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The IEP process

Creating an Individual Education Plan involves three main steps:

  • developing and writing the plan
  • implementing and evaluating the plan
  • reporting on student progress toward the goals in the plan

This is an evolving process: sometimes, as the student’s needs change, the planning team changes or refines an IEP’s goals.

DEVELOPING AN IEP

A meeting to develop an IEP usually takes place in the fall after a new teacher has had a chance to get to know the student. Parents should be invited to attend this meeting, and when appropriate the student should be included. The Ministry of Education has prepared a Parent’s Guide to Individual Education Planning available at http://www3.sd73.bc.ca/sites/default/files/users/tmurray/IEP-Process-for-Parents.pdf or from your school principal or other school-based team member. This booklet is a very helpful for understanding the IEP process.

The team involved in the IEP needs to gather relevant information before developing a plan. This may include assessments from previous years and reports from various professionals. Sometimes parents will be asked to prepare for the first IEP meeting by filling in forms about their child’s interests, likes, strengths, dislikes, needs, and challenges. Even if you haven’t been asked, it can be helpful to compile this information for the IEP meeting.

Tips for preparing a parent report for an IEP meeting:

  • Describe your child and outline his or her strengths and needs. Consider all social, educational, physical, and emotional aspects.
  • Describe what you want your child to learn. Include both short-term and long-term goals.
  • Include support documents, if necessary or relevant.
  • If the team is new to your family and child, or you’re planning a critical transition, consider including photos or videos of your child’s home life to demonstrate your child’s skills, interests, or method of communication.

It’s also helpful to identify your expectations for the IEP meeting. Sometimes parents will work with the teacher or case manager before the meeting to ensure that their ideas and concerns will be addressed.

Team members usually come to IEP meetings prepared to develop a working document. This meeting isn’t for making critical decisions such as those about classroom placement. Instead, the team uses the IEP meeting to identify goals and objectives for student learning and to explore strategies to support students to achieve those goals.

An IEP also usually includes a process for reviewing the plan. The Ministry requires that IEPs be reviewed only once a year, but it’s sometimes possible for the IEP team to meet more often. The frequency of reviews, like the complexity of the IEP itself, will depend on the individual student’s needs. Work with the team at your son’s or daughter’s school to develop a suitable plan for review meetings. Once an IEP is established, the annual review may be less extensive than the first development meeting.

Preparing an IEP to deal with a critical transition may require more time than regular annual IEP reviews. Planning for transitions in an IEP can greatly benefit some students (see section on transition planning later in this chapter). Also, if extra support is needed in the new environment, it’s important to document this need early to ensure that the support is in place when the transition occurs.

After the IEP meeting, the case manager will create a written copy of the IEP, incorporating the key information discussed. During the meeting, ask when you can expect to get a copy of the IEP. Follow up to make sure you get a written copy.

The following questions may help you to assess the IEP:

  • Are the goals clearly stated?
  • Are the goals practical and realistic?
  • Do the goals promote inclusion?
  • Are the goals functional and age-appropriate?
  • Will these goals enable my child to develop to his or her individual potential?
  • Do the goals prepare my child for the future?
  • Will the strategies motivate my son or daughter?
  • Do they incorporate his or her interests and strengths?
  • Do they include all program options and extracurricular opportunities?
  • Are there both long-term and short-term goals?
  • Are the people responsible for helping meet the goals noted?
  • Does the IEP include a list of additional services required, such as speech and language/occupational therapy?
  • Are upcoming transitions incorporated into the IEP?
  • How will my child’s progress be measured or evaluated, and by whom?
  • How will we know when the goals have been reached?
  • Is there a review date set?

 

SMART IEPS

SMART IEPs are a way for parents to check that their children’s IEPs are the best they can be to support their learning and behavioural and social/emotional goals.

  • S Specific

  • M Measurable

  • A Active

  • R Realistic and Relevant

  • T Time-limited

SPECIFIC

The information in the IEPs should address your child’s needs and strengths. For example, it isn’t specific enough for the IEP to state that your child “has a reading problem.” It should specify the nature of the reading problem

— decoding, fluency, comprehension, etc.

MEASURABLE

Three areas of the IEP should be consistently, objectively measured:

  • The present level of your child’s performance
  • The progress your child is making toward the goals
  • The achievement of the goals

ACTIVE

The IEP uses active language to describe what will be done to support your child. For example, “Ms. Smith will provide phonics instruction twice a week for one hour each session.”

REALISTIC AND RELEVANT

The goals in your child’s IEP should be relevant to his or her needs and set at high, but attainable, levels.

TIME-LIMITED

There are reasonable review times identified in your child’s IEP, when you’ll meet with the staff who work with your child.

For more information on SMART IEPS see http://www.wrightslaw.com/info/iep.goals.plan.htm.

IMPLEMENTING AND EVALUATING THE IEP

The school must ensure that all supports are in place before the IEP is implemented. It’s also critical that everybody involved in the planning understands and supports the plan.

Implementation works best when it incorporates an ongoing assessment of the plan to refine or validate the goals and strategies. The plan will require collaboration among members of the school community, and may also require support from other government ministries or community agencies. Implementing an IEP is most successful when the team sees the student as any other student, and doesn’t define the student solely by their “special needs.”

REPORTING ON STUDENT PROGRESS

All students receive report cards at the same time. In primary grades, all students receive anecdotal comments on their report cards. In intermediate grades and high school, this changes. As discussed earlier in this chapter, students with adaptations are evaluated in the same way as their typical peers. Students with modified programs receive anecdotal comments rather than letter grades on their report cards. Students with modified programs are evaluated on their progress, and reporting should note the degree to which they’ve achieved the outcomes of their IEP.

Regardless of whether a student has an adapted or modified program, reporting must reflect the student’s progress in developing their individual potential.