Establishing an Effective IEP
The goal of an Individualized Educational Program (IEP) is to design a course of action to meet the particular special education needs and related services of a student with a disability. A well-drafted IEP will include the student’s present performance levels and establish specific goals, objectives, and related service recommendations for the student.
The IEP team is comprised of at least one of the child’s teachers, a special education teacher, a school district representative, a parent, a school psychologist and a parent representative. If the child is over 14, he/she should also be present to discuss post-graduation transitional planning, if appropriate.
The IEP must include a description of the child's present educational performance, a statement of measurable annual goals and short-term objectives to assist the child in progressing through the school’s general curriculum and meet any other needs resulting from his/her disability. It should also contain a statement of the special education and related services to be provided, an explanation of why the child is not in a general education setting if he/she will not be in an inclusive environment, and, for children over the age of 14, the IEP must include an outline of post-graduation transitional services.
The first step in establishing an IEP is careful consideration of the child’s present academic achievement and functional performance levels to determine the child’s needs. The child’s reading, writing, spelling and math skills should be assessed through objective testing before he/she enters special education and at frequent intervals thereafter. Formal and informal educational performance data such as teachers' evaluations, medical and psychological reports, and state, district and private assessments can serve as a guide. Once you understand your child’s present levels, you can work on establishing clear, measurable and appropriate objectives.
Next, the IEP committee will need to consider the child’s requirements to achieve these goals. Each goal should include short-term measurable objectives that will help the student meet the annual goal. The IEP should clearly state how the school will address the child’s needs and include means to measure the plan’s effectiveness. The goals should indicate what the child will do, at what level or degree and a timeframe.
It is important to use “action” words that indicate the areas of need and how the child’s disability affects his/her participation and progress in the general education curriculum. The IEP should also indicate the “direction” of achievement — for example, to increase, decrease or maintain attainment levels and contain time limits for goal achievement that enable you to monitor progress at regular intervals.
A well-written IEP will contain specific, realistic, relevant and measurable goals and objectives that target areas of academic achievement and functional performance, a clear description of the knowledge and skills to be taught and how the child’s progress will be measured. With measurable goals that can be counted or observed, you and the other IEP team members can determine whether the services are sufficient and if the child is making acceptable progress.