the student responds to instruction.
  7. Adapt the extent that a student is actively involved in a task.
  8. Adapt the goals or outcome expectations while using the same curriculuar materials.
  9. Provide different instruction and materials to meet a student's individual goals.

Students with physical challenges may need more specialized modifications and accomodations to help them be successful. These modifications must allow for these students develop skills to maximize their independence. For example:

Each team must be creative in meeting needs specific to individual students.

What If Parents Don't Agree With the IEP? Parents have number of options if they disagree. They may do the following:

A new site!A Seven-step Process for Creating Standards Based IEPs assists educators, parents, and state and local educational agencies in implementing the requirements of Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) regarding Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for children with disabilities, including preschool-aged children.

A Guide to the Individualized Education Program assists educators, parents, and state and local educational agencies in implementing the requirements of Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) regarding Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for children with disabilities, including preschool-aged children.

A new site!Kern County SELPA has good information on IEPs, meetings and tips for parents. Updated based on IDEIA 2004.

A new site!Developing Functional Individual Education Plans for Students with Acquired Brain Injuries by Ronald C. Savage, Ed.D. and Rita Gardner has good information on developing IEPs for students returning to school after hospitialization for traumatic brain injury. Having experience working with kids with aquired brain injury, it is important to have all the information you can because these students truly have special needs.

Developing Legally Correct and Educationally Appropriate IEPs reviews components of the IEP, how districts sometimes fail to develop and implement appropriate IEPs, and how to avoid pitfalls.

IEPs must also have a statement explaining the extent to which the student will not participate with nondisabled children in the regular class. How do you determine that? I have a worksheet designed to help you.

star Writing Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) For Success by Barbara D. Bateman, Ph.D., J.D. was printed in Secondary Education and Beyond by the Learning Disabilities Association (1995). describes a better way of writing IEPs.

This page from the PACER Center gives parents information on IEPs.

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