K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education


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Learn more about Individualized Education Plan

Response to Intervention (RTI)
Response to Intervention (RTI) is a multi-tiered model designed to combine assessment and intervention to maximize student behavior. With RTI, schools identify students who may be at risk for learning or behavior difficulties and monitor progress. The Council...
Format: article
By Jennifer Job.
Changing the focus from label to need
Labeling a student's disability is an important step in procuring special education services for that student. But is there a downside to labeling students? This article looks at four commonly held — but ultimately misleading — beliefs about labels in special education, and advocates for focusing on needs rather than labels.
Format: article
By Jennifer Job.
The law and disabilities
A brief overview of two major laws — the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 — that protect students with disabilities in schools.
By Margaret P. Weiss.
If he's in danger of failing, at least three people need to know it
In The First Year, page 4.1
Get in touch with parents to prevent students' failure, not just to report on it.
Format: article
By Kristi Johnson Smith.Commentary and sidebar notes by Lindy Norman.
Integrating computer use into a Trainable Mentally Disabled Level IV curriculum.
Students involved in the Trainable Mentally Disabled program will use computers to supplement reading and personal information skills being taught as part of the implementation of student's Individual Education Plan. This activity will also allow students to reinforce fine-motor, visual-motor and behavioral skills.
Format: lesson plan (grade 2 Computer/Technology Skills and Information Skills)
By Suzanne Morris.

Find all 18 resources in our collection.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, IDEA, mandates that each student with a disability who is enrolled in the Exceptional Children’s (EC) program have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). The goal of IDEA is to educate students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment possible. IEPs describe how the school plans to educate each EC student while accommodating the student’s disability. IEPs often specify modifications to be provided by teachers.

See also Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, exceptional children.

Additional information

Procedures and responsibilities. A student’s IEP is written and witnessed by at least one regular education teacher, at least one special education teacher, a Local Education Agency (LEA) representative (often the school’s EC facilitator), the student’s parent, and sometimes the student. The student must be invited if transition services (e.g., services to ease the transition from school to work) are being discussed. Parents must be included unless they refuse to attend. The LEA schedules and leads the meeting.

IEPs must be reviewed and updated annually. An IEP meeting must be held with thirty days after a student is determined to be eligible for EC services. Each student’s eligibility for EC services must be reviewed every three years. Additional assessment may be needed to determine whether the child’s current placement and services are still appropriate.

IEPs are confidential documents. One copy of an IEP is kept in the student’s EC file and one is given to the parents. If you keep a record of the terms of your students’ IEPs, you should store it in a secure location. Keeping a record is a good idea and may be necessary, because many schools require that EC students initial a form to verify that their modifications were provided.

As a teacher, you should have access to the IEPs of all your eligible students. If the IEP specifies services or modifications relevant to your class, you are responsible for providing or permitting those services or modifications. For instance, you may be required to seat a student in the front row or allow tests to be read aloud to the student. You should also be aware of the student’s annual and short-term goals and try to help him achieve those goals. (You will not be held accountable if the goals are not achieved.)

Contents. An IEP specifies:

  • the services the student will receive (e.g., counseling in the guidance office for thirty minutes once a week)
  • modifications the student requires for classes or testing (e.g., preferential seating, a word processor, or testing in a separate room)
  • whether the student needs alternate assessments (e.g., assessment by portfolio)
  • which regular education classes the student will take
  • how much of each school day the student will spend with non-disabled peers

Annual goals and shorter term goals are recorded, and a way to measure progress is specified. For instance, a student’s annual goal might be to consistently use correct punctuation, while the corresponding benchmark goal might be to use correct punctuation 60 percent of the time. Progress could be measured by assessing his use of punctuation in all writing assignments. IEPs also note how parents will be informed of their children’s progress.

IEP forms specify the category under which the student is eligible for special education services. IDEA 2004 delineates thirteen categories of disability: Autism, Behavioral-Emotional Disabilities, Deaf-Blindness, Hearing Impairment, Multiple Disabilities, Mental Disabilities (Educably Mentally Disabled [EMD], Trainably Mentally Disabled [TMD], and Severely/Profoundly Mentally Disabled [S/PMD]), Orthopedic Impairment, Other Health Impairment, Specific Learning Disabilities, Speech/Language Impairment, Traumatic Brain Injury, Developmental Delay, and Visual Impairment. IEPs also describe students’ strengths, weaknesses, and needs.

Examples and resources

IEP forms (DEC 4) and related forms, such as a student invitation to participate in the IEP meeting, can be found at the NC Department of Public Instruction website.

Kristi Johnson Smith, author of Learn NC’s weblog for new teachers, has designed an IEP notebook to record provision of the modifications students’ IEPs require. Her own notebook was particularly useful when a mother protested her son’s grade, claiming that his modifications had not been provided.

More information about IEPs and IEP meetings can be found in the IDEA 2004 Resources from the U.S. Department of Education.